The month of March is full of momentous motoring milestones, from the 1956 release of Ford’s 50 millionth car to the ’69 movie release of The Love Bug. Steve McQueen was even born on March 24, 1930. A month that brought us “The King of Cool” is certainly one to celebrate. Let’s cruise through five of this month’s milestones.
March 2, 1966 – The one-millionth Mustang
The “working man’s Thunderbird” made its automotive debut on April 17, 1964, at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. Less than two years later, the one-millionth Mustang—a white convertible— rolled off the Ford assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan. With an average price tag of $2,300, the now-iconic Mustang was as sporty as it was affordable. Roughly 500 Mustang clubs had already been formed by 1967. And while this classic car has appeared in hundreds of American feature films, the first was in the James Bond movie Goldfinger in September 1964. Collectors and car enthusiasts widely love the iconic pony car, and it is on many people’s “must experience” bucket list. Examples such as this sweet silver convertible are available to rent on DriveShare.
March 8, 1950 – Volkswagen Bus goes into production
Invented by the same masterminds that brought the world the Volkswagen Beetle, the Volkswagen Bus came decades before the popular ‘80s minivans. In the U.S., it’s also known as the V.W. Bus, Microbus, or Hippie Van. After the War in 1944, the Wolfsburg Volkswagen factory that built V.W. Beetles had no means of internal transport. As a result, the people who worked in the experimental department came up with the idea of a flatbed truck utilizing parts from another vehicle, the Kübelwagen. Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon was credited with the “bus” concept after impressing engineers with the vehicle’s sketch showing the cab moved forward and the flatbed covered over. With a roomy interior, rear-wheel drive and air-cooled engine, the bus was easy to operate and maintain. People loved the fact that it could transport goods of all kinds – human and otherwise – and it was a cost-effective alternative to the family station wagon. Take a trip back in time by renting a V.W. Bus during your next weekend getaway.
March 13, 1969 – The Love Bug hits theaters
In 1968, The Love Bug movie was released, soon to play in theatres in March of 1969. It was the first in a series of Herbie the Love Bug films and the second-highest-grossing film of ‘69, earning over $51.2 million at the box office. The movie featured Golden Globe Award winner Dean Jones, but the comedy’s real star was “Herbie,” the 1963 white Volkswagen Beetle, which had a mind of its own and could function without a driver. Walt Disney Productions made a total of six films and used dozens of identical Volkswagen Beetles. However, the Love Bug cars from the first movie are still the most popular and coveted by collectors. The 1968 film used a total of 11 identical Love Bugs to fill the scenes with stunts. According to the AACA Museum, only three of the original 11 cars are still around today. Herbie spurred a cult following so massive that it contributed to the V.W. Beetle’s overall success. With over 20 million produced from 1938 to 2003, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single platform ever made. Get behind the wheel of a classic today.
March 16, 1958 – Ford releases its fifty-millionth car
Founded in 1903, the Ford Motor Company was quickly able to produce more than one million cars per year after the introduction of the moving assembly line in 1913. The 50 millionth Ford rolled off the Dearborn, MI, assembly line on March 16, 1958, just 55 years after the company’s beginning. The car was a 1958 Thunderbird, recently redesigned from a two-seat personal luxury vehicle to a full-size four-seater to reach new buyers who wanted a car for their family. Ford sold 37,892 examples of the “Square Bird” in 1958, making it the best sales year of the Thunderbird at that point. It’s still a favorite luxury cruiser of automotive enthusiasts today and a vehicle that every car lover should experience.
March 22, 1983 – AM General Corporation to develop the Humvee
The AM General Corporation was awarded a government contract worth more than $1 billion to manufacture 55,000 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) as the U.S. Army’s newest off-road vehicle. Most commonly known by the nickname “Humvee,” it was designed to transport troops and cargo over any terrain. The wide, rugged vehicles entered the spotlight in the early-‘90s when the American military used them during the 1989 invasion of Panama and the Persian Gulf War. A civilian version of the Humvee known as the Hummer went on sale in 1992. It was a Hollywood hit with celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, talk show host Montel Williams, comic Roseanne Barr, and basketball’s Dennis Rodman rushing to own the next big thing. The attention-grabbing road warrior tipped the scales at some 10,000 pounds and got less than 10 miles per gallon. When the economy was strong and gas prices relatively low in December 1999, General Motors purchased AM General’s rights to market and distribute the Hummer. It fast became a symbol of America’s super-sized lifestyle.