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The Ford Mustang

Culture | August 7, 2021

The first Ford Mustang. (motortrend)

Usually, any product rushed to market on a shoestring budget only leads to spectacular failures, unless of course, that product was a Ford Mustang. Originally conceived by Lee Iacocca in the early 1960s, the Ford Mustang was based on a compact Falcon. Ironically enough, Mustang was named after a WWII fighter plane rather than the horse. Other names that received serious consideration: the Cougar and T-Bird. It almost went to market as a Torino with ad campaigns ready to roll out. Thankfully, customer surveys preferred Mustang.

Ford introduced their sporty automobile geared toward the youth on April 17, 1964, at the World’s Fair. The company held high hopes for their new creation, shooting for 100,000 cars to be sold within the first year. Any fears of disappointment were quickly dispelled as dealers sold more than 22,000 Mustangs on the first day! Such wild enthusiasm for their new creation gave birth to a new genre of “pony cars.”

The biggest most powerful Mustangs began to dip in sales around the '70s. (motortrend)

Specialized From The Start

As car people like to do, the first Ford Mustang earned a special distinction, thanks to some small changes made before their prized pony hit sales. Ford dubbed the original Mustang a ‘65 model but already had sold about 120,000 versions with slightly different specs. Gear heads refer to those early models as “1964 ½” models while any Mustangs made after August earned the “late” ‘65 moniker. For those into the nuts and bolts, the original came with a 170-cid straight-six or a 4.3-liter V-8 while the “later” models carried a 200 cid (3.3 liters) or a 289 with a two-barrel carburetor.

The new Mustangs are coming in even more variation, including electric. (ford)

A Mustang Your Way

Undoubtedly, customization ranked as a large factor in the success of the first Mustangs. Whether you wanted a convertible or a hardtop, a weekend racer, or an economical cruiser, Ford offered all the options. Picking and choosing how you wanted your Mustang excited so many consumers Ford sold 681,000 Mustangs in their first year. That exceeded even Ford’s most generous projections by almost seven times!

The smaller sleeker Mustangs came right in time for the oil crisis. (motortrend)

Morphing Mustang

Over the years since its inception, Mustangs went through a number of different styles and sizes. Through the ‘60s and early ‘70s, Mustangs got bigger and bigger. In the era of excess larger engines, more horsepower and more torque ruled. By ‘71 the Mustang weighed 36,000 pounds, 1,200 more than the original ‘65 model. By then emission rules began to tighten and most manufacturers had given up on pony cars. Ford, however, was about to zag.

In ‘74 Ford introduced a Mustang for changing times. They advertised the new Mustang as an upscale economy car. Based on a stretched Pinto, not your father’s Mustang ran more economically, which fit perfectly once the oil embargo of ‘73 hit. The sleeker, slimmer Mustang earned MotorTrend’s ‘74 car of the year and rejuvenated slumping sales.

One of the incomparable Shelby Mustangs. (motortrend)

A Shelby Special

New Mustangs continue to roll out to this day but nothing can touch the top model, Shelby Mustangs. From the earliest days, Ford worked with the legendary Carroll Shelby, of Ford vs. Ferrari fame, former race car driver, and brains behind Ford’s most iconic car, the GT-40. The Shelby Mustangs offered top-of-the-line specialization not only with power but also in relation to handling and braking. When it came to Mustangs, nothing could top a Shelby.

Tags: Ford Mustang | Ford Mustangs

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!