On April 17, 1964, the
world's first American affordable sports car was introduced by Ford Motor Company
at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. To the public, the Mustang was not only
affordable, but also a great sports car. For Ford it was many things: a catalyst
of a great marketing strategy; a great sales success; and a personal triumph
for Lee Iacocca.
In 1962 Lee Iacocca was
General Manager of Ford and pushed the Mustang into reality.
The goal for Ford was
to produce a personal low-cost, sporty car. The Ford Motor Company was able
to produce this car, with sales running at 680,989 between April 1964 to August
1965, nearly seven times the projected one year sales of 100,000. By March 1966,
the one-millionth Mustang had rolled off the line. When the first Ford Mustang
was introduced, the base model V6 sold at an attractive $2,372, around twenty
percent less than its predecessor the Thunderbird. The Mustang weighed only
2,572 pounds. With its 170-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine, three-speed, floor-mounted
manual transmission and seating for four.
There was over one million
Mustangs sold by March of 1966. The 19641/2 model was the patriarch of subsequent
changes to hoods, interiors, headlamps and spoilers. As Mustang weaved in and
out of different generations, the vehicle generated an iconic status. Running
alongside the best European road cars, it soon became a racing-inspired legend.
Mustang needed racing as
much as racing needed Mustang. Right out of the blocks, the pony car was a champion,
taking both first and second place in the 1964 Tour de France International
rally. By the end of the sixties, Mustang led the SCCA Trans-Am series.
1964 - 1996 Mustang
The origins of the original
1964 1/2, 101 horsepower Mustang was the humble Ford Falcon. Officially, the
car was released in April 1964 and called a 1965 model. The true 1965 Mustang
was equipped with a 200 cubic inch, 120 horsepower 6 cylinder engine but perhaps
what made the Mustang so unique was the ability of an owner to have the car
built and equipped exactly as they requested. Because the components were inexpensive
off-the-shelf Ford Falcon parts, the original Mustang sold for only $2368 U.S.
Options included air-conditioning at $283, three choices of V-8 engines ranging
from about $100 to $328 and performance buffs one could order the famous Shelby
GT 350 for about $4547 and a full race version for approximately $5950. These
early high-performance Mustang's produced anywhere from 300 to approximately
360 gross horsepower, propelling these cars from zero to 60 mph in approximately
6.5 seconds and able to reach a top speed of up to 135 miles an hour. Today,
these special high-performance Mustang's can sell for over $100,000, and regular
six or eight cylinder Mustang convertibles can easily bring $40,000 to $50,000.
The original Mustang was wildly popular selling a total of 680,989 1965 units.
The regular 1965 Ford Mustang
and Mustang convertibles were not considered high-tech for their time but the
cars with a long hood and sculptured lines looked beautiful and because they
were relatively small sporty cars, they were fun to drive and even more fun
to own. They can be best described as really nice cars which were attractive
in their time and remain attractive today. A simple, and yet timeless elegance
and style. And because they could be equipped with just about any option, they
could also be ordered as high-performance cars, able to keep up with some of
the best European cars selling for twice the money.
Perhaps the Mustang history
is so interesting because it represents a full circle. In many ways, today's
Mustang is more similar to the original than ever before. The Mustang went from
a great car to a fair car to a poor car and back to a car even greater than
the original. Join us as we follow the fine Mustang history.
- 1968 Mustang
1967 and 1968 Ford Mustang, considered by many people
as best Mustang pre 2000 series, was also the last "small
Mustang", until the introduction of the Mustang
It takes a long time to
design a new model and planning for this model began at the release of the April
1964 model. As the Mustang grew to become one of Ford's most successful models
ever, Ford designers and engineers were given great latitude to improve the
car and to design and build parts specifically for the Mustang. While the original
Mustang was a good car, Many of its shortcomings and bugs were corrected and
the new car had a much better fit, finish, interior and build quality. Also,
substantially more options, models and 13 engine choices were offered, ranging
from the original but more powerful 200 cubic inch six cylinder engine all the
way up to the mighty 427 "big block" producing a massive 390 horsepower
( with 60 percent of its weight over the front wheels). While the car could
be ordered with disc brakes, overall handling, breaking and cornering were much
worse than today's Mustang.
