The History of the Ford Mustang begins with Ford product manager Donald Frey’s introduction of the Mustang in 1964, enthusiastically supported by then-general manager Lee Iacocca. The Mustang became an instant hit for Ford selling over 22,000 in the first week the Mustang was available. In the Mustang’s first two years of sales, more than 1,000,000 Mustangs would end up being sold.
Much of the original body style was based a great deal on the Ford Falcon and Fairlane; it enclosed a straight-6 engine, and was available in a convertible or coupe version. The first model was released in early 1965, but is lovingly known as the “1964 ½” Mustang as it would come to be called by Pony car fans old and young alike.
In late 1965, a GT equipment package was introduced it included a V8 block engine, front fog lights, and disc brakes. At this time a fastback version was introduced along with the coupe and convertible models, however the coupe continued to outsell the other versions. 1966 saw the introduction of the famed Shelby GT-350H a Shelby Mustang specially prepared for the Hertz Rental Car Company designed for weekend drag racers on a rental basis.
From 1967 to 70, the Mustang continued to increase in size to have capacity for the bigger V8 engines Ford tried stuffing in the Stang. From 1971 to 1973 new product design manager Budie Knudsen saw the Mustang during it’s period of largest engine size increase including such venerable Ford powerhouses as the 390, 427, 428, and 429 cubic inch V8 monsters.
It was at this time the United States experienced the first of the Arab Oil Embargos causing a decline in demand in huge gas-guzzlers. It was at this time Mustang fans began to cry out for a return to the smaller Mustangs of the 1960s. When Lee Iacocca became president of Ford in 1973, he put together a plan to completely redesign the Mustang, basing it on the Ford Pinto body much to the chagrin of big Mustang fans.
In 1974we would see the introduction of a much different Mustang then the big Mustangs we had grown accustom to with the release for sale of the Mustang II. The Mustang II produced to compete with the smaller, hot-selling sport cars of the time, would go onto become one of the best selling editions of the Mustang ever. The V8 version was not available in the cars inaugural year, but heavy demand for it was so great Ford was forced to come up with a V8 version that was introduced in 1975 do to cries from Pony car fans all over.
The ushering in of 1979 would see another major do over of the Mustang, based on Ford’s “Fox platform.” This period I would like to coin as the “dark ages of Mustang production” would see several of the lowest horsepowered versions of the Mustang in its history, with its V8 equipped versions reaching a mere 120 horsepower. This caused Mustang sales to slump right through the eighties, until its next major redesign in 1994.
Auto designer Patrick Schiavone would end up radically redesigning yet another new Mustang body style, codenamed “SN-95.” The design which was Sleek and stylish with rounded curves, would breath new life into the car. It is this redesign that is generally credited with saving the beloved Mustang from sure extinction.
It would also see the fastback version discontinued for the first time since its inception back in the sixties. It would end up being selected as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1994, and would go on to become Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for the third time in the car’s historic life.
Yet, another redesign of the Mustang was approved in 1999, but the car would end up keeping much of the basic look of SN-95, with somewhat more angular features. The GT version increased in horsepower to 260hp. in 2005 the Mustang would see yet another group of loyal fans be born and a major increase in popularity with one of its most radical redesigns in its history.
The 2005 Mustang was a complete retro redesign, with design cues taken directly from the 1960s. Ford called it “retro futurism,” and even the interior dials and controls harkened back to the sixties. Old fans like me would see the classic looks that we had grown up with roll the streets on the prowl again in a major case of flashback to our youths.
With its current redesign, the Mustang remains one of the only original muscle cars in constant production and continues to be one of the most popular cars in America with only the Chevy corvette being older, who is counting years anyways. The Mustang will always be the workingman or women’s sports car and to this day has one of the most loyal fan basses of any car ever made.
With fans from sixteen to sixty or seventy, the appeal of the Mustang is as large as ever. One can only hope that Ford continues to seek out the voice of fans old and young alike when the next round of the designers pen is struck to blueprints and the beloved Mustang will continue to roam the streets for yet another 40 years or more.