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The Ford Mustang Turns 60 With Thousands of Starring Roles in Movies Like ‘John Wick’ and ‘Bullitt’

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Dee Bryant jams on the gas as her Mustang rockets forward toward a line of plastic bollards at the Irwindale Speedway. Suddenly, she takes her foot off the gas. The growling car whips around 180 degrees in a perfect arc.

Veteran stuntwoman Bryant is a top driver and a rare Black woman rising through the ranks. She has doubled for Angela Bassett, Kerry Washington, and Regina King, among many others. She’s here demonstrating the prowess of the Mustang as the iconic car turns 60.

It has appeared in more than 5,000 films and TV shows. Steve McQueen charging through the streets of San Francisco in his 1968 Mustang GT is in every sense of the word, iconic.

Steve McQueen in 1968’s “Bullitt.”
Courtesy Everett Collection

From “John Wick” to “Gone in 60 Seconds” to “Charlie’s Angels” to thousands of other productions, “the producers want the Mustang because it creates a symbol. You know, they don’t have to introduce [the character] with a with a heavy storyline. Because the minute you see the Mustang, you know what you’re going to see? You know, it’s freedom, it’s power, it’s sound,” says Ted Ryan, Ford archives and heritage brand manager.

The Mustang debuted at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964, but even before the public saw it, the car had been used in the James Bond film “Goldfinger,” which was released in September 1964.

“And ‘Goldfinger’ is the first time Mustang appeared on film,” says Ryan. “It was actually a pre-production version of the Mustang that was sent to Walter Hayes, who headed our PR team and London and it was to generate buzz for the Mustang. So we sent it over.”

Ryan notes that Henry Ford II and the Bond franchise producers, the Broccolli family, knew each other. “The Broccoli family requested the Mustang because they’ve heard about the buzz on the car,” Ryan says. They in turn sent the car, which was a pre-production model, to Alan Mann Racing to prep the car for the film and offered a stunt driver as well.

“Although that car is one of those missing ones out there. Nobody knows where that car is,” he says. Although, “I got a request from the Ian Fleming Foundation, who owned a couple of the other Bond Mustangs, to help them find the VIN number because they’re still trying to track it down.”

While Bond is associated with the Aston Martin, plenty of Mustangs have joined the super spy’s adventures. The Mustang Mach 1 starred in 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever.” In the film, Sean Connery lead a posse of hapless police on a chase through downtown Las Vegas in a red Mach 1. Ford had stunt drivers who would go around the country and demonstrate the different capabilities of the cars, according to Ryan. That scene was filmed with Ford stunt drivers, not Hollywood stunt drivers.

What’s Ford’s involvement in these productions?

“If the production is one that Ford is fully supporting, yes, we do work with them. We’ll have the mechanics on hand for prep. We’ll do all that kind of stuff. In some cases, the producers make the movie and never even asked Ford one way or the other. But for all the different Bond films, there were Ford people on site overseeing the use of the vehicle and the scenes,” says Ryan.

“The Eleanors [from “Gone in Sixty Seconds”] were custom jobs and those were supported. The “John Wicks” are custom jobs and those who supported. “Bullitt” was supported as well. And if it wasn’t Ford, we were farming it out to Carroll Shelby and his team to get him prepped or Holman-Moody and their team to get him prepped.”

Does Ryan have a favorite celebrity Mustang?

“It isn’t an appearance, but it’s a story. Jim Morrison from the Doors only ever owned one car. And it was a GT 350 and he called it Little Blue. And if you Google Jim Morrison and the Doors, you’ll see lots of stories about it. And there’s a famous picture of him in the car in the desert. And there’s a beer on the dashboard. It’s totally on brand for Jim Morrison. It was just the fact that he bought into the Mustang identity — even nicknaming his car and the GT 350 with the power that it presented. Other than that, I’m a Bond fanatic, so I love the different Bond appearances,” Ryan says.

Then he thinks some more: “Actually, like the original ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ more than I like the second one. And the ‘John Wick’ Mustangs.”

As it turns 60, the Mustang still telegraphs American innovation, performance and style. “I always use it [this line], but to me that generation, the baby boomer generation, they wanted their own music and they got the Beatles. They wanted their own fashion and they got bell bottoms and long hair. And they wanted their own car and they got the Mustang. It was the perfect car” for that generation.

Courtesy of Target