At two inches longer than
the original, this Mustang series was similar in most other dimensions, and
changes included a modified front Grill, larger wheel options, bigger engine
compartment able to house Ford's largest engines, and the redesigned Mustang
2 plus 2 fastback. This was also the time when Carl Shelby introduced the Shelby
G. T. 500 as well as factory Shelby convertibles.
The Mustang also faced
considerable competition during this period from General Motors’ Chevrolet
Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird as well as Plymouth's 280 horsepower 383 barracuda.
Despite this competition, the Mustang continued to sell well. This is probably
because the car represented many things to many people. It was a cute, sporty
convertible. A sporty hatchback and an extremely powerful muscle car, yet in
its basic six cylinder hardtop form, it was also a sporty inexpensive means
Mustangs were still a bargain
with the ragtop having a basic list of about $2,800 but running well above $4,000
fully loaded. That same ragtop, if kept in good condition, should bring about
1969 - 1970 Mustang
Ford aptly described this
series as "A steed for every need" and this was an accurate description
for this new "mini Thunderbird Mustang" model which was nearly six
inches larger than the original. Not only were the outside dimensions larger,
but the inside dimensions were also increased with a much larger backseat, more
legroom, more headroom and even a 29 percent larger trunk. Unfortunately trying
to be everything to every car buyer meant that the Mustang lost a little bit
of its original personality.
The price of the car was
still low with the basic six cylinder hardtop selling for about $2700 and the
eight cylinder convertibles selling for as little is $3126. Mustang also produced
an ultra high performance series of cars including their famous 300 horsepower
351 Cleveland and are equally famous 375 horsepower 429 engines.
An interesting side note
is the fact that while these engines were huge by today's standards and would
give their owners know more than 10 mpg, their actual performance and horsepower
was substantially less than today's performance Mustangs. 0 to 60 times were
in the 6 1/2 second range in the top speed was about 118 miles an hour. Today's
stalked eight cylinder Mustangs easily beat these times and speeds and Mustangs
special SVT Cobra series make these cars look positively slow.
1971 - 1973 Mustang
The 1971 series Mustang
was the largest and heaviest Mustang ever produced. They were 14" longer
and nearly 800 pounds heavier than the original Mustang. This substantial body
change was partly because Pony car sales were stagnant and the market was flooded
with competitors. A second problem for Mustang was the federally mandated automotive
requirement to reduce the amount of lead used in fuel and pollute less. These
changes resulted in substantial power reductions starting from 1972 onward.
The 1971 Mustang was the
last muscle car Mustang would see for nearly 18 years. The 1971 performance
king was the 429 CJ optioned Mustang ($436) producing 370 horsepower and propelling
the car to a 0 to 60 mile-per-hour speed in about 6 seconds. These high-powered
Mustangs would only deliver about 11 mpg while the standard 302 cubic inch Mustang
would deliver about 17 mpg. These cars did not have a particularly high speed
with the 302 reaching only about 86 mph and the big 429 reaching a little over
100 miles an hour flat-out.
1972 onward would be a
nonexistent time for performance Mustangs. An interesting elements during this
time is how the auto manufacturers recalculated horsepower figures from gross
to net horsepower. This meant that comparative horsepower's numbers would be
reduced but pollution controls played a much stronger role in horsepower reduction,
reducing the six cylinder model to 95 horsepower, the 302 cubic inch model to
136 horsepower and the 351 Cleveland to less than 275 horsepower. By this time
the muscle car was dead - a victim of car manufacturers inability to cope with
pollution control requirements. An interesting side note is the fact that today's
six cylinder Mustang produces over twice the horsepower using substantially
less fuel and reducing pollution by over 90 percent and at the same time delivering
50 percent better fuel efficiency. (The Ford engineers should be credited)
1972 Mustang continued to remain an excellent value
with the basic six cylinder hardtop listing at $2,760
while the eight convertible sold for approximately $3,189.
This reasonable pricing structure may have been partly
the result of sales slipping to 150,000 units for the
1971 model series. These low sales figures convinced
Ford that they had to return to the basic Mustang pony