Unlike the Panamera lift which took place in a freight elevator with a complete automobile, Ford took apart their Mustang and shipped it in pieces, via a people elevator, to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, then reassembled it.
The stunt was dreamed up by the operator of the Empire State Building and Ford happily jumped at the chance to publicize its already wildly successful Mustang. Just goes to show how clever ideas aren’t always new ones.
In October 1965, with the Ford Mustang the hottest-selling car in America, the general manager of the Empire State Building had a great idea – to display a Ford Mustang on the 86th floor observation deck of the iconic Manhattan landmark.
Officials at Ford agreed and dispatched a crew to take was careful measurements of the skyscraper’s doors, hallways and elevators. They determined that a white convertible Mustang could be disassembled into four main sections and transported – along with many smaller pieces – up to the building’s 86th floor in elevators to be reassembled.
Three dry runs performed in Dearborn to make sure it would work. Then, at 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 20, a Ford crew in crisp white overalls began taking the car apart outside the building on 33rd Street.
It all ran smoothly until the crew discovered the steering column was one-quarter-inch too tall for the elevator. Some careful maneuvering was done and by 4:30 a.m., the reassembled car was on the outdoor observation deck and ready to be photographed from a helicopter.
But that wasn’t the end of the stunt. Later that morning, the car was taken apart again and moved inside the glass-enclosed observation area that is surrounded by the outdoor deck.
Many of the building’s visitors were surprised and delighted to find a Mustang there and assumed it had been lifted into place by a helicopter.
Five months later, on March 16, 1966, the car was disassembled for the last time and removed from the building.
Since its debut in 1964, over nine million Mustangs have been sold but only one ever made it to the top of the Empire State Building.
-Leslie Armbruster, Senior Collections Archivist at Ford Motor Company