Produced by the Ford Motor Company from 1964 to 1973 it was originally based on the Ford Falcon compact. The first production Mustang rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan on March 9, 1964, and was introduced to the public at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964, via all three American television networks on April 19, and made an appearance in the James Bond film Goldfinger in September of 1964. It was one of the most successful product launches in automotive history.
The Ford Mustang created a new "pony car" class of cars by adapting the "long hood, short deck" look of sports cars to compact sedans. The Plymouth faithful stress that their Barracuda beat the Ford Mustang to market by two weeks. But it was the Mustang, which racked up over 22,000 sales its first day and one million sales in its first 18 months on the market, that turned the market and people's attention to the pony car. It spawned many competitors such as the Chevrolet Camaro, and inspired smaller import coupes such as the Toyota Celica and Ford Capri. The latest (Fifth Generation) Ford Mustang has also been used as the new avatar of KITT in Knight Rider 2008. The Mustang has remained in continuous production to present day after many decades and numerous revisions. The pony car class that the Ford Mustang helped create is the only class of muscle car that still exists today.
The Industry Reacts
In the Mustang's first two years of production, three Ford Motor Company plants in Milpitas, California; Dearborn, Michigan; and Metuchen, New Jersey produced nearly 1.5 million Mustangs. It was a tremendous success that left General Motors utterly unprepared and the Chrysler Corporation only slightly less so. Chrysler had just introduced the Plymouth Barracuda a few weeks before, and though the "'Cuda" would grow into one of the most revered muscle cars of all time, it started out at as just a Plymouth Valiant with a hastily grafted fastback rear window. As for GM, they were certain that they had a Mustang fighter in the rear-engine Corvair Monza, but sales figures didn't even come close. The Monza was a fine performer, but it lacked a V8 engine and its reputation had been tarnished by Ralph Nader. It took GM until the 1967 model year to counter with the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. Even Lincoln-Mercury joined the fray in 1967 with the introduction of an "up market Mustang" (and subsequent Motor Trend Car of the Year), the Mercury Cougar. The Cougar name had originally been given to the Mustang during the development phase. In 1968, American Motors (AMC) would introduce the Javelin and later, the 2-seat high-performance AMX. This genre of small, sporty, and often powerful automobiles was unofficially dubbed the "pony car" as a tribute to the car that started it all.
Ford Mustang 1st Generation (1964 to 1973)
First conceived by Ford product manager Donald N. Frey and championed by Ford Division general manager Lee Iacocca, the Mustang prototype was a two-seat, mid-engine roadster. This would later be remodeled as a four-seat car penned by David Ash and John Oros in Ford's Lincoln–Mercury Division design studios, which produced the winning design in an intramural design contest called by Iacocca. To cut down the development cost, the Ford Mustang was based heavily on familiar, yet simple components. Much of the chassis, suspension, and drive train components were derived from the Ford Falcon and Fairlane. It came with an obligatory back seat and a multitude of options that would give the buyer an opportunity to customize their purchase, and generate extra profits for Ford. The car had a unitized platform-type frame, which was taken from the 1964 Falcon, and welded box-section side rails, including welded cross members. Although hardtop Mustangs were the majority of the sales, durability problems with the new frame led to the unusual step of engineering the (necessarily less rigid) convertible first, which ensured adequate stiffness. Overall length of the Mustang and Falcon was identical, although the Mustang's wheelbase was slightly shorter. With an overall width of 68.2 in (1732 mm), it was 2.4 in (61 mm) narrower, yet the wheel track was nearly identical. The Mustang featured both a lower seating position and overall height. Shipping weight, about 2570 lb (1170 kg) with the six-cylinder engine, was also similar. A fully-equipped GT V8 model weighed about 3000 lb (1360 kg) with its "mandatory optional" four-speed. Though most of the mechanical parts were taken directly from the Falcon, the Mustang's body shell was completely different; sporting a shorter wheelbase, wider track, lower seating position, and overall height. An industry first, the "torque box" was an innovative structural system that greatly stiffened the Ford Mustang's construction and helped contribute to better handling.
Despite its runaway success, some automotive experts could muster only qualified enthusiasm for the Ford Mustang as most of the mechanical parts were taken directly from the Falcon, but the new car ushered in an era of automotive personalization that was key to its success and the numerous options contributed to the gross profits for Ford Motor Company. Buyers loved its low price, long hood, short trunk styling, and its myriad of options. Ford loved its high volume sales and visibility..
Ford Mustang 1964 ½ to 1965
Since it was introduced five months before the normal start of the production year, this first model has become widely known, although incorrectly, as the 1964 1/2 model. A more accurate description is the "early 1965" model, as the car underwent several significant changes at the start of the regular model year. All the early cars, however, were touted as 1965 models. The Ford Mustang debuted as a simple sports car originally named for the fighter plane, (P-51 Mustang). Early references were made to the horse, and the horse motif quickly became the emblem for the Mustang. The base model hardtop with its 170 cu in (2.8 Ltr) straight-6 engine and three-speed manual transmission listed for US$2,368.
