5 August 2016

The Magic Mustang

In late July, Gary Schweitzer set out for Buffalo as a bundle of nerves with a trailer in tow. The 55-year-old school teacher from Traverse City, Mich., was on his way to the Mustang Club of America’s national show, Mustangs on the Niagara, to display his car for the first time in 38 years.

There are some real doozies in the pantheon of Ford Mustangs — cars like the GT and the Boss and the Mach 1. Schweitzer’s lowly little automatic-equipped six-cylinder, however, may just trump them all.

That’s because s/n 5F08T383386 is no ordinary Mustang. It carries the District Sales Office code of 842011, which indicates it was a special order by Ford’s Home Office Reserve, with a build date of February 15, 1965. Which is all to say that Schweitzer’s white convertible is one of 12 Ford Magic Skyway Mustangs that were part of FoMoCo’s fleet of vehicles from the New York World’s Fair, where the Mustang made its debut.

Created by the Walt Disney Company, the Magic Skyway attraction placed people in Ford vehicles for a trip through time. Inside the 2,300-foot, steel-and-glass Skyway, a chain-and-platen conveyor drew the cars through dioramas of scenes from ancient times to the future. The conveyor system became the basis of the PeopleMover and other rides.

“Walt Disney was pretty smart,” Schweitzer says. “He had these companies pay for his R&D, which he then used at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.”

With so many people sliding in and out of the cars during their time on the Skyway, wear-and-tear proved to be major issues. But when the fair ended, the Mustang was put back to like-new condition and sold to a Ford employee, Lawry Snyder, on December 23, 1965. Schweitzer says it ended up being driven regularly by Snyder’s mother. When she bought a new Ford Maverick in 1977, she parked the Mustang in her garage on Detroit’s eastside, the odometer showing around 35,000 miles.

Through a mutual friend of Snyder’s, Al and Marian Schweitzer heard about the Mustang and arranged for their son, Gary, to purchase it. The enterprising teen had bought and sold a succession of old Mustangs, usually paying around $200 and realizing that much again in profit after fixing them up. This white convertible was another matter, though.

“I was only 16 or 17 at the time,” Schweitzer says, recalling the purchase price of $1,300. “It was quadruple anything I’d ever done before.”

Father and son brought the Mustang home to Grosse Point Woods, just north of Detroit, in August 1978 and took it apart, intending to have it restored and ready to show the following summer.

It never works out that way, though, and 29 years later, Schweitzer’s wife, Dena, asked if he was ever going to do anything with that infernal car they’d been keeping in storage.

Helped immensely by father-in-law Dave Tuttle, who lives close by in Traverse City, Schweitzer set to work, making the most of his summers off from teaching fourth grade. The pair even found an ideal way to divide the labor: “I’m good at tracking down the part and getting it right, he’s good at putting it on the car,” Schweitzer says.

Meanwhile, Jim Smart of Mustang Monthly offered the magazine’s help, making drivetrain restoration a project for publication. National Parts Depot, which specializes in Mustang matters, provided free transportation to California for the engine, transmission and rear axle.

The results of the entire project were good enough to photograph last summer when the magazine undertook a feature story. But Schweitzer was still fiddling with little details when I spoke to him by phone a week before he went shuffling off to Buffalo.

The moment Schweitzer unveiled 5F08T383386 alongside the Niagara River, it became just the second Magic Skyway Mustang from the 1965 group to go public. The other 10 cars have disappeared.

When judging concluded in the Concours Trailered class, Schweitzer won a gold trophy, the highest possible award. It could just be the first of many, as he plans to keep the car show-worthy.

“It’s got the original windshield,” he says. “There aren’t too many 50-year-old cars that have the original windshield. I’m just afraid I’ll drive it down the road and get a chip. It’s not really a car, it’s more a work of art.”

