Boomer Journey…

Ford’s Controversial Mustang Mach-E is a Game Changer

Ford’s sporty Mustang fun car has always been a trendsetter for the Ford Motor Company. Because Ford’s history is as unique as a human fingerprint, we’ve come to expect things from Ford no other car company has ever done. From the time Henry Ford founded the company in 1903, it was clearly different than any other car company. Mr. Ford was innovative in that he dared try things few others ever would. He pioneered the moving assembly line and produced millions of vehicles. Mass production made automobiles affordable for people and Ford made it happen.

Automobiles were no longer just a luxury for the wealthy, they became a necessity for mainstream America. Henry Ford’s vision and imagination fueled the American economic engine. He built a completely self-contained industrial empire that took raw materials and made products. His approach caught on quickly in every industry imaginable, which grew our industrial might.

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In 1946 following World War II, Ford was on death watch facing bankruptcy when Mr. Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II, took charge, hiring the legendary Whiz Kids, reinventing Ford overnight. These brilliant veterans and scholars cleaned up Ford’s bookkeeping and engineering—bringing car buyers the all-new 1949 Ford, the car that saved Ford Motor Company. There was also the new F-Series truck family in 1948, which solidified Ford’s position as a truck manufacturer. Although Mr. Ford was never easy, he was brilliant. He shook the ground and grew Ford Motor Company. Ford surrounded himself with incredible minds who understood his vision.

Fast forward to the 1960s and Baby Boomers coming of age along with the smarts of a young executive named Lee Iacocca. Iacocca’s demeanor could be compared to power braking a car. He was chomping at the bit to turn Ford from a stodgy car company to a pedal-to-the-metal operation with exciting products people wanted. When Ford President Robert McNamara left the company to become Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy Administration, it opened the door for Iacocca to let Ford’s hair down and don a racing jacket. Iacocca became a Ford vice president and head of the Ford Division.

Iacocca called Ford’s new era “Total Performance” and so it went. He took the Falcon carline and gave it a fastback roofline along with a convertible and optional V-8. The full-size Galaxie got a fastback roofline and an incredible line-up of powerful V-8 engines. It was time to pull back the stops and aim for the winner’s circle. Ford was going racing again. Iacocca was a visionary who gambled on what he believed would work. He pinned his career on baby boomer trends. He saw a market for an affordable sporty car that could be built on an existing platform priced at roughly one dollar per pound. What’s more, he had to get it done in 18 months. If it failed, he’d be on the street. In the end, Iacocca’s gamble became the 1965 Ford Mustang, which was introduced April 17, 1964. Mustang answered the call of a growing marketplace that did not yet exist—the pony car market.

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People bought Mustangs for reasons they could not even fathom. For some, Mustang was a second car. For others, it was a third car because people just had to have one. Mustang has always been a carline that has evolved with the times. With each major design change traditional Mustang enthusiasts have lamented the changes. It was too large. It was too small. It looked too Japanese. It didn’t have enough power. You name the grievance, traditional Mustangers have had it. Some introductions have been more successful than others. Regardless, Mustang has been the company’s largely successful flagship for approaching six decades because it has kept up with the times.

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Although the downsized 1974-78 Mustang II gets a lot of rotten tomatoes from enthusiasts, it was the right car at the right time. Ford sold over a million Mustang IIs in four years. Someone surely liked them. And honestly, Mustang II was a terrific car to drive. It was a vastly improved Mustang from an engineering standpoint with great vibration and road boom isolation. It was comfortable. And, it had a very solid feel and handled well. There were a lot of good reasons to buy them. What’s more, Mustang II kept a great name alive. Mustang only got better with time and commitment.

1974 Ford Mustang II

Despite its great success through the years, Mustang is facing something of a crisis in declining sales figures. The same can be said for Chevrolet’s Camaro and the Dodge Challenger/Charger. All are pony cars and sport sedans facing critical change in the marketplace. Fewer buyers want pony cars. Ford has always gambled the house for what it perceived would be successful and the Mustang is no exception. When the Mustang faced extinction in the late 1980s a gutsy Ford executive, John Coletti, presented Ford management with a plan to save Mustang and get it back on the beam on a shoestring budget. The result was the 1994 Mustang, which resembled the original classic, built on a Fox-4 platform.

The All-New Ford Mustang is revealed in Times Square

Mustang’s retro look is cool, however, Ford has found retro doesn’t sell. The redesigned SN-95 1994-04 Mustang had broad appeal. However, it wasn’t breaking any sales records. In 2005, Ford tried the retro look again with the S-197 Mustang. It started off well, however, sales went into a freefall. The same can be said for the 2015-19 S550 Mustang, which started off strong, but has gone soft over time.