Some minor changes to the Mustang occurred at the start of the normal 1965 model year production, five months after its introduction. These cars are known as "late 65's," and were built from April through September. First, there was an almost complete change to the engine lineup. The I6 engine made way for a new 200 cu in (3.3 Ltr) version that produced 120 hp (89 kW). Production of the 260 cu in (4.3 Ltr) engine ceased with the traditional end of the 1964 model year. It was replaced with a new 200 hp (150 kW) 289 cu in (4.7 Ltr) engine with a two-barrel carburetor as the base V8. A 225 hp (168 kW) four-barrel carbureted version was next in line, followed by the unchanged "Hi-Po" 271 hp (202 kW) 289. The DC electrical generator was replaced by a new AC alternator on all Fords (the quickest way to distinguish a 1964 1/2 from a 1965 is to see if the alternator light on the dash says "GEN" or "ALT"). The now-famous Ford Mustang GT was introduced as the "GT Equipment Package" and included a V8 engine (most often the 225 hp (168 kW) 289), grille-mounted fog lamps, rocker panel stripes, and disc brakes. A four-barrel carbureted engine was now available with any body style. Additionally, reverse lights were an option added to the car in 1965. The Mustang was originally available as either a hardtop or convertible, but during the car's early design phases a fastback model was strongly considered. The Mustang 2+2 fastback made its inaugural debut with its swept-back rear glass and distinctive ventilation louvers.
The standard interior features of the 1965 Mustang included adjustable driver and passenger bucket seats, an AM radio, and a floor mounted shifter in a variety of color options. Throughout the 1965 model year, Ford continued to add to the Mustang's interior options. The Interior Decor Group was popularly known as "Pony Interior" due to the addition of embossed running ponies on the seat fronts, and also included integral armrests, wood grain appliqué accents, and a round gauge cluster that would replace the standard Ford Falcon instrumentation. Also available were sun visors, a (mechanical) remote-operated mirror, a floor console, and a bench seat. Ford would later offer an under-dash air-conditioning unit, and discontinue the vinyl with cloth insert seat option, offered only in early 1965 models.
For those that wanted more, the legendary Carroll Shelby and Ford collaborated to produce the Shelby GT-350, a Ford Mustang fastback specially tuned by Shelby. The 289 V8 produced 306bhp in street tune and around 360bhp in special GT-350R race tune. These Shelby's had no back seat, were only available in white and were fully race ready.
2D Hardtop: 501,965
1966 Ford Mustang
The 1966 Ford Mustang debuted with moderate trim changes including a new grille, side ornamentation, wheel covers, and gas cap. Additionally an automatic transmission for the "Hi-Po," a large number of new paint and interior color options, an AM/eight-track sound system, and one of the first AM/FM monaural automobile radios were offered. The gauge cluster was redone to separate the Mustang from its Falcon roots and made the previously option-only round gauges and padded sun visors standard equipment.
Although similar in design, the 1965 and 1966 Mustangs have a few visual exterior clues that differentiate the two model years. Among the differences is the emblem on the quarter-panels behind the doors. In 1965 the emblem is a single vertical piece of chrome, while in 1966 the emblem was smaller in height and had three horizontal bars extending from the design, resembling an "E". The front intake grilles and ornaments were also different. The 1965 front grille used a "honeycomb" pattern, while the 1966 version was a "slotted" style. While both model years used the "Horse and Corral" emblem on the grille, the 1965 had four bars extending from each side of the corral, while on the 1966, these bars were removed.
Engine wise the 260 cid V8 was replaced with 2 and 4 barrel versions of the 289 cid V8. The Shelby GT-350 was still available, though its race image was being diluted by the addition of an automatic transmission, a choice of four colors, and special examples that were prepared for Hertz Rent A Car (known as Shelby GT-350H) for rental to weekend drag racers. Available on the GT-350 through 1968 was a Paxton supercharger which would boost horsepower by as much as 40%.
When Ford went to sell the Mustang in Germany they found that a company there had already registered the name. The German company offered to sell the rights to the name for US $10,000. Ford refused, and instead named it the T-5 and removed the Mustang badge and replaced it with a T-5 badge.
2D Hardtop: 499,751
1967 to 1968 Ford Mustang
The 1967 model year would see the first of the Ford Mustang's many major redesigns with the installation of big-block V8 engines in mind. Changes included bulkier sheet metal below the beltline and a full fastback roofline for the fastback body style. The overall size was increased, as was the cargo space. Exterior trim changes included concave taillights, side scoop (1967) and chrome (1968) side ornamentation, square rear-view mirrors along with the usual yearly wheel and gas cap changes. A more aggressive grille was manufactured for the ’67 while a simplified version appeared on the ’68.
