The Mustang – one of the most American cars – is about to start a new chapter. After years of secrecy, the Ford Mustang unveils the Mach-E, an electric SUV "inspired" by the classic car's key design elements.
The big reveal happens Sunday in Los Angeles, days ahead of the annual car show there.
The Detit-based company's classic hush-hush marketing strategy has had fans of the iconic car scouring the Internet for clues as to how it will look and operate. And on Thursday night, they beat their mother. Or at least it's possible they hit it.
For a brief window, someone posted on the Ford SUV's reservation website, complete with photos, specifications and prices. But the site was quickly taken down, and Ford has not confirmed any of the details it contained, which seems to have peaked the flames of eager fans.
Among them is Gary Hankins, who said he tried to piece together bits of information about the car over the past two years – an admirable achievement considering he didn't even know the name of the car until this week.
All Ford officially says for now is that the SUV will be on the market by late 2020 – part of the company's $ 11 billion investment in electric cars. The carmaker also says the estimated range of the SUV will be as much as 300 miles on a single charge.
It was enough to make Hankins, a retired DC cop, "go absolutely gaga," according to his friends. For Hankins, the fact that it will look a bit like a Mustang "really iced on the cake."
Finally owning a car with a Mustang called attached would be the fulfillment of a teenage dream.
"I was in junior high school in the '60s when the Mustang came out," he remembered fondly. "I would like to have had a Mustang. [I] could not afford one."
More than five decades later, Hankins rejoices that he has much more money in the bank. "Here I am, now 71 years old, I finally get my Mustang," he said.
Hankins is fishing for a pre-order list for the tech pony, which Ford says he will be able to do so already on Sunday night.
The only official look at what the SUV will look like is a vague, swooping blue drawing on Ford's website. But Thursday's leaked photos, along with others taken by eager enthusiasts last week, show that it's a fairly compact and sporty version of an SUV.
The car designer Camilo Pardo is a skeptic of associating the Mustang name with an SUV. "If an SUV could talk, the first thing is, I will be the Mustang," he said, laughing.
Pardo, the former manager of Ford's Living Legends studio and chief designer of Ford's GT, says hardcore Mustang fans should handle expectations when it comes to some family-friendly crossovers. But he suspects that the re-imagined version will have three essential iconic elements.
First, it must have the big grill, which "should look scary."
"As it is out to get you," he said.
Secondly, he said, the floodlights must have the "wrinkle" shape of the trademark that gives it the "personality of an angry animal."  Finally, it must have the unmistakable taillights. Pardo said that experimenting with these has always been a fun thing for designers. The challenge is to find out how to modernize the three small bars the Mustang is known for.
Based on the sales record for most electric cars, this Ford model is unlikely to prove as popular as the original from 1964. It had one of the most successful product launches in American history.
Gail Wise remembers the frenzy surrounding the campaign, which, like today's, was shrouded in mystery. "Ford hadn't shown the car on TV. They just advertised the logo," she recalled.
Wise is recognized as the first person in the United States to buy the car. She was 22 and wanted a convertible. The seller said he only had the car.
He walked Wise and her parents past all the cars in the showroom floor and said he had something special to show her.
"And in the back room, under a tarp, was a skylight blue Mustang, and I was, wow, that's something for me," she said.
Jeff Kowalsky / AFP via Getty Images
It was April 15, 1964, two days before the car debuted at the New York World Fair. The seller should not sell it. But he did. It cost $ 3,447.50.
Fifty-five years later, Wise still has skylight-blue beauty. (Her husband Tom fully restored the car as a retirement project.)
Wise says she knows she's biased, but she wonders if being Mustang "inspired" will be enough to make Ford's new venture a icon.