Ford  (NYSE: F) didn’t have any major announcements to make at the New York International Auto Show last week. But the Blue Oval did throw an impressive party for one of its iconic products. The Mustang turned 50 years old last week, and Ford was determined to honor its proud pony in proper style.

Ford’s celebration included a special anniversary edition of the all-new 2015 Mustang, presented to the media by Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields — and in a surprise, Executive Chairman Bill Ford himself, who gave us the details of the new anniversary model. It also included a party at the Empire State Building, where Ford recreated a stunt they’d first pulled in 1965: putting a Mustang on the Empire State Building’s observation deck, 86 floors above New York’s streets.

Your humble Fools — The Motley Fool’s John Rosevear and Rex Moore — were in New York for the show, and we managed to wangle invitations to Ford’s party. The party itself was an impressive fest, with top Ford officials (including Bill Ford and Mark Fields), and major media figures in attendance.

But the most impressive part was that yellow Mustang convertible out on the observation deck.


To make this stunt happen, Ford consulted longtime partner DST Industries, which helped with the original stunt in 1965. The team carefully cut up a brand-new 2015 Mustang GT convertible and packaged it into Empire-State-Building-elevator-sized chunks. Then, in New York, a six-man crew took it piece by piece up the building’s elevators, and reassembled the car out on the observation deck — in a stiff wind, working under a strict six-hour time limit.

Why would Ford do this? The Mustang, after all, is hardly Ford’s best-seller. Why put so much effort into a stunt designed to attract attention to it?

It’s fun publicity for the Ford brand, of course. And it helps call attention to the fact that the Mustang is all-new for 2015. But there’s more to it than that.

Cars like the Mustang serve an important business purpose, even if their sales numbers are dwarfed by those of more mainstream models. Like other high-performance cars, the Mustang brings people into dealerships to see it, and some of those folks will leave with a new Fusion or F-150.

It also gets enthusiasts excited about Ford — and those enthusiasts are often the ones who others ask for advice on their next new car.

There’s another, often underrated reason that manufacturers are willing to invest in models like the highest-performing versions of the Mustang that sell in tiny numbers: Talented engineers like working on them. A car like the Mustang can be a powerful recruiting tool for Ford.

With a little help from a kindly Empire State Building security person, we were able to wade through throngs of tourists and get right up next to the Mustang on the observation deck before the sun set. Thanks to the magic of video, you can see it just as we did.

We should add one postscript. In the video, John questions whether the car has an engine. That’s a question that several others in attendance had been asking. But later in the evening, as we were leaving Ford’s event, we ran into Mark Fields, who assured us that the Mustang did, in fact, have an engine. Fields also told us how Ford’s team had practiced the stunt “like a NASCAR pit crew,” using a carefully measured mockup of the building’s elevators back in Michigan, and how they hustled to get the Mustang in place and assembled under a tight, non-negotiable deadline.

(The best part of that story is that Fields told us all of this while we were riding together in — yes — one of the Empire State Building’s elevators.)