MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of New York World’s Fair, State of New York, and the Ford Motor Company Archives
Published 12.14.2022

Ford Mustang on display at Worlds Fair Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 3 

In 1964, the state of New York opened its World’s Fair, which was attended by millions from all over the world. The Fair offered many great exhibits and the latest in technology and innovation was on display as well.

The idea for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair came from by Robert Kopple, a lawyer who had great experiences as a kid attending the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair held at Flushing Meadows’ Corona Park in Queens. Kopple felt that the show was a great historical event and educational opportunity for many Americans to attend.

1964 65 New York Worlds Fair Catalog State of New York Archives 11964-65 New York World's Fair Catalog (State of New York Archives)

The New York World’s Fair contained over 140 buildings that represented 20 nations. It also took place at Flushing Meadows’ Corona Park, a 646-acre site. Some historians called the Fair the “Universal and International Exposition.” This was a groundbreaking event admired by people from all over the world. This event that took place in 1964 and 1965 is now a part of our history books as a popular showcase of mid-20th-century American culture and automotive technology.

Henry Ford II introduces the Mustang Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 2Henry Ford II introduces the Mustang (Ford Motor Company Archives)

One of the Fair’s main features was the Ford Motor Company’s display, which included an array of new cars which many people thoroughly enjoyed. Ford introduced the production version of the new Mustang at the Fair. The theme of the exhibit was called “Out of This World and Back.” The exhibit became very popular for Ford as way to promote their new products.

Magic Skyway ride advertising illustration State of New York Archives RESIZED 4A "Magic Skyway" ride illustration (State of New York Archives)

The Fair also featured an attraction called the “Magic Skyway” ride, which along with the Ford Pavilion, were among the most popular with visitors. The “Magic Skyway” ride was created and designed by Walt Disney and featured many new Ford products, included great-looking convertibles and the new Mustang. It opened to the public on April 17, 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attended the Fair and took a ride in the new Ford products with his family.

MLK rides the Magic Skyway State of NY Archives 5Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rides the "Magic Skyway." (State of NY Archives)

Due in part to all the positive promotion from their participation in the World’s Fair, 1965 was a great sales year for Ford and the new Mustang. Between its April 1964 introduction and January 1965, a total of 680,989 Mustang units were sold. This remarkable accomplishment can be credited to the design, Ford executive Lee A. Iacocca, and an effective promotional/advertising campaign which included the New York World’s Fair “Magic Skyway” ride. Thousands of Americans rode those new Mustangs at the Fair.

Riders in a Mustang convertible on the Magic Skyway ride Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 6Riders in a Mustang convertible on the "Magic Skyway." (Ford Motor Company Archives)

As a model collector, I was always interested in a white Mustang promotional model available at the Ford pavilion. This was another element in the campaign promoting the new Mustang. I received one of the Mustang models many years ago from an automotive journalist who attended the Fair in 1965.

Mustang on display in the Ford Pavilion Ford Motor Co Archives RESIZED 7Mustang on display in the Ford Pavilion (Ford Motor Co Archives)

The World’s Fair also included many other attractions, including the giant tire ferris wheel by the U.S Rubber Company, which continued the fair’s automotive theme. Of course, this attraction found new life as the “Giant Tire” along I-94 east of the Southfield Freeway in Allen Park, MI.

Ferris wheel by US Rubber Company State of NY Archives RESIZED 8The giant Ferris wheel by US Rubber Company (State of NY Archives)

In conclusion, the New York World’s Fair was a major tourist attraction and an opportunity for people to see history and the latest in technology, as well as a chance to experience new offerings from Ford and other automakers in 1964 and 1965. Those years saw the introduction of great styled cars by Ford that will always be a part of our automotive history.

Bibliography    

The Old Motor Publication. “1964 New York World’s Fair: The Ford Pavilion and the Magic Skyway.” October 19, 2021.

History of New York City 1964 World’s Fair. A TLTC Blog. May 2, 2022 Landmarks & Buildings.

Langworth, Richard M. “Encyclopedia of American Cars 1930-1980.” By the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, 1984.

Walt Disney Archives. “Four Disney Exhibits Open at the New York World’s Fair.” April 22, 1964.