Ford Mustang - America's Favorite Pony Car
The original Ford Mustang was introduced to the public on April 17th, 1964 by Henry Ford II at the New York World's Fair. That same day, the all-new Mustang model galloped its way into Ford dealerships across America where it proved to be an instant success with over 22,000 orders immediately placed. Sales for coupes, convertibles, and the 2+2 ‘fastbacks’ far exceeded Ford’s own projections and the world’s most popular pony car has never looked back, with nary an unsuccessful iteration to speak of. Almost sixty years and exactly six model generations later, the legendary Ford Mustang is still America’s favorite Pony car, and the envy of car manufacturers all over the world.
First produced in 1964 ½, the initial design of the Mustang was largely unchanged until 1966. These ‘early’ 1st generations sparked the public’s fascination with the car – aided by a revolutionary ad campaign with product placement in movies and on television – and they remain best-selling options today. By 1967, the Mustang added weight and got a facelift, while power/performance continued to improve through the redesigned ’69-’71 models. Power output began to dip due to regulations in ’72-’73, and thusly sales suffered with these ‘fatter and lazier’ final years, although they’ve been revitalized in today’s market with the resto-mod movement. Performance submodels across the 1st generation include the Mach 1, Boss 302/409, and the introduction of the legendary Shelby variants.
With record gas prices and tough regulations plaguing the industry, fuel efficiency was paramount for the Blue Oval brand and its top-selling Mustang. Lee Iacocca, one of the original minds behind the Mustang, navigated its journey from spirited sports car to sensible subcompact with these “Mustang II” models. Now based on the Pinto, size and power was reduced to better compete against Japanese imports, with performance and luxury taking a backseat to practicality and MPGs. 1974 sales were very promising with almost 400K sold, but the novelty quickly wore off and the Mustang sank deep into the same “malaise era” experienced by all of Detroit’s Big 3 automakers. However, with features like T-tops, hatchbacks, and the slow-roll intro of the 5.0L V8, the ’77-’78 models gained lots of momentum.
The birth of the Fox-body Mustang instantly recharges the model, and 1979 boasts the highest sales since 1967. Notchbacks, hatchbacks, and convertibles (reintroduced in ‘83 after a nine-year absence) are now offered in a vast array of trim levels, including the LX, GT, and Cobra to name a few. An extensive powertrain portfolio ranges from the 2.3L four-cylinder (also offered with a turbo), both a V6 and inline-six variation, and the venerable 5.0L V8 that Foxes have practically become synonymous with. Along with an emphasis on sporty handling and performance, all Fox-bodies offer aerodynamic, wedge-style designs with wrap-around bumpers and dynamic exterior accents. Period facelifts throughout the model-run culminate in the most popular offerings: the ’87-’93 cars with aero headlights.
SN-95 “New Edge” Mustangs represent the first MAJOR redesign in 15 years, highlighted by the new Fox-4 platform. Notchbacks are discontinued, with a more traditional coupe and convertible now offered along with a simplified choice of sub-models. Unlike the volatility of previous generations, sales are finally consistent with an average of 142K units sold each year. After nearly 30 years, Ford retired the 302 pushrod V8 and replaced it with the Modular 4.6L SOHC V8 – drawing a distinct line of demarcation between “classic” and “modern” Mustangs. ’94-’98 Mustangs are unofficially dubbed the “rounded” line, while the reskinned designs of the ’99-‘04 iterations offer sharper contours, larger wheel arches, and creases in the bodywork – a shift in design philosophy and a preview of things to come in later Mustangs.
“Retro-futurism” leads the way with this generation, where nostalgia combines with Ford’s broadening IndyCar experience to form a redesigned and reengineered car that echoes the Mustang fastbacks of the late-‘60s. The all-new look is an instant hit and kicks-off the “modern muscle car” movement in American motoring, soon to be joined by the Charger and Camaro, subsequently igniting a newer version of the Detroit horsepower wars. Ford’s D2C platform shows it’s serious about handling and power this time around for its pony flagship – the brand’s first concerted effort to compete against both domestic and foreign contemporaries. In addition to an impressive list of special edition models offered each year, a new 5.0L V8 and Shelby’s 2nd Generation package are both reintroduced after a long hiatus.
It’s a brave new motoring world, and the Mustang is still at the front of the line with this current sports car offering. The redesign highlights a wider, lower body and Euro-inspired styling, along with a breadth of engines ranging from the 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder to the 5.0L Coyote V8. Horsepower is once again supreme, although handling, luxury, safety, and even clean emissions are all equally important. 2015 ushered in the Mustang’s first independent rear suspension, giving it unprecedented respect in foreign markets, and the power, handling, luxury, and safety ratings are truly top-in-class without much compromise – a rare feat the Mustang never approached historically. The Mach 1 returns after a 17-year hibernation, joining beasts like the Shelby GT350/500 and aftermarket collaborations from legends like Roush Racing and Saleen, among others.