6 Historic Mustang Sites That Are Worth a Visit (Just Beware of Ghosts)

Scott McPartland/Walter Leporati/Getty Images

April 17 marks sixty years since the Ford Mustang’s public debut at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The original pony car immediately became a pop-culture and automotive phenom, and it remains one of the most impactful cars in history. We’re celebrating with stories of the events surrounding the Mustang’s launch, the history of the early cars, and tales from owners. Click here to follow along with our multi-week 60 Years of Mustang coverage. —Ed.

The beauty of celebrating an automotive icon like the Ford Mustang is there are more historic moments to commemorate and significant places to visit than there are candles on the pony car’s birthday cake. As the Mustang turns 60 on April 17, enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities to pay proper homage.

Of course, there are many impressive museums out there to whet your Mustang appetite—including The Henry Ford, the Gilmore Car Museum, the Mustang Owners Museum, and the Mustang Museum of America. And the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, which manufactures current Mustangs, offers a potential photo op with your ride (although the last time we checked there were no tours).

If you’re looking for something a little different, however, here are some suggested destinations where Mustang history was made. Some of them don’t look like they used to, so keep an eye out for ghosts of Mustangs past.

1964–65 New York World’s Fair site

Although the public unveiling of the Mustang was held on April 17, 1964—which is considered the official birthdate of the car—members of the press were given a sneak peek three days earlier. Both showings were held in front of the Ford Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Although the Fair featured 140 pavilions and 110 restaurants during its two summers at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, few of the original structures remain. Skeletons include the New York State Pavilion, a pair of towers topped with circular observation platforms (they are no longer operational); the roofless Tent of Tomorrow pavilion; and the iconic Unisphere, a 120-foot-tall stainless-steel globe. (If you’re in the Detroit area, you can get a taste of the ’64–65 World’s Fair by checking out the giant Uniroyal tire that was originally a Ferris Wheel.)

Dearborn Mustang Plant

1964.5 Ford Mustang Dearborn Assembly Plant Checks
Detroit Public Library/Ford

Mustang production began at Ford’s Dearborn Assembly Plant on Miller Road, and although Ford also built Mustangs at facilities in Edison, New Jersey, and San Jose, California, only D.A.P. (as it was often called) was active for four decades. After more than 6.7 million ponies rolled off the line in Dearborn, the final Mustang produced there was completed at 1:07 p.m. on Monday, May 10, 2004.

Riverside International Raceway

1966 Riverside SCCA Trans-Am Sedan Race Ford Mustang
September 19, 1966: Riverside SCCA Trans-Am Sedan Race winner Jerry Titus in his Ford Mustang.Fred Enke/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

Mustangs and motorsports are forever linked, and Mustangs often made history at California’s Riverside Raceway, not only for racing but for vehicle development. Carroll Shelby tested his original Cobras at Riverside, and the 1967 and ’68 Shelby Mustang models were revealed there. In 1970, with Riverside serving as the Trans-American Sedan Series championship finale, Parnelli Jones came back to win in a Bud Moore Ford Mustang, giving Jones the unofficial driver championship by one point. It was the first and only year that every Detroit pony car manufacturer had a factory-backed team in Trans-Am.

Alas, Riverside closed on July 2, 1989 and was bulldozed to make room for a shopping mall that opened in 1992. Riverside’s old administration building remained until 2005, when it was torn down to make way for townhouses. If you’re moved to pay a visit to the former location of the southern California track, the Moreno Valley mall is located at 22500 Town Circle in Moreno Valley, about a half-hour south of San Bernardino.

Bullitt movie locations, San Francisco

There may be no more famous Mustang than the 1968 GT390 fastback driven by Steve McQueen in the legendary movie Bullitt. Certainly there’s no Mustang that’s worth more; in 2020, the Highland Green Bullitt car sold for $3.74 million. Many consider the movie’s chase scene the best in film history, and although we don’t encourage any Mustang enthusiasts to recreate that iconic chase, you could—if you really, really wanted to—on the hilly section of San Francisco’s Fillmore Street.

Shelby American at LAX

Carroll Shelby started Shelby American in 1962 and completed the 260 Roadster—later known as the Cobra—soon after. Within a couple of months, Shelby set up shop in Venice, California, and by June 1963 he was being courted by Ford, which was hellbent on beating Ferrari at Le Mans. Shelby succeeded, winning the GT Class at the storied French endurance race the following year, thanks to the Daytona Coupe.

After outgrowing the Venice location, Shelby American moved to a hangar on the south end of Los Angeles International Airport in 1965, and it became the birthplace of the famous Shelby Mustang GT350. Shelby moved his operations again in 1967 after losing his lease at LAX, and today the hangar is home to the Japanese aviation firm Nippon Cargo Airlines.

The Empire State Building

Yes, we’re back in New York, but this is the one site that hasn’t changed much in the last six decades (even if the view has). And the story is so incredible that we had to end with it. In 1965, with the Mustang selling at a record-setting pace in the U.S., the general manager of the Empire State Building—then the tallest building in the world—came up with a big idea. Robert L. Leury wondered if Ford might be interested in displaying a Mustang on the 86th-floor observation deck. As crazy as it sounds, Ford was all in … except its technicians had to figure out how to get a car up there.

A crew of engineers took meticulous measurements (or so they thought) and decided that by disassembling a Mustang into four sections, they could fit everything inside the Empire State Building’s seven-foot tall elevations, then reassemble the car up top. On the night of October 20, 1965, after taking the Mustang apart as planned, the crew discovered that the steering column was a quarter-inch too tall for the elevator. Undeterred, they improvised and made it fit, and the car was completed by the next morning. The Mustang was displayed for five months before it was taken apart and removed. The stunt was recreated with a 2015 Mustang GT to celebrate the Mustang’s 50th anniversary.

Did we miss something cool? Do you know of some historic sites that your fellow Mustang enthusiasts might enjoy visiting? Please let us know in the comments section below.


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    The original ‘ Gone in Sixty Seconds ‘ ( which you’d be amazed how many people haven’t even heard of ) was shot on the streets of Carson City, Torrence and Long Beach California. Also Ascot Speedway which closed in 1990 if you’re looking to poke around for what had been.

    The roush collection in Livonia Michigan is a pretty good one for newer mustangs and ford performance in general.

    it’s a good time to remember the ever-beleaguered Mustang II’s, which kept the breed alive in fallow times – they were on ABC’s with Charles’ Angles. my little daughter loves mine, which has been restored for her to carry on the tradition.

    In the 1960’s L Ron Hubbard of the Church of South Africa lived in South Africa and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and was the owner of a 1965 Fastback. We recently restored a Mustang to replicate the car he owned. This car will be shipped to Zimbabwe as a display in the new L Ron Hubbard Museum in Harare.

    My wife went on a class trip for her senior class, to the worlds fair in New York. They all got to ride in a Mustang Convertible.

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