24 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Bud Leathers California August 10, 2016 at 17:48
    I to have a 65 convertible with 52000 actual miles...
  • 2
    Scott Hoffman Vancouver August 10, 2016 at 19:23
    Uhhh, the 1964 Worlds Fair was in 1964 - I don't think the build date for this car would have been February 1965.
  • 3
    K Cheyne Ontario, Canada August 10, 2016 at 20:53
    Great looking car but..... why does it have 1966 spinner hubcaps on it?
  • 4
    AJ orlando August 11, 2016 at 03:06
    why would someone take the OEM MUSTANG all the way to California to get restored when it was build right there in Detroit the parts are still available to this day FORD is smart and doesn't scrap the tooling after a production run you can still get parts for it! OEM PARTS. Not aftermarket. do it right the first time.
  • 5
    Jim Nicholson Houston/Katy TX August 11, 2016 at 17:56
    What a great story. I too had a 64-1/2 but by the time I got it the 6 had been swapped out for an 8. It was a great car. I've had 4 65-66's since and wish I had it back, along with other gems from the 60's/70's. Today I have a 66 Shelby 350 Hertz clone as who can afford a real one! Get Pony's on the road! Get them out of your stable!!
  • 6
    Joyce norton Pickens,SC August 11, 2016 at 06:44
    Awesome story.
  • 7
    Dave Seyse Ormond Beach Florida August 11, 2016 at 19:19
    When I got home from my first excursion to Viet Nam in January 1969 I bought a used V8 4 speed Mustang and it had a generator instead of an alternator. The original owner had bought it new and traded it for a new Dodge Charger. He told me that it was the first V8 4 speed Mustang that was sold by Koerner Ford in Utica, NY. I have only seen one other one. Wish I had that Mustang back again.
  • 8
    Steve Adil Columbia August 11, 2016 at 07:31
    I remember seeing the Mustang sitting in the middle of the Ford exhibit at the Fair. I asked the family to wait to board one of the cars until a Lincoln convertible came by. I remember noticing that all of the cigarette lighters were missing.
  • 9
    Paul Jordan Oshawa August 11, 2016 at 08:03
    Enjoy the car and don't worry about value. Heck, we are all going to pass. These vehicles were meant to be driven.
  • 10
    Cobranut VA August 11, 2016 at 08:26
    Cool piece of history. I'd assume he has an enclosed trailer to haul it in. Open trailers are hell on windshields and front ends.
  • 11
    Clete McLaughlin Little Falls, NY August 11, 2016 at 20:34
    I fortunately was parked directly across from this incredible Mustang at the show. I so enjoyed watching and listening to the judges as they examined every detail of this car. It took them two hours to complete their task and it was more of a learning experience for them than anything else. Thank you so much for preserving such an important piece of Mustang history.
  • 12
    Larry Paulsen Cedar Rapids, Iowa August 11, 2016 at 09:59
    My dad purchased a used 1965 Mustang in1967 for my sister for her first car. He purchased it from a dealership for $900. In 1968 my dad helped her buy a new Ford Falcon (ugly car in my opinion) and I inherited the Mustang putting my 1954 Mercury on blocks with a cracked block. At sometime in the next year we had a tractor that needed a jump so we hooked up the cables to my Mustang. We had no idea that this Mustang had a generator instead of a alternator which immediately started smoking during the jump. We towed it to the mechanic who was shocked seeing the generator. Upon doing some digging he said the Mustang was one of the first 1000 Mustangs manufactured and was actually a 1964 1/2 since they only put generators in the Mustang for the first six months of manufacturing then switched to alternators. In 1n 1972 I traded it in (I was 19 years old and Mustangs were yet to be a desired collector's car) for a new 1972 Chevelle with a 350 4 barrel carb, leather interior and landau top. I paid $4200 for the new Chevelle. The dealership gave me $900 for a trade in value. I couldn't believe my luck, getting back the same as I had paid for the car. How I wis I had that Mustang and 54' Merc today.
  • 13
    Patrick Farrell Grass Valley CA August 11, 2016 at 11:48
    As an original owner of a 641/2 convertible, I too say keep them on the road!
  • 14
    Tom Werb Preston, CT August 12, 2016 at 14:11
    “There aren’t too many 50-year-old cars that have the original windshield". There's probably a lot! I have a 54-year-old 1962 Corvair Monza Coupe "survivor car" with original glass AND all original interior (Vinyl bucket seats, carpet, headliner, door panels, and factory floor mats) with 86,000 original miles. It runs GREAT on 93-Octane and gets 22 mpg!
  • 15
    Richard 67gtasanjose Geneva, Ohio August 12, 2016 at 14:34
