Hau Thai-Tang fled wartorn Vietnam as a boy and couldn't have known that some day he'd help bring to reality the newest version of the car that to him symbolized America. He continues the story, in his own words.
In Vietnam, to have a car was a pretty good thing and we had one, a Citröen Deux Chevaux. My grandfather also had a French car, and he had an old Jeep. He was pretty well off. He rented some rooms to American military officers. As kids, we were always hanging around with them. They gave us ice cream. One of the things they left laying around were car magazines. You'd look at them and see all these American cars. And part of the morale-building at the time was they would bring over Mustang race cars as part of the USO tours. That was when I saw my first Mustang. It was a race car. And it was fast. So my connection with America and with cars was forged on those images.
My parents stressed education. Vietnamese culture, you know. They wanted us to be a doctor or a dentist. I decided to be an engineer because I was good in math. Couldn't stand the sight of blood. I graduated from school and came to the auto industry. What attracted me was my love for cars and the fact that [the field] is so dynamic, constantly changing, so competitive.
The best thing is, it's tangible. You know, you can work for NASA, but they're not going to let you try the space shuttle. Here, you can bring it home, you can show it to your friends, you can show it to your spouse, you can show it to your parents, and you can say "I helped do some element of this." That was the attraction.
For me, Mustang has such universal appeal. It stands for, in my mind, everything that's good about America. It's big, powerful, bold. It's accessible. It embodies freedom. I mean, that's the joy of driving a Mustang. That's the American success story. So my perspective may be different from, say, the Midwestern farm boy who grew up playing with his dad's tractor when he was eight. His context with the Mustang is different than mine. But we both have the same love for the car, and for the same reasons.
It has been a remarkable journey. I was born in '66, and under the Chinese zodiac, which in Vietnam we used, that was the year of the horse. So my mother is convinced that this is all fate and destiny. "You were born in the year of the horse. Now you're working on the Horse Car." She thinks it's all intertwined. But I tell her, "Hey, tomorrow I could be working on the Freestar."
For even more on the Ford Mustang of yesterday and today, check out the following articles.
- Saddle up for the complete story of America's best-loved sporty car. How the Ford Mustang Works chronicles the legend from its inception in the early 1960s to today's all-new Mustang.
- After 40 years, the newest Mustang since its inception showed that it had learned a thing or two from its heritage. Read about all the nods to the past in the 2005 Ford Mustang.
- The Ford Mustang is central to America's muscle car mania. Learn about some of the quickest Mustangs ever, along with profiles, photos, and specifications of more than 100 muscle cars.
- Ford muscle cars were among the top performers of the muscle car era. Check out profiles, photos, and specifications of some tough Ford muscle cars.