Sonny and Cher were one of the biggest celebrity duos of the 1960s and early 1970s thanks to a string of rock hits followed by the success of their prime time television show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Like many celebrity marriages, their union eventually came to an end. In addition to sorting out custody for their child, the dissolution of their marriage left Sonny and Cher with another issue to settle: What would happen to their matching pair of custom Mustang convertibles? Here’s a closer look at the rise and fall of this dynamic duo, along with how they came into possession of two custom cars which were just as over-the-top as they were and where they are now.
Salvatore Phillip Bono and Cherilyn Sarkisian met at a coffee shop in 1962. At the time, he was a 28-year-old assistant to a record producer and she was a 16-year-old high school dropout. The friends-than-lovers were soon on their way to pop stardom thanks to the success of their first album, 1965’s Look at Us, which contained the eventual number one single, “I Got You Babe.” The couple quickly became regulars on the era’s top variety shows, including American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show, Top of the Pops, and Beat Club.
Sonny and Cher’s popularity continued to skyrocket with the release of their second studio album, The Wondrous World of Sonny & Cher. Their gentle pop sound combined with their wholesome image to make them a sensation. With five of their songs making the US Billboard Top 20 in 1965 alone, fans all over the world were clamoring for tickets to their shows and appearances.
The late 1960s found Sonny and Cher experiencing some setbacks with the flop of their film project, Good Times, as well as Cher’s subsequent movie, Chastity. The duo’s music career also stalled with the takeover of psychedelic rock.
Unwilling to give up, Bono reconceptualized the pair as a Las Vegas act. There, they were discovered by talent scouts and soon offered their own variety show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. The program debuted in 1971 and was an immediate hit. Over the duration of its run, it received 15 Emmy Award nominations and one win for direction. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour’s popularity also led to the revival of the couple’s recording career.
As Sonny and Cher’s star rose, however, their marriage was crumbling. By the third season of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, they’d separated and their very public divorce was finalized in 1975. While they attempted to recreate their pre-divorce magic with 1976’s return of The Sonny & Cher Show, the audience was no onboard. When the show failed a year later, they parted ways professionally and personally.
Both Sonny and Cher went on to find success on their own. Sonny continued to act and then turned his attention to politics eventually being elected to the US House of Representatives. Cher, meanwhile, became a Grammy- and Emmy- award-winning solo singer and actress. I
Sonny and Cher were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998. That same year, Bono died in a skiing accident in 1998 at just 62 years old. In her eulogy, Cher praised Bono as “the most unforgettable character I’ve ever met.” Meanwhile, the epitaph on his headstone reads, “And the Beat Goes On.”
At the height of their careers, Sonny and Cher were at the top of the A-list — so much so that they even had a pair 289 V-8 convertible Mustangs created for them by iconic car customizer George Barris, AKA “The King of Kustomizers.” Today, these dual Mustangs remain Barris’s most well-known work.
Sent straight from the assembly line to Barris’s shop, the Mustangs received a comprehensive facelift, including new front fascias, Ford Thunderbird taillights, and sleek shaved door handles. Barris also remodeled the interiors of both cars in signature 60s-era hues and materials, including faux wood-trimmed steering wheels, fur carpeting, and full-length center consoles.
The Mustangs weren’t entirely alike, however: Cher’s was painted in dazzling pink pearl with coordinating interiors, while Sonny’s was designed with a gold and brown motif. Barris’s wife, Shirley, helped them design these color palettes. Said Barris later of the experience of working with the couple, “Sonny and Cher go back a long way with me. They were the hippest young couple I can remember. They dressed way out and wild, and Cher was the most beautiful young woman imaginable.”
Sonny and Cher’s marriage might not have lasted long, but their Mustangs have stood the test of time. After being featured in 1987’s Good Times, they passed through several collections and also underwent a Barris-overseen restoration — staying together all the while. Despite their age, they also remain “very low mileage,” according to insiders. The “Sonny Bono Mustang” and “Cher Mustang” were most recently sold at auction in 2018 to Kansas businessman and automobile enthusiast Ward Morgan for $146,700. Also accompanying the sale? An extensive collection of Sonny and Cher memorabilia. Today, they’re on exhibit at the Midwest Dream Car Collection museum in Kansas.
There weren’t many pairs in history who were as original as Sonny and Cher. The same can be said of their custom George Barris-built Ford Mustangs.