    @ kevin cheyne Knowing a little more history of Gary's car than the average reader here in this article, you might recall the mention of how the car was repaired before it's first sale. "With so many people sliding in and out of the cars during their time on the Skyway, wear-and-tear proved to be major issues. But when the fair ended, the Mustang was put back to like-new condition and sold to a Ford employee, Lawry Snyder, on December 23, 1965" Now you see the car was originally sold AFTER the 66 cars came out. You didn't ask about the 8 track player seen in pictures, that too wasn't a 65 option. Another detail not mentioned or pictured in this article are the 66 Pony-style door mounted courtesy lights. These were added too per the Ford employee's request. Originally, gas tanks were removed from these cars for use on the Skyway and other "Audio Modifications" so that the car's radio actually narrated the course on the Skyway. This audio system was removed and replaced with a more conventional system but again, the Re-Finishing of the car was well into the 66 production year.
  • 16
    Richard 67gtasanjose Geneva, Ohio August 12, 2016 at 14:36
    @ kevin cheyne also, it is a 65 Mustang. This car was used not in the 64 Ney York Worlds Fair but the 65 World's Fair
  • 17
    Richard 67gtasanjose Geneva, Ohio August 12, 2016 at 05:17
    Restoring an old Mustang can be for MORE than just "enjoing the drive" and yes, these cars are certainly enjoyable to drive. Knowing the extent of work that has been invested into this project, I would side on the "preservation" aspect for this particular Mustang. It is a unique piece of Mustang history that future generations might enjoy too. Like Gary, I am a 55 year-old who has managed to retain a car since I was 16 years old. Unlike Gary, I have already had 20 years of continued enjoyment of my first car till I parked it in 1998. Like Gary, I am working towards a Concours Restoration on my 67 and if you have never gone Concours, you could not understand how much MORE goes into that kind of restoration than most "restored" cars you might see at your local Ice Cream stand on a Tuesday summer night. There is as much fun in TRAILERING a car toan MCA type event as driving one. I am about a year or two away from completing mine and I am divided on whether or not I plan to drive mine (maybe just locally or parades) but I must add, I think Gary is very wise to NOT drive his HISTORIC car. Great Job Gary and thanks again for your inspiration.
  • 18
    Richard 67gtasanjose Geneva, Ohio August 12, 2016 at 19:08
    Hubcaps ARE 66 because the car was worked over again after the 66 model year had begun and the damage that it received for use on the Skyway. These larger Ford convertibles used had engines and transmissions removed as well as the fuel tanks etc. The radios were converted to narrate the Skyway as it proceeded through the Skyway and these changes needed to be changed back so the cars were sent back to where they were converted to get their gas tanks and what not put back in. Another note, this is a 65, not a 64.5 and was at the 65 New Yord Wold's Fair, not the debut World's fair in '64. Notice in the pictures of the car that it has mostly 65 characteristics except the hubcaps & 8 track player. The first owner also had door coutesy lights installed (like pony interior cars had). I've been following some of Gary's posts over the last few years and read along with some of his setbacks as he neared completion. Hagerty had to be called in on one occasion but we'll not get into that. No matter wether Gary EVER drives the car or not, I can certainly see why he would be hesitant since like an egg, "perfect condition" cars are extremely fragile.
  • 19
    kevin cheyne millbrook on August 12, 2016 at 10:56
    Beautiful car! Question though, for 1964.5 why does it have 1966 spinner hubcaps on it? I have a 1965 which had the correct spinners, like everybody I changed to styled steel rims.
  • 20
    Fred Ky August 12, 2016 at 12:35
    i was on the judging team for this wonderful piece of history. it was a real pleasure to be involved with the evaluation of this unit. we offered a couple of suggestions for improvements but overall it was fantastic.
  • 21
    Gary schweitzer Michigan August 13, 2016 at 08:20
    Thanks for the comments--It has the '66 hubcaps because when the car was refurbished at Carron and Company after the Fair, in late 1965, it was updated a bit. The original owner knew someone at Carron who did him a favor by adding the newer style hubcaps and a '66 AM-8 Track radio.
  • 22
    Dave C Cedar Rapids, IA August 13, 2016 at 08:44
    What a privilege to own and share such an historic piece! However, I assume this car was built in Feb. 1964, not 1965, as the Mustang debuted at the Worlds Fair in April of that year?
  • 23
    Gary schweitzer Michigan August 15, 2016 at 12:47
    There are currently 4 known Magic Skyway Mustangs. Two of them are from the 1964 season of the Fair and two are from the 1965 season of the Fair. All of the 12 1964 season Mustangs were "F" code "5C" pre-production cars. The 12 1965 season cars were all "T" code 6 cylinders. For each season of the World's Fair Ford ordered 12 Mustangs for a total of 24 Magic Skyway Mustangs. My car is from the 1965, second, season of the Fair.
  • 24
    Bret Iowa August 16, 2016 at 13:50
    I was with my family at the 64 NY worlds fair and we were in a 64 Ford Galaxy 500 convertible at the ford exhibit

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