SPECIAL MEETING: Wheels24 reader Fred Bebington meets Henry Ford II at his farewell in SA in 1978 at the Carlton Hotel. Image: Fred Bebington
Wheels24 reader Fred Bebington, a former Ford SA employee, experienced the 'first three Mustangs' in SA nearly 50 years ago. Unfortunately Bebington has no photographs, but read his amazing story.
Cape Town - I was a 20/21 year-old trainee at Ford South Africa in Port Elizabeth, when the automaker imported three Mustangs, as company demonstrators round about 1964.
These were the first three Mustangs to arrive in South Africa; a Hardtop, a Fastback and a Convertible.
At the time I was working in the public relations division, with John Roberts (PR manager, later to become vice-president public affairs, Canada) and Mike Selley.
Mustangs on track
In order to introduce the Mustang to the Ford Dealer network, a roadshow was planned.
As part of the roadshow, I had the privilege and pleasure of driving the light blue Convertible to Johannesburg, via Bloemfontein; John drove the Fastback, and Mike the Hardtop.
Pictured above is a Ford Mustang Fastback like the one Fred Bebington had driven in 1964 in SA.
Hail muscle-car royalty: Ford’s Mustang a huge success in SA
During our stay in Johannesburg, there was a race meeting at Kyalami which we attended - the 1964 Rand Grand Prix.
In between races, we were allowed to drive the Mustangs around the track. John asked the organisers if we could perform a high-speed run down the main straight but they declined the request. I think it was because they envisaged having to clear away three wrecked Mustangs at Crowthorne corner!
'Keep it for the weekend'
Our return trip to Port Elizabeth via Durban was uneventful except that Mike and I were stopped between Pietermaritzburg and Durban by two provincial traffic officers. The officers wanted to find out what cars we were driving. They said that they had seen the Fastback go by and as they were driving a Ford Zephyr, they decided they would not be able to catch it!
On returning to Port Elizabeth, on a Friday afternoon, I asked John if I should take the car back to the factory. Imagine my surprise and excitement (as a 21-year-old) when he said: "No, keep it for the weekend and bring it back on Monday!".
That was probably one of the best weekends I've had (and a highlight of my 20 years with Ford, 1963-1983); driving around Port Elizabeth in a brand new Mustang, one of only three in the country.
It was a great experience, driving a new car and having the public ask about it wherever I stopped.
Above is an image of my Mustang cuff links which I wore with pride.
Here's a scanned photograph of myself (by this time I was a Ford District Manager) shaking hands with Henry Ford II, during his farewell visit to South Africa at the Carlton Hotel. I think it was during late 1978 as Phillip Caldwell took over from Henry Ford in 1979.