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APR 13, 2023 | By Bruce Fabricant

Richard Strayer Tells How Iacocca Promotion To Drive A New Mustang Changed Lives Forever

Lee Iacocca and guest in Ford Mustang

With Global Mustang Day 2023 fast approaching, Ford pony car fans all over the world will be celebrating Lee Iacocca’s public announcement that launched the Ford Mustang at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964. That’s why now’s the perfect time for the story behind Richard Strayer “1964½“ Mustang convertible, as recounted by Bruce Fabricant. Bruce was a college newspaper editor at the time and had accepted an offer to drive a new Mustang on campus as part of a promotion for the 1965 Mustang spearheaded by Lee Iacocca that went out to universities across the country. Richard shares Bruce’s history with the car in Fabricant’s recap below, entitled: “It All Began at Michigan State University.”Ford Mustang convertible with white top

“Lee Iacocca, the Mustang’s godfather as well as Ford Motor Company Vice President, was right when he said on April 24, 1964, that I wouldn’t hurt his feelings a bit by admitting that the prospect of driving a Mustang on Michigan’s State’s East Lansing campus for five or six weeks had a wee bit to do with my decision to be in Dearborn, Michigan, on that day.

“Iacocca was some marketer! The Mustang was introduced to the world a week earlier at the New York World’s Fair. So he invited 44 editors from major universities throughout the country to a “College Editor’s Conference” at the Ford campus .He said he wanted to tell us about the Mustang that would be so popular with the nation’s youth.Red interior of convertible Mustang


“I was Editor-In-Chief of the Michigan State News, the student daily, and one of those selected editors. The carrot for all of us was our own red convertible Mustang to drive on campus for the rest of the school year at no cost. There were 44,000 prospective buyers on the East Lansing campus. Iacocca knew that. I had to do was fill the gas tank and drive it.

“So after a day’s indoctrination in Dearborn, we were all taken to Ford’s test track. Lined up were 44 identical red Mustangs with white convertible tops. I hopped into the car, posed for a picture, and then started an enjoyable 88-mile ride back to Michigan State. I was gawked at, honked at, and smiled at as I drove that Mustang home. It was the first time these people had seen a Mustang even though they heard so much about it.


“I was a senior at MSU in the spring of ’64 and had special on-campus driving and parking privileges. Not a day went by that I didn’t see a group of students peering into the car from all angles. It was the only Mustang on campus.

“My longest ride was to my girlfriend’s home in Glencoe, Illinois. Most of the driving was around the East Lansing Campus. I could have bought that Mustang. I didn’t. I should have. It was priced at $2,368. But I was entering the U.S. Army soon thereafter. Luckily, I was able to parlay that Mustang into a lifetime career in public relations which eventually introduced me to my wife. I worked for Ford at its World’s Fair exhibit that summer where the new Mustang was on display. The job at Ford opened many business doors.


“For the next 40 years, I have often thought about that car and stared at old Mustangs on the road and wondered what happened to mine. Then I received a phone call in 2006 from its then-owner, Gary Woodruff of Laingsburg, Michigan. He had tracked me down since my name and the Michigan State News was on a key car document. We talked, exchanged pictures, and I was reunited – in a way – with my Mustang. He told me how my little red convertible led Fourth of July parades for a number of years in his hometown.


“Now, thanks to Richard Strayer [who purchased the car in 2011], the long, winding story of truly an American original Mustang continues today”


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