The Historical Significance
of the Mystichrome Cobra
A Birthplace and a Birthright
The final reason why all 2004 Mustangs are special is of historical interest. From Day One, the Mustang was built at the historic Dearborn Assembly Plant (known simply as DAP) in Dearborn, Michigan, home of Ford Motor Company headquarters. Contained within the Ford River Rouge Complex (or The Rouge, for short), construction of the factory complex began in 1917, fourteen years after the founding of the company itself. Upon its completion in 1928, The Rouge was the largest integrated factory in the world. Even before full completion, The Rouge was already producing Eagle-class patrol craft and anti-submarine warfare craft during and after World War I, and after the war, production switched to Fordson tractors and the Ford Model A during the 1920s. Numerous vehicles were assembled at DAP through the decades since, including the Ford Model B, the first Mercury, the Ford Thunderbird, the Mercury Capri, and finally the Ford Mustang. DAP was one of six factories that made up the entire River Rouge Complex.
Below: This 1973 aerial view shows the immense, waterborne traffic to the Rouge Complex, as lake freighters maneuvered in the canal to unload much needed ore at Ford’s steel mill. By the early ’80s, downturns in the economy and automotive industry caused Ford to begin divesting its interest in the steel facility. The mill was eventually spun off into a standalone subsidiary, known as Rouge Steel today.
Below: Workers at Dearborn Assembly Plant put the finishing touches on 1954 Fords passing through the finishing assembly before final inspection. At this time, DAP still required human activity to fully assemble vehicles. The first automated tasks and early computerized methods came in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Of course, throughout the Mustang’s first 40 years of life, the car was also produced in Ford assembly plants located in San Jose, California, and Metuchen, New Jersey. (The San Jose facility, also called the Milpitas Assembly Plant, closed in 1983, and the Metuchen facility, also known as the Edison Assembly Plant, eventually closed for good in 2004.) By 1980, the only Ford plant producing the Mustang was DAP, and by 1987, the only vehicle that DAP produced was the Mustang. However, by the 1990s, DAP as an active, producing factory was starting to noticeably show its age. Technological advances in production and assembly were exhibited at newly constructed, as well as newly refurbished, Ford plants elsewhere. Rumors started to emerge about Ford wanting to close DAP, but of course, it is not that simple where unions and contracts are concerned. Obviously, by this time, Ford had no intention of ending Mustang production altogether, as the car was still the leader of its class and a very stronger seller with an immense following. If Ford was going to close DAP, it needed to find a new home for Mustang production.
Below: The final Mustang built at DAP, a Redfire Clearcoat Metallic 2004 GT convertible, rolled off the line on May 10, 2004, to much press coverage and fanfare. After 86 years of continuous service, the closure of DAP ended an important chapter in both Ford and Mustang history.
Below: Ford considered all 2009 Mustangs to be 45th anniversary models, and each vehicle received chrome, horseshoe-shaped emblems on their front fenders.
Ford executives found a suitable new home for Mustang assembly at AutoAlliance International (known as Flat Rock Assembly Plant since 2012) in Flat Rock, Michigan, and they planned to move production there for the next-generation Mustang. Thus, union contracts at DAP were guaranteed through the 2004 model year, and Mustang production moved to Flat Rock for the start of 2005 model-year production. This also explains why the retro-styled Mustang was pushed to the 2005 model year. So it came to pass, the legendary Dearborn Assembly Plant which first opened its doors to production in 1918 was closing its doors for good after 86 years of service. On March 31, 2004, the last SVT Mustang Cobra rolled off the line. On May 10, 2004, a Redfire Clearcoat Metallic 2004 Mustang GT convertible was the last vehicle to roll off the historic assembly line, closing an important chapter in Ford history and ending continuous production of the Mustang at its birthplace since its original Job One on March 9, 1964. This is why all 2004 Mustangs have the honor of being the last vehicles to roll across the same assembly line as the first Mustangs forty years earlier. Demolition of the historic Dearborn Assembly Plant was completed by 2008, and the original site today is a 3,000-space holding lot for F-Series light-duty truck production from the new Dearborn Truck Plant.
