FILM FRIDAY: Classic 1965 Ford Mustang Commercials

Bright, charming, attractive, vibrant, with a whole new concept of tomorrow!

The 2015 Mustang is on its way, and everything feels new again -- the redrawn car gets a number of 'Stang firsts, like standard independent rear suspension, a 2.3-liter turbo four and a right-hand drive edition for those enthusiasts who prefer to motor on the wrong side of the road.

Fifty years ago, though, it really was all new. Compact and sporty, the pony car represented something different, at least from a mainstream American automaker. Commercials shown on broadcast television and in theaters before feature films hyped its performance-oriented uniqueness. They positioned it as the right car for an energetic, discriminating sort of buyer who wanted to have it all -- sportiness, fresh design and 2+2 configuration practicality -- in one brand-new package. Of course, promising buyers the world (and targeting a youthful audience) is hardly revolutionary stuff when it comes to ad campaigns, but, in this case, it worked -- which is why were still talking about the product a half-century later.

We do think the car has held up better than its commercials, though. The advertising spots we're featuring come off as a little bit cheesy, a little bit weird (who teleported that Mustang to the middle of a crater lake?) and a little bit dated. Given the popularity of Instagram, we wouldn't be surprised if Ford decided to shoot a commercial or two through a faux-retro lens. But don't expect the quick cuts, disorienting editing and delirious jazz tracks to make a comeback. Like leaded gasoline, some things are probably best left as artifacts of the past.

Can the unbelievable happen when you meet Mustang?

Brides! Sailors! Pensive young women in fields! Surfers! These are the sort of visionaries -- people of taste and refinement -- who buy Mustangs. Buy one, and you too can consider yourself a part of this lively set. Note that the car itself doesn't even appear until the last third of the spot. Advertising is aspirational, and convincing buyers that a product will give them the lifestyle they want is even more important than showing off the product itself.

Say, what happened to all those attractive young people from the start of the commercial anyway? That Mustang's riding a bit low in the back there...

From concept to production car?

When hypothetical Mustang buyer and all-around happenin' dude Harvey B. isn't fantasizing about finding Polynesian babes in the front seat (we told you these commercials bordered on the surreal) or charging across the plains on a stallion, he's imagining motorsport victory at Sebring. Dream big, Harv. Dream big.

Bonus: Win a Mustang (if you're in Canada)

Many automotive concepts -- probably the vast majority of them, really -- are never meant to see production. Sure, they might inform a marque's upcoming design language, but as a vehicle they're simply too futuristic, too out there to translate to a consumer-ready vehicle.

The Mustang II concept, which is the centerpiece of this spot, was different. Its direct predecessor, at least in name, was the sleek, mid-engined Mustang I concept. The Mustang II looks tame, almost production-ready, by comparison. That's at least partially because it wasn't a concept in the conventional sense -- by the time the show car was unveiled in October 1963, Ford already knew what the production Mustang would look like. The purpose of this car, then, was to link the radical Mustang I with the conventional (if stylish) 1965 'Stang.

So when this advertisement claims that the '65 Mustang's "look of total performance" was taken directly from the Mustang II concept car, it sort of has it all backward. So much for truth in marketing.

We're also treated to footage of mustangs of the equine variety galloping across the west as a jazzy clarinet number plays in the background. Will those wild horses and catchy jams be returning for new Mustang commercials? We'll have to wait and see.

Imperial Oil Esso's "all-out quality celebration" was, apparently, a clever bit of cross-promotion that saw the petroleum products company hand out a stable of then-new 1965 Mustangs to a lineup of lucky Canadians, with one Mustang doled out every hockey playoff game (of course). If you thought the whole scheme couldn't possibly get any more Canadian, we'll note that each prize Mustang was to be "delivered personally by a famous NHL star!"

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