History of the Ford Mustang

The Ford Mustang is the only car of its class that has been under continuous production to date since its inception in 1964 1/2. The Ford Mustang was unique and easily recognizable from the get-go with its long front end and short rear deck. It was certainly in a class of its own and Dennis Shattuck of Car Life magazine gave this brilliant new design its name: The Pony Car.

The Pony Car's designation is described by Wikipedia and Webster's Dictionary as such: "The term describes an affordable, compact, highly styled car with a sporty or performance-oriented image."
 The affordable compact came from the very humble platform of the Ford Falcon. Although the first models had very little horsepower, the all-show-and-no-go was soon to change. With limitless options of all kinds, the Mustang had the ability to appeal to everyone; in facet, it was advertised as "The car designed to be designed by you."

The 1964 1/2 'Stang became so popular that other manufacturers quickly followed suit with their own versions of the Pony Car. But Mustang paved the way and is still going so strong, even into 2016, that it is now being marketed and sold globally. Every Mustang owner has his or her favorite year and model, and can sit down with you and share endless stories, but among some of the favorites, to name only a few, are the following:

The '67 Shelby GT-350 with the Paxton Supercharger and '67 GT-500 Shelby Mustang in the color of Dark Moss Green Metallic with White Lemans racing stripes with the Deluxe Parchment interior.

The '69 Boss 302 Mustang.  In order for Ford to race the Boss 302 engine in the SCCA Trans-Am Race Series they had to build and sell at least 1600 cars with that race engine in it. They were fast and handled so well that Car and Driver magazine said in 1969 that it was "the performance car that all others would be judged by." They only came with 4- speed transmissions and you could not order air conditioning with them.

The Ford sales literature for this model said it was "the closest thing to a race car that you could bolt a license plate onto." The Wimbledon White ones were highly sought after because they made only 194 in that color, making it the rarest of that year's model and color.

More favorites include the "R" code ram air Shaker versions of the '69-'70 Mach 1s that had the 428 Cobra Jet engines. And just to be perfectly clear, the new Mustangs are every bit as performance oriented, if not more so, than the early ones. Ford has done well with keeping the Mustang on top of the heap since 1964 1/2. 

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The First Generation was between 1964 1/2- 1973. This was the beginning of an era where the first Mustang drove down the road and people would turn their heads in awe and look at each other and say "What the heck was that?!" The first production models were available as a convertible or a coupe. Each featured a fully carpeted interior, front bucket seats, full headliner, floor mounted shifter, and a sports car style steering wheel.

The exterior featured a chrome grill with a running horse on it, full wheel covers, and chrome wrap-around bumpers. They came with a 170 CID Six with 101 hp and 156 ft-lb of torque; a 260 CID V-8 with 164 hp and 258 ft-lb of torque; a 289 CID V-8 with 220 hp and 304 ft-lb of torque; and the top of the line "K-code" four-barrel 289 that produced a then hefty 271 hp in a high performance engine.

A three-speed manual transmission was standard with both models with the exception of the 271 hp model which only came equipped with a four-speed manual. There was also a Cruise-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission available at that time. The 1964 1/2 models sold a total of 126,538, with the V8s being the best sellers. It is fair to say that the Mustang was a "keeper." It was sharp enough to have its first starring role in the 1964 James Bond movie "Goldfinger."

When the 1965 Mustang debuted it became Ford's most successful production since that of the 1927 Model A. Also in this year, Mustang introduced its 2+2 Fastback model with a 289 cu in (4.7 L) engine which would pave the way for Carroll Shelby's GT350. The Fastback model saw the generator become replaced by the alternator and it offered an integral power steering pump, and this year also saw a specialized Pony interior option. The extra sporty Mustang GT Fastback became available this year and in 1966, sales of the Mustang passed the 1 million mark. The Sprint was introduced in 1966.   

In 1967 a fairly major reinvention was made to the Mustang. Its length and height increased by 2.7" longer and 1/2"taller. The extra width allowed for the first big block engine in the Ford Mustang that gave 320 hp. It featured a tilt steering wheel, an FMX transmission which allowed fully automatic or manual shifting, and the Fastback roof was extended to the trunk. There were 20 interior trim options available in this year. Also in this year, the Shelby GT500 became available with a V-8 engine and 355 hp.