As history would soon reveal, the next-generation Mustang would yield a rekindled relationship between Carroll Shelby and Ford, culminating in the first new Shelby GT500 in nearly four decades. This new direction undoubtedly signaled that the SVT Cobra moniker was officially retired, giving yet another reason for the Mystichrome Cobra’s special, collectible status. The added benefit of it being based on the Terminator Cobra — one of the best, all-around production vehicles — means that it has instantly achieved the same status and respect as other great Mustangs of the past, such legends like the original Shelby Mustangs, the Mach 1, the Boss Mustangs, and the three model years of the SVT Mustang Cobra R.
Below: Erasing any doubt about the car’s special status, the “50 Years” pony logo was tastefully embossed in the front, leather seatbacks.
With regard to milestone-anniversary Mustangs after 2004, Ford did not offer a 45th anniversary car and, instead, considered all 2009 Mustangs to be 45th birthday celebratory vehicles. Also, 2009 turned out to be a short model year, as the refreshed 2010 Mustang debuted in early spring 2009. For Mustang’s golden anniversary, Ford observed the milestone during the 2015 model year with its newly-redesigned vehicle. The official milestone car was the GT “50 Years” Limited Edition, which was a Mustang GT fastback available in either Kona Blue Clearcoat Metallic (originally available on the 2010–2012 Mustang) and exclusive Wimbledon White Clearcoat, the very same shade as the first Mustang fifty years earlier. The special cars had Ebony interiors with Cashmere (near-white) inserts on the leather seats and door panel trim. Ford produced a total of 1,964 special editions as a nod to the Mustang’s birth year, and each vehicle received a serialized dash plaque cast in brushed aluminum. Fifty years of continuous production for one nameplate is a feat of endurance and evolving to meet the needs and desires of its customers. Yet, when speaking strictly about anniversary-edition Mustangs that are a complete package of looks, performance, and overall wow factor, the Mystichrome Cobra still wins hands down.
Below and lower right: In early August 2018, Ford produced its 10,000,000th Mustang after 54 years of continuous production. The special car was a 2019 GT convertible that was painted in the first Mustang’s shade, Wimbledon White, and outfitted with a black leather interior and black convertible top. The milestone vehicle was photographed with Mustang number 1 at The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, about 15 miles northeast of Detroit.
Above and below: This early aerial view of The River Rouge Complex in 1927 shows the immense area that would eventually be utilized for production. During World War II, Ford took part in the war effort in producing various warfare craft, as shown in this 1944 photo (below) of Dearborn Tool and Die. Ford’s history of assisting in a coordinated effort continues to this day.
In 2020, as the threat of COVID-19 became more serious, Ford proactively began producing much needed respirators for the healthcare industry, while the federal government had to order General Motors to assist in the effort. To this day, Ford continues its history of corporate responsibility to humanity and the world.
Below: Dearborn Assembly Plant was the original birthplace of the Mustang. The series of photos shows 1965 Mustangs entering final inspection, workers installing the heart of a 1969 Boss 429, line workers mounting Mustang II bodies onto their chassis, and 1985 Mustangs rolling off the final assembly line.
Below: In April 2013, Mustang production reached its first million units at its new home at Flat Rock Assembly Plant, since relocating there in 2004.
Below: The Mustang GT “50 Years” Limited Edition was available in exclusive Wimbledon White Clearcoat, much like the first Mustang fifty years earlier. The wheels were reminiscent of the 1965–1967 GT wheels, and the special-edition cars received unique, louvered, rear-quarter glass as a nod to the fastback louvers on ’60s Mustang fastbacks. The special cars also received Ebony interiors with Cashmere accents and serialized, dash-mounted plaques.
Ford built its 10,000,000th Mustang
in August 2018. The special milestone car
was a 2019 GT convertible painted in
Wimbledon White with a black interior.
Continue to Chapter 8 >