Some religious leaders, posing a hyper hypothetical — “What would Jesus drive?” — converged on Detroit to ask auto makers to make more fuel-efficient, “greener” products.
They believe that's what Jesus would drive were he here today and possessing a driver's license.
Personally, it's hard envisioning Jesus traveling around by means of anything with four tires rather than four feet and a bridle.
But automotive photographer David Wright came up with a Biblically inspired answer to “What would Jesus drive?” (an offshoot of the popular “What would Jesus do?”).
Wright's grandfather, Jack, a former dealer, notes the Book of Revelations says Jesus will return on a white horse. So, the younger Wright playfully surmises Jesus would drive a white Ford Mustang.
I doubt the “WWJD” religious group pictures Jesus in a Mustang any more than in a, God forbid, super-sized Ford Excursion SUV which, after the '04 model year appears destined to that big car lot in the sky. Blame poor sales, not ecclesiastical pressure.
But the Mustang has attracted a large and avid following of mere mortals during a run that started on April 17, 1964. It's one of those rare cars that's achieved legendary status while remaining a volume seller for Ford Motor Co.
It's a car that, in different variations, appeals to an array of people. To many, the standard V6 Mustang is a good-looking everyday car to drive.
For speed racers, there are all sorts of hopped-up and modified versions. Tuner companies such as Shelby, Roush, Saleen and McLaren have customized Mustangs that fans consider heavenly.
Ford itself has spun off fine performance versions. Topping the list of factory-tuned models is the Mustang Cobra. That coiled 390-hp snake would get Adam and Eve in trouble again — if they had driver's licenses.
Last year, Ford debuted a Bullitt edition, based on the car Steve McQueen drove in the 1966 movie of the same name, featuring a hellish chase scene.
Now Ford is reintroducing the Mustang Mach 1. It features a 305-hp engine and a ram-air “shaker” hood scoop like 1969's original model.
I drove a '03 Mach 1 around a racetrack, down a drag strip and up a mountain road near Las Vegas. My reaction: “Holy Horses!” Or something like that.
Such cars turn buffs into believers. But it also makes business sense for Ford to slice the Mustang into different denominations.
“A powerful nameplate like Mustang doesn't come around too often in our business,” says James O'Connor, Ford North America's group vice president of marketing, sales and service. “Our lineup of Mustangs and special-edition models are designed to turn customers into tomorrow's enthusiasts.”
Ford sold 169,198 Mustangs in 2001. No other vehicle in the middle specialty segment comes close.
The Chevrolet Camaro was always billed as the Mustang's archrival. Indeed, General Motors Corp. introduced the Camaro in 1966 in response to Mustang madness.
The Camaro and its Pontiac Firebird cousin together sold only 61,196 units last year. That's 108,002 short of the Mustang's solo performance. GM stopped making the Camaro and Firebird in September.
A GM brand manager told me the Mustang is a “compromise” vehicle compared to the Camaro that stayed true to its muscle-car roots to the end.
Yet the Mustang's ability to stay fresh, adapt to changing markets and appeal to different tastes is why it has galloped on.
It remains a segment leader because its standard version is a sporty car that attracts lots of regular buyers. It remains an icon to enthusiasts because its performance versions are honest-to-God sports cars.
Maybe Jesus wouldn't drive a Mustang.
But a car is of high order when it attracts disciples and buyers alike in large numbers. Perhaps it's not the vehicle for the highway to heaven. Yet for many car lovers, piloting a juiced-up Mustang on a stretch of open road is a bit of heaven here on earth.