When sales figures fall well below 100,000 units annually, a car company has tough decisions to make. Recently, Ford unveiled the new Mustang Mach-E electric sport utility vehicle, which was both exciting and disturbing to the Mustang masses. Traditional Mustangers hate it for its name—MUSTANG. Those ready to embrace Ford’s future are thrilled with it. They like the idea of an environmentally responsible electric vehicle from Ford Motor Company.

If you’re a baby boomer who feels like Ford has passed you by take heart. It is time to make way for the coming generations who will have buying power in the years ahead and keep the Mustang name alive. To understand Mach-E you must first become familiar with why it happened. Mach-E didn’t start out as a Mustang derivative. It began as Ford’s first real electric car—not a hybrid. As development of the Ford electric car ensued the team concluded the car lacked soul. It was a terrific electric vehicle, yet it just didn’t have the image it needed to have to be a game changer and sell like hotcakes.

What Ford’s electric car had going for it was a great team. Team Mach-E is a delicate balance of generations who love the Mustang’s great legacy yet know where it needs to go to remain alive. The team consists of millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers. Ford stylists sharpened their pencils and infused Mustang styling into the Ford SUV electric vehicle, which was when it came alive and had soul. It was an addition to an already proud family of exciting pony cars.

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Where is the Mustang going from here? I will wager a prediction the traditional Mustang pony car will change with time because it’s not practical. People ask me why I don’t have a new Mustang in the driveway. My answer—because the Mustang isn’t a practical vehicle for me. My F-150 delivers on hauling capacity and comfort. My 1967 Mustang is plenty enough Mustang for me. Although I have nothing concrete from Ford to go on, I envision a Mustang SUV and a corresponding electric 2+2 pony for the time being. For us Mustang traditionalists, that’s a tough one to chew but I think inevitable due to changing moods in the marketplace.

You need to see Ford’s “Making The Mach-E,” documentary: (https://www.autoblog.com/2019/11/21/ford-mustang-mach-e-origin-story-naming-controversy-film/?fbclid=IwAR0n7U3lBglVVF21Iv2kABGdfp5cok8YaOWAglnJz7wBJfge6tLBQCCecWw)

which explains how the new Mustang Mach-E SUV came to be. Although Mach-E is disturbing for a lot of traditional Mustang old timers, it indicates where the market is going whether we like it or not. Ford put a lot of thought into its first electric vehicle. As you can see in this well-done Ford documentary, what people want is changing. Young people are less interested in the traditional Mustang pony car and more into practical function and protecting the environment. Even long-time Ford insiders have had to examine a changing market and where the Mustang market is going. Unless Ford pays serious attention to the development of exciting electric vehicles it will be left behind.

—Jim Smart

 

Boomer Journey…

Growing Up In The Jet Age

It is surely something how we travel by air today—so casually—like we’re getting on busses in our torn blue jeans and ratty old sweat shirts, scarcely noticing we’re leaving the surly bonds of Earth. How many passengers don’t even notice we’re taking off and experiencing the miracle of flight at 560 miles per hour? We don our laptops, cell phones and favorite reading material and never give the flying experience another thought. People close the window shades and hunker down for the “bus” ride. We cross the continent in five hours and take it all so for granted. We can jet around the world and be in Australia or China in 18 hours—and we complain about how long it takes.

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I remember a different day and age… My first airplane ride in 1961 was aboard a United Airlines Boeing 720 jet from Baltimore’s Friendship International Airport to the old Kansas City Municipal with my parents and sisters. We stayed with family in suburban KC over Christmas long enough to catch the flu before the next leg to San Francisco and onto Hawaii where we would live for a year.

My mother recalled our trip out over the dark Pacific. She was shocked the pilot didn’t tell us we were about to take off. Thrusting us into the night sky was a new Pan American Boeing 707 with obnoxious Pratt & Whitney turbojet power that rattled windows around Travis AFB, California. She looked out the window in horror to observe sparks coming from the engines, not understanding we were on water/ethanol injection to give us more thrust for takeoff. She grabbed the armrests and held us up all the way to Honolulu. When we landed in the early morning darkness there were hula girls there to greet us and place Hawaiian lays around our necks, welcoming us to Oahu.

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Ah—the magic of jet travel in the early 1960s. We were in snow-covered Kansas City that morning. In the wee hours of the next morning we were in balmy, tropical Hawaii headed for our new home in Pearl City Highlands. A whole new experience awaited us. When it was time for us to return to Washington, D.C. that fall, we boarded a chartered Trans International DC-8 jet to Travis AFB, California, then, over to San Francisco International to catch a United Airlines DC-8 to Baltimore via Denver. For a snot-nosed six year-old like me, it was exciting, but exhausting. I used up a lot of air sickness bags.

In those days, people dressed up to go flying because it really was a formal event. You dressed appropriately and acted with dignity. At the cusp of the 1960s, we had a new young president—John F. Kennedy—and the air was alive with promise and hope. We were going to the Moon. People very quickly got used to the thrill of smooth high-speed jet travel and the amazing phenomenon of speed, getting there fast and taking it slow—enjoying a vacation or visiting relatives.