In 1968 the Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback was made famous by the incomparable Steven McQueen in the movie Bullitt when he drove it in one of the most famous race scenes in movie history. The 428 Cobra Jet engine was introduced in this year as an option and race enthusiasts took notice. This year also saw added safety features that included shoulder belts for the front seats.

In 1969, Ford added different performance packages with the Mustang Mach 1, the Boss 302 that had 290 hp, and the Boss 429 that had 375 hp. The Mustang Boss 429 was built to NASCAR specifications, and it housed a Semi-Hemi 429 power plant engine, and some say it's the best muscle car of all time. Also added to the lineup was the Grande Luxury model.

The Mustang began to get larger and heftier, and it received a new front end styling. It also offered options such as cable-and-pin hood tie-downs, wing and chin spoilers, and functional and non-functional air scoops. In 1970, the ram air Shaker hood scoop became an option for any Mustang with a 351 CID or larger V-8 engine. In 1971 the year saw the largest Mustangs ever at nearly a foot longer and 600 pounds heavier than earlier models. In 1973 the Ford Mustang convertible production was halted. Also, 1973 was the last year the Mustang was designed from the Ford Falcon platform.

The Second Generation was between 1974 and 1978 and during this time, the Mustang received a radical change due to the gas crisis. In 1974, the Mustang II was introduced at 500 pounds lighter and 19" shorter than even the original model, and it was now based on the Ford Pinto. No V8 model was available in the 1974 lineup. Models for 1974 were the Hardtop, Hatchback, Mach 1 and Ghia.

Lee Iacocca, president of the Ford Motor Company during this time, wanted the Mustang II to be considered Ford's "Little Jewel" and to be made to a higher standard than that of competitors. It turned out to be smaller, yet heavier than the original Mustang due to emissions regulations that were beginning to take place in that time, but its first year's sales were 385,993 cars which made for a pretty good year.
In 1975 the Windsor V8 302 cu in was reintroduced with a C-4 automatic transmission and was continued into 1978. In 1976, the Cobra II debuted with a racing stripe design and in 1978 a King Cobra emerged and approximately 4,972 were produced. The Mach 1 remained in production between '74 and '78. Although there was no convertible in this generation, the 1977-1978 hatchback models offered a removable T-top roof option that became very popular.

The Ghia was produced as a luxury model during the Mustang II era and it was designed in collaboration between Ford and the legendary Italian design house Carrozzeria Ghia. It featured shag (oh, behave) yes- shag carpet, wood colored accents, spoke-style wheel covers, a vinyl roof, and tons of upgrades. It was designed to compete with European and Asian markets. The Ghia would be available until 1981.

The Third Generation occurred between 1979 and 1993.  In 1979, the new Mustang was based on the larger Fox platform and was longer, taller, and lighter by 200 pounds than the Mustang II. There was more interior room and space enough to seat four passengers comfortably.

The body styles included a Coupe and Hatchback and the only trim available above the base model was the "luxurious" Ghia. Also available was the Cobra option and 17,579 were produced in 1979 and this completed the new lineup through 1981. The Cobra was slick with color coordinated pinstripes, a snake decal for the hood, and Cobra lettering on the doors.

In 1980, the 302 CID V8 was replaced with a more economical 255-cu in (4.2 L) V8. It was the only V8 to be had in 1980 and '81. In 1981 the Turbo four-cylinder engine was no longer offered in the Mustang lineup. In 1982 after a 12 year absence, the Mustang GT was available again and it housed a four-barrel carburetor with an intake manifold, giving it 175 hp. The Turbocharged 2.3L returned as a fuel injected model and produced 145 hp. In 1983, the return of the convertible emerged after a 10 year absence and it sported a power top. Also, optional T-tops were available again.

In 1984 Ford celebrated their 20th Anniversary of the Mustang by offering the GT350 as a special edition, and produced 5,260 hatchback and convertible models that all had the same trim of Oxford White exteriors and Canyon Red interiors.

The front end fenders of these babies had the tri-bar Pony emblems and the red GT350 rocker stripes. It could be had with either a 2.3 Turbo or a 302 cu in V8. Two offerings of the 302 V8s were the four-barrel or the new 165 electronic fuel injected engine; Slapper bars were replaced by the new Qudra Shock rear suspension.

For 1985 