The interior was more spacious due to an increase in the overall size of the vehicle. The 1967 and 1968 models did away with the "Pony Interior" in favor of a new deluxe interior package, which included special color options, brushed stainless steel (1967) or wood grain (1968) trim, seat buttons, a tilt steering wheel, and special interior paneling. The air-conditioning option was fully integrated into the dash, the speakers and stereo were upgraded, and unique center and overhead consoles were options. The fastback version had a fold down seat, and the convertible was available with folding glass windows.
The high-performance 289 option now took a supporting role on the option sheet behind a massive 320 hp (239 kW) 390 cu in (6.4 Ltr) FE engine from the Thunderbird, which was equipped with a four-barrel carburetor. Stock 390 with 4-speed manual Mustangs of the day were recording quarter mile times of mid 13-seconds, with trap speeds of over 105 mph (169 km/h).
Of greater interest to enthusiasts in 1967 was the availability of another Shelby-tuned Ford Mustang. The GT350 was still powered by a modified 289 V8, though output dropped to 290bhp. The new GT500 was powered by a reworked 428 V8 (some were reportedly built with the even more powerful, race ready 427 V8). The 1967 Shelby's were more civilized and sported numerous luxury options, which seemed to appeal to buyers. These would be the last Shelby Mustangs actually built by Shelby-American. All future models would be built by Ford with little Shelby involvement.
on April 1, 1968, Ford unveiled perhaps its most famous line of engines, the 428 Cobra Jet. It was based on the regular 428 but included larger valve heads, the race 427's intake manifold, and an oil-pan windage tray. It had ram-air induction and breathed through a functional hood scoop. Output was listed at 335bhp but was rumored to be around 410bhp. The Shelby's were still available, joined by an available convertible model and renamed the Shelby Cobra. The GT-350 dropped its 289 cid 306hp engine and gained a 302 cid 250hp engine. Midway through the year, the GT-500 was dropped and was replaced by the GT-500KR ("King of the Road"). The GT-500KR, a drag racer for the street, sported the new Ram Air 428 (7Ltr) Cobra Jet, still underrated at 335hp (250 kW).
The California Special Ford Mustang, or GT/CS, was visually based on the Shelby and was sold only in the Western states. Its sister, the High Country Special was sold in Denver, Colorado. While the GT/CS was only available in coupe form, the High Country Special was available in a fastback and convertible version in 1967 and only as a coupe in 1968.
The 1968 Ford Mustang fastback gained pop culture status when it was used to great effect in the crime thriller Bullitt. Lt. Frank Bullitt, played by legendary actor Steve McQueen, drove a modified Mustang GT-390 fastback, chasing two hit men in a Dodge Charger in the film's famous car chase through the streets of San Francisco.
2D Hardtop: 356,271
2D Hardtop: 249,447
1969 to 1970 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang's 1969 restyle gained 3.8 inches (97 mm) of body length (all ahead of the front wheels) and gained around 140 lbs in overall curb weight. It was the first to use quad headlamps placed inside and outside the grille opening and sported convex rather than concave side panels. It featured a 302 cu in (4.9 Ltr) V8 rated at 220 hp (164 kW).
The Ford Mustang Mach 1 body style debuted in 1969 and came standard with a 351 cid V8 but could also be had with the 428 Cobra Jet, which now came in three states of tune. The first was a non-Ram Air version, followed by the Ram-Air version which breathed through a functional "shaker" hood scoop which visibly vibrated by being attached directly to the air cleaner through a hole in the hood. Topping the list was the new Super Cobra Jet which came with the Drag Pack option which also utilized “shaker” hood scoop. All three engines were underrated at 335bhp. All this power overwhelmed the rear tires resulting in handling issues - but then, these Mustangs weren't built for curves, just straight 1/4 mile lines.
The Mustang Mach 1 added many muscle car styling and performance features. It had dual exhausts, handling suspension with styled-steel wheels and Goodyear Polyglas tires with bold white lettering. Reflective striping was placed along the body sides, with a pop-off gas cap, matte-black hood with NASCAR-style cable and pin tie downs. Also available were a tail-mounted wing and chin spoilers and a rear window louvered blackout shade.
The race tracks were reserved for the Boss series of Ford Mustangs and were built to qualify for NASCAR. The Mustang Boss 429 package came with a race ready 429 cid V8 with ram air induction, an aluminum high riser and header type exhaust manifolds. Included was an oil cooler, trunk mounted battery, race suspension, and the best interior Mustang had to offer. Although impressive on paper and with good handling, the Boss 429s failed on the street where their dependence on high revs hurt their street starts and the initial batch had incorrect valve springs that would stop winding at 4500rpm instead of 6000rpm.