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In those days, the first words out of the mouths of those at your destination was, “How was the plane ride?” or “What do you think of the new Boeing 707?” It was an exciting time to be alive—especially for a kid. The wonderful world of Walt Disney magic and fantasy came alive when you left the ground. The future was ours to have and to hold. We were on the rise in the post-war years.

Today, jet travel is a rather “ho-hum” routine. People pour onto jetliners like cattle and fight for bin space. China and stainless flatware have been replaced with plastic packets of Lorna Doone cookies, Fritos and a drink. As recent as the 1980s, I remember a meal and a light snack to keep us content on long transcontinental flights. Airline travel in the United States in 2019 is more like riding in a cargo plane like a herd of cattle and people with comfort dogs rather than the elegant “pie in the sky” experience it was a half century ago.

It is remarkable how far we’re come in 100 years. One hundred years ago, we were running around on dope and fabric aircraft and flying was for the daring and wealthy. Aluminum aircraft construction didn’t really arrive until the 1930s. Jet travel came shortly after World War II. By 1969, we were on the Moon. Brain power, tenacity, and a lot of thrust, is what got us there.

Our own Boeing 707 revolutionized jet travel, followed by the Douglas DC-8 and Convair 880/990. Our good fortune was Britain’s misfortune. The Brits were first with the Comet jetliner, which experienced a series of fatal crashes—dooming the Comet forever. This series of accidents gave Boeing the edge with the 707. Boeing sold a lot of them as did Douglas with the DC-8. Convair’s super-fast 880 and 990 jets got you there quickly. However, the Convairs were limited at 80 seats, which made them impractical for the airlines, especially when fuel became expensive in the 1970s.

Boeing’s massive 747 jumbo jet in all its forms has made the world smaller and more accessible. Newer equipment, like the Airbus A350 and Boeing’s 787, have made flying more efficient and quieter. Flying today is considerably better than it was in the Jet Age though we tend to romanticize the era.

When I hop on a jet today, I realize the real magic of jet travel is gone though more efficient and quiet. Yet, for me personally I’ve never forgotten the remarkable experience flight is. I hear the engines power up and the flight experience begins. Next thing I know, I am high above Los Angeles headed out on course. What an incredible experience flight still can be given our passionate attention. The world is outside your window waiting to be seen.
— Jim Smart

Never Lose Sight of Your Dreams…

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As boomers crest our sixties and seventies, we are reflecting back on our lives, what we’ve accomplished, what we haven’t, and what we hope to do in the years ahead. A half-century ago, we were the anti-establishment generation committed to never growing old and never trusting anyone over 30.

Don’t know about you, but I haven’t been under 30 in quite a while.

A lot of us have had good lives surrounded by family and friends who love us. We’re proud of our success on personal and professional levels. There is also a good percentage of us who’ve been divorced at least once and have hopefully found happiness the second or third time around. Others have had our share of unpleasant memories. Maybe you’re very much alone and wondering what happened—feeling like life has passed you by.

You don’t have to be alone and life doesn’t have to pass you by.

When you’re feeling lost and alone it is important to have goals and some kind of plan for yourself. Without goals and dreams, we wither away and expire. Although we each have an expiration date, it’s a good idea to go at life like you’re going to live forever. What about your dreams, those things you’ve wanted to do all of your life but never found the time or had the money to do them? This is where you have to think outside of the box and reach beyond the limitations you’ve lived by for most of your life.

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Dare to try something you’ve never considered doing before.

If you’ve never attended college, maybe you should now. It’s never too late to learn something new and just imagine the thrill of fresh knowledge. Perhaps you attended college and never finished. Now is the time to pursue your degree majoring in a subject in which you’re passionate about. Forget a practical degree like Business Administration or English. Pick a subject in which you have great passion.

Have you ever considered teaching or mentoring young people? Have you ever played a musical instrument? Maybe you never have. Remember the great American novel you were going to write 50 years ago? Well, what about that?

Volunteer work is in abundance out there because so many organizations need help and support. Hitch your wagon to a trustworthy cause such as Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, ASPCA, or Homes For Veterans just to name four organizations that always need help. There are thousands of others, both local and international, that can use your talents and your heart. When you volunteer, it’s an opportunity to meet people and cultivate new relationships. There’s a lot to be said for working together for a common good. As you do for others and give back, you feel better about yourself.

Organizations that serve Veterans do so much good for those who’ve gone out there, defended freedom, and made the world a safer place. So many of our Veterans are sad, shaken, and brokenhearted from what they’ve been through. They could use a friend in you. Veterans of Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf wars, and even World War II could use your face and your heart—someone to listen who cares what happens to them.

