I recently had the good fortune to add an original 1965 AMF Mustang Pedal Car to the Goff Mustang collection. I thought the CRMC membership might enjoy reading a little history of these Midget Mustangs, so here goes!
During this 50th Anniversary Year celebration of our favorite pony car, the Ford Mustang, we are all familiar with "feeding frenzy" that took place when the Mustang was first offered for sale on April 17, 1964. Not only were over 21,000 M
ustangs sold the very first day, but a million Mustangs were sold in just over eighteen months. A lesser-known fact about the instant success of the Mustang has to do with the miniature Mustang pedal cars that were sold in Ford dealer showrooms, right alongside their full-sized counterparts. How many Mustang enthusiasts know that 93,000 Mustang Pedal Cars were sold by Christmas of their first year in production? Amazing! At Ford Dealerships, the "Midget Mustang" sold for only $12.95 (see advertisement), while in stores, the pedal car would cost you $25.
Since I grew up in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, I don't remember much about pedal cars. If you've ever eaten at Punchy's Diner on Hwy. 29 in Concord, you have probably noticed Punchy's personal collection of restored pedal toys - everything from cars, trucks, jeeps, airplanes, tractors, and even a Good Humor Ice Cream delivery vehicle. According to the website PedalCarPlanet.com, pedal toys came into being with the advent of the first cars and continued in popularity until the 1970's when plastic put real steel toys out to pasture.
The Mustang Pedal Car was manufactured by the same AMF Company that manufactured Harley Davidson motorcycles in the '70's and today makes bowling equipment. After a very successful run which saw the Mustang become one of the hottest pedal cars of all time, AMF sold the original metal tooling to a Mexican company that closed in the early '80's. The tooling reportedly remained untouched for over 20 years. In 2004, Mark Luzaich of Windsor, California learned of the tooling and flew to Mexico to retrieve the molds with the purpose of reissueing the famous Midget Mustang. That story might just qualify as a "Mexican Barn Find Mustang!" The reissues were exact steel replicas of the original Midget Mustang, except for the $250 price tag and various paint scheme offerings, including Pace Car and Shelby replicas.
Checking eBay, original Mustang Pedal Cars have sold for up to $1,400; restored originals have sold for $1,000; while the reissues can occasionally be found for under $500 - a far cry from the original 1964 purchase price of $12.95! All of which may explain why in my 20+ years of AutoFair shopping I've only seen two examples for sale. A long time ago, we stumbled on an original one in the Green Field but it was in such poor shape that we would have never recognized it as a Mustang if there hadn't been a home-made sign that said "Mustang." Two years ago, we found a new-in-box yellow reissue that was priced at $300. Hindsight says that may have been a fair price, but at the time it seemed steep.
If you were in attendance at the November Club Meeting you heard me say that I had just purchased a one-owner, 1965 convertible pedal car, with original paint, tires, and upholstery. Background: various members of my wife's family descend on the Metrolina Fairgrounds twice a year for the Antique Extravaganza. Many of you have met Gina's Dad, Roy, and her brother, Dean, who handled a majority of the restoration of the PinkPony, and more recently, the Caspian Blue '64 1/2 convertible we had in the MORE lot at the 50th. While strolling around Metrolina on Halloween, Roy asked me if I would be interested in an original Mustang Pedal Car that he had spotted in one of the booths. When he told me the asking price (and since Halloween was my birthday!), I got real interested. Upon examining the car (and having Gina check what they were selling for on eBay), I decided to take the plunge! Interestingly enough, Dean had also given the car the once-over, but decided it was too nice a piece of history for his grandson to "abuse."
The lady selling the car simply said that she had "put the car up in the garage after her son outgrew it years ago." As you can see from the accompanying photo, the car is currently in "played with" condition, but is 100% all there, even down to the AMF sticker on the trunk lid. The front grill and tail lights have been replaced (How in the world did AMF ever think thin plastic could hold up the way kids always crash into things?), and the quarter panel ornaments are not all there, but there is minimal rust, intact original paint, and even the original steering wheel and three-speed shifter are in place.
The Hagerty magazine this month has an interesting report about a panel of restoration experts they recently assembled to discuss the pros and cons of restoring a 1950's Buick or preserving it in its "as-found" condition. The consensus seemed to be to make safety upgrades (new brake lines, belts, hoses, etc.), but to enjoy the car as it sat because "they are only original once!" I think that will be my plan for my new-old Midget Mustang. I plan to clean out the spiderwebs, lube the running works, and gently try some rubbing compound to renew the factory paint. She won't be perfect, but after all, she is a 50-year-old piece of Mustang history to enjoy having in the garage alongside the big Mustangs. Not a bad investment for $125! Now if Roy can just find me a dealer promo '67 Fastback!