Exclusive Drive: Iacocca 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang is one sterling 'Stang

2009 1/2 Iacocca 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang - Click above for high-res image gallery

When the phone rings and the guy on the other end asks if we want to drive a new Ford Mustang, we have to take a moment before answering. While we always enjoy the chance to pilot a new vehicle, we have to carefully consider whether we want to subject you to yet another pony car review. As we've chronicled in the past, there have been dozens of Mustang variants over the past decade and we've covered just about all of them. But we know that just mentioning another Mustang can elicit apathy – if not downright scorn – from our readers. Sure, it's an iconic American vehicle, attainable and tunable, fast and fun, but does the world really need yet another special edition Mustang?

The answer to that question is 'yes,' as long as there's something new in the mix. So when the call came to drive a 2009 1/2 Iacocca 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang, the invitation was irresistible. Built as a tribute to the Father of the Mustang, it's been a long time coming. The real question is whether this limited edition 'Stang will be distinctive enough to stand out among the hundreds of other variants since its birth in 1964. We stopped by the car's builder, Metalcrafters, in Fountain Valley, California to find out. Read on to find out what we think about Lido's tribute.

Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

Believe it or not, it's been 45 years since Ford's General Manager Lee Iacocca pushed his pet project through and brought affordable sports car performance to the masses. That was 1964, though that first Mustang was labeled a 1964 1/2 model. In the intervening 45 years, the basic formula has stayed the same: Compact platform, sporty styling and an emphasis on performance at a reasonable price. Also, plenty of upmarket trim levels with even greater performance at premium price points. Generally, the more expensive the 'Stang, the faster it would go. There would usually be styling changes to accompany the ponypower boosts, but higher MSRPs were typically all about lower ETs. This Iacocca 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang is a little different.

Although it's faster than the stock 2009 Mustang GT on which it's based, the Iacocca is about so much more than speed. One look and it's obvious that this is an extremely elegant looking Mustang. Inside, it's pretty standard Blue Oval fare with diamond-stitched black leather covering the seats, door panels and center tunnel. There's also "Iacocca" stitching on the seats and an applique on the center of the dash. It's tasteful, but a bit underwhelming for a vehicle that retails for $89,950. However, on the outside it's a different story.

The Iacocca Mustang takes on the aura of a concept car.
The bodywork has been changed in sometimes subtle, sometimes striking ways. Obvious changes include sunken headlights, relocated directionals, diamond-pattern mesh grille inserts, 20-inch Iacocca Design chrome wheels, covered rear quarter windows, Iacocca badges and a longer roofline with reshaped rear glass. Walking around the Mustang, it's hard to put your finger on exactly what else they've altered.

The hood looks broader, the overall length appears longer, the roof looks chopped and the 'Stang somehow feels wider and lower. This, despite the fact that none of those dimensions have changed according to company officials. Slathered in a specially blended Iacocca Silver paint, this once-blue-collar Mustang takes on the presence of something much more luxurious and much more expensive. The Bentley Continental GT comes to mind, particularly in profile, and while the Mustang base is still obvious, the Iacocca takes on the aura of a concept car designed to bring the pony car into GT territory, which is basically what it is.

Designer (and perpetual energy machine) Michael Leone dreamed up the elegant fastback design for this homage, and those amazing automotive artisans at Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters brought it to life with Iacocca himself following along every step of the way. Only 45 cars will be built and all will be sold through Southern California's fabled Galpin Motors. We hear that half of the Iacoccas have already been purchased and that the full production run will be finished by the end of October. After number 45 leaves the lot, that's it. Metalcrafters built the car it wanted to build and doesn't see how they could possibly follow it up.

Perhaps Ford will adopt the fastback design for future factory Boss or Mach 1 models, but the Iacocca badge will only be found on these 45 collectibles. The lucky few who purchase an Iacocca will be buying a keepsake. Galpin will offer owners any level of output they desire, but the base car will be sold with a 320 horsepower, 4.6-liter V8, while this prototype tester has a supercharger slapped onto the bent-eight to churn out around 400 hp. Power upgrades or not, it's believed that most of the cars will be sold to Iacocca fans, Mustang collectors and folks who just want something a bit different. That's a shame because this 'Stang likes to be driven. In fact, Leone and George Gaffoglio talked about getting all 45 cars together for some track days, and after a few stints in the supercharged version, it has the potential to be a blast on a proper circuit, even with those massive, matched 20-inchers filling the wheel wells.

There's plenty of power, the brakes are strong, the ride is decent and the handling is respectable, thanks in part to the standard Ford Racing Handling Pack that includes upgraded shocks and springs. Overall, it drives largely like any other Mustang GT out there. And while that's not a bad thing, its lofty sticker means most Iacoccas are bound for climate controlled garages rather than weekend track flings.

This is one of the most affordable custom coachwork vehicles in the world.
Anyone who's driven a modern Mustang will tell you that Ford has just about perfected the formula. The combination of ride, handling, feel and fury is spot on. Granted, there will always be people who want a little more of this or a bit less of that, but the package is balanced and relatively refined, especially when you consider the average Mustang retails for around $30,000.

However, when you start building on that formula by adding performance and jacking up the price, the basic structure begins to show its humble origins. You can quickly find yourself in over your head against vehicles that have been designed and engineered to compete in that higher price bracket from the get-go. It might be hard to imagine any Mustang being cross-shopped with a Porsche 911 for instance, but we know Ford sells a Shelby GT500 that falls into this price range when dealers adjust for greed.

While that's sure to be true of the Iacocca Mustang as well, we don't have any doubts that every one of the 45 units will sell and owners will be pleased as punch with their decision. Why? This isn't just a really expensive Mustang; it's one of the most affordable custom coachwork vehicles in the world. This isn't a body kit, it's a thorough reworking by a top designer, seamlessly crafted out of composites by one of the most respected custom fabricators around. Think of it as a budget Pininfarina P4/5 or Bertone Mantide.

The 2009 1/2 Iacocca 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang should live on as a respected collectible when considered in that light, but there is much more to the equation. The Iacocca is also a tribute to an automotive icon. Without Lee Iacocca, the Mustang might have never been. And there's a whole line of legendary racing figures who owe at least part of their legacies and livelihoods to Ford's pony car.

Want a list? Here's a relatively small sampling of those forever in debt to the Mustang: Carroll Shelby, Steve Saleen, Jack Roush, Bob Glidden, Bill Lawton, Jerry Titus, Bob Johnson, Mark Donohue, Mickey Thompson, Danny Ongais, Ray Brock, Bob Ottum, Parnelli Jones, George Follmer, Dick Trickle, Ron Smaldone, Wally Dallenbach Jr., John Jones, Doc Bundy, Lynn St. James, Scott Pruett, Rickie Smith, Tommy Kendall and John Force. More proof? Mustangs have raced and won in everything from the Tour de France to the NHRA, IHRA, NASCAR, SCCA Trans-Am, IMSA GTO, KONI Challenge, Speed World Challenge GT, Formula Drift, D1 and even at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

That's an impressively long list and it all started with Lee Iacocca some 45 years ago. The same Lee Iacocca who would go on to save Chrysler from the brink in the Eighties, do the same for Jeep during the same period and bring America the minivan. Did we mention he also spearheaded a massive restoration of the Statue of Liberty? All of this makes this particular Mustang a wonderful tribute to a true automotive legend and a worthy addition to any automotive collection. We just hope the fortunate 45 buyers occasionally take their cars out of the garage to share this fitting tribute – and sexy fastback shape – with the rest of us.

Photos copyright ©2009 Frank Filipponio / Weblogs, Inc.

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.

Share This Photo X