I personally have a passion for the elderly who could use good company and the gift of chatter. I also have a love of children. There are so many of them out there from broken homes with messed up parents and devastating memories who need to know they are loved and accepted. They need a place where they can feel safe and recover from what they’ve been through. There’s such a shortage of people who can befriend the very old and the very young. Time to step up and make a difference in their lives.

If you’re surrounded by family and friends who love and admire you, count your blessings and thank God for the good that has come your way over a lifetime. If you’re brokenhearted, sad and very much alone, look for a fresh purpose and go after your passions and dreams no matter how weak you feel in your heart. There’s a lot of good out there waiting for you.
— Jim Smart

Boomer Journey…

Confound It Those Darned New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions never seem to come to fruition. Oh sure, we proclaim our plan for the coming year at the stroke of Midnight and start to work on it when the sun rises—or do we? Oftentimes it becomes the following Monday, then, next Saturday and it fades from your mind only to surface around Midnight of the next New Year’s—and the next. Take heart, you’re in good company. Most of us struggle with the same thing. It isn’t so much about a New Year’s resolution, but instead procrastination over the things we really don’t want to do, but feel like we have to. Guilt is what brings these New Year’s resolutions back every year.

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Here’s my justification for copping out on New Year’s resolutions.  Feel guilt over the things you should feel guilty about and banish this unnecessary and evil monster from the things you shouldn’t. “I’m going to lose weight…” is the easily the most common New Year’s resolution.  Maybe we should strive to be healthier and not focus so much on the scale.  This is especially important as we grow older because no one wants to spend their twilight years in a wheelchair or in a nursing care facility. Staying at home and being able to navigate under your own power is always better than depending on someone to take care of you. Go play with the grandkids. Dance around the family room. Take a walk around the block. Baby steps. You will get there.

We often set unrealistic goals at the dawn of the New Year. Resolving to take a trip around the world when you’re on a limited income isn’t a realistic goal. However, it can be a good long range plan if you can put money away for a rainy day. A more realistic plan is to tour the country, your state, or your community ideally at “see” level, where you can view the world from your car and be able to stop and take in the scenery. If you’d rather fly to a place you’ve always wanted to go, investigate airline travel packages that include hotels and rental cars. Look for the best deals and great service. What’s more, you want a terrific experience after you land.

Maybe you’d like to spruce up your home, which is looking rather dated these days and hasn’t been renovated since the disco era. Time to ditch the velour sofa and that Early American living room furniture purchased from the Monkey Ward when you were 30 and it was all you could afford. That dusty old console TV just doesn’t measure up to an affordable flat screen. And, my friends, sell that 8-Track player and collection of tapes on eBay and opt for a Google Home, which takes up less space than the 8-Track. Do things that make you feel good about your home. Even a good through housecleaning can improve your outlook on life and it’s free.

Easily the best New Year’s resolution is to resolve to be kind to others even when your heart isn’t in it. Reach out. Smile. Say hi to others. Check on a neighbor. Call a friend you haven’t talked with in a while. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution we can keep.

Happy New Year…

—Jim Smart

The Journey Begins…

 Introducing “Boomer Journey” and What Really Matters to Baby Boomers

The Baby Boom Generation has dominated the American population for more than 70 years and has only recently been surpassed by millennials— also known as echo boomers. Baby Boomers were born in the post-war years following World War II from 1946-1964 when some 70 million of us were born. We’ve changed the world like it has never been changed before.

 We were born of pent-up passion—four long years of war in the Pacific and in Europe to defend freedom and human life. Men and women fought hard, died, and were maimed in unimaginable conditions. Back home—men and women toiled overtime in American factories to keep the war machine going in two theatres. It is impossible to understand the extent of our industrial might and how hard it was to keep at least two enemies at bay. In the end, the U.S. and its allies won both wars.

When the war ended, our Veterans stepped off ships, trains, buses and airplanes to a different world. Four years was a long time to be far from home. Some came home to home and hearth. Others came home to find a fiancé who found another love. Others stayed the course, committed to those they loved so far away. Suffice it to say all that pent-up passion and energy went into the procreation of the most populated generation in American history.

As baby boomers trek into our retirement years, we’re finding we’ve been at both ends of the spectrum. When we were coming of age a half-century ago, Madison Avenue and Washington were listening to us because we determined the direction the country was headed. Marketing people catered to us in every way imaginable from The Beatles to Ford’s sporty Mustang to bathing suits and bikinis. Today, these marketing geniuses are peddling Viagra, Depends, Medicare, reverse mortgages, and walk-in bathtubs. Damn…

In Boomer Journey, I’m going to be talking about the things baby boomers think about—reflecting on a different time, finding humor in a period of change, and talk about all the things I know you’re thinking about. So, join me as we journey into all of the stuff baby boomers like to talk about. Check back often. There’s lots more to come.

— Jim Smart