To combat the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 in Trans Am racing, Ford built the Mustang Boss 302 which used a 302 cid V8 treated to the cylinder heads from the racing 351 cid engine and Ford's largest carb. It was underrated at the same 290bhp as the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28's engine and was available with the shaker hood scoop.
Shelby Mustangs were still available, though they were more luxury oriented then ever before.
Both the Mustang Boss 302 and 429 continued into 1970. The 1970 model moved the headlamps inside the grille opening, and deleted the rear fender air scoops. This Mustang Boss featured distinctive hockey-stick stripes, and Ford fielded a Trans Am series Boss 302 team which won the series and helped drive sales forward. The 428 Cobra Jet continued as the top engine choice for the Mach 1 Mustang. New for 1970 was the 429 Cobra Jet, standard in the Mustang Boss 429. The 429 Cobra Jet was rated at 370hp while the Super Cobra Jet was rated for 375hp. This would be the last year for the Shelby Cobras, which were in fact left over 1969 models with some minor trim changes.
Mach 1: 72,458
Grande Hardtop Coupe: 22,182
Boss 302: 1,934
Boss 429: 858
Mach 1: 40,970
Grande Hardtop Coupe: 13,581
Boss 302: 6,318
Boss 429: 498
1971 to 1973 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang grew larger and heavier with each passing year, dimension changes were 2.1" of length, 2.8" of width, 1" of wheelbase, and about 100 lbs more curb weight. 1971 to 1973 models designed under the supervision of Ford's new product design manager, Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen, originally of General Motors. Knudsen's turn at the helm would see the last high-performance big-block Mustang – the 1971 375hp (280 kW) 429 Super Cobra Jet.
The body style designed for the purpose of big-block installation versions was now limited to a maximum of 351 cu in (5.8 Ltr) in 1972 and 1973 due to stricter U.S. emission control regulation. Ford's decade of "Total Performance" was drawing to a close with the disappearance of the Shelby models, the Mustang Boss 302 and Boss 429 models, and the weakening of the remaining engine choices. The performance banner was now carried by the Mach 1 Mustang and the new Mustang Boss 351 which eventually itself was dropped, leaving only the Mustang Mach 1 with any claim to performance. Two more high-performance engines were introduced in 1972; the 351 HO and the 351 Cobra Jet. Both versions were high performers for their era (275hp) but nowhere near the level of the Boss cars and original Cobra Jet.
Following industry leads, automakers in the U.S. switched from "gross" to "net" power and torque ratings in 1972, which coincided with the introduction of low-compression engines with different, far more restrictive induction systems. This lead to some drastic drops in power listings which, coupled with the drop of all big block options, sealed the end of Ford Mustang performance.
1973 saw all engine choices power ratings dropped again as emission controls tightened. New federal guidelines resulted in mandatory bumpers that could withstand a 5mph collision, all of which didn't help the Ford Mustang’s styling. The top engine option was a weak 351 V8 producing just 156hp. There was now a low demand for big block muscle cars because of rising insurance premiums and the performance oriented Ford Mustang would fade away as the restyled Mustang II would debut in 1974 with no claim to any performance.
Mach 1: 36,499
Boss 351: Estimated 1,800
Mach 1: 27,675
Mach 1: 35,440
The much larger 1973 Ford Mustang was a far different car than the original 1964 model. Ford was deluged with mail from fans of the original car who demanded that the Mustang be returned to its original size and concept. This process would eventually result in the second generation of Ford Mustangs, the Mustang II (1974 – 1978). Upon taking over the presidency of Ford Motor Company in December, 1970, Lee Iacocca ordered the development of a smaller Mustang for 1974 introduction with initial plans calling for the downsized Mustang to be based on the compact Ford Maverick, which was similar in size and power to the Falcon upon which the original Mustang had been based. Those plans were later scrapped in favor of an even smaller Mustang based on the subcompact Ford Pinto. Such a car could better compete with smaller sporty import coupes such as the Toyota Celica and Ford Capri, then built by Ford of Germany and Britain, and sold in the U.S. by Mercury as a "captive import".
While the original concept for the Ford Mustang did not foresee its evolution into a performance car, Ford has catered to individuals looking for more performance. While high performance vehicles fell out of favor during the fuel crisis of the 1970s, the tradition was carried forward in later years with the Ford Mustang SVO and Mustang SVT Cobra. Over the years, third party vendors and independent car designers have utilized the Ford Mustang as a starting point for their own designs. Designers such as Carroll Shelby and companies such as Roush Performance and Saleen have made a name for themselves by specializing in producing Mustang performance parts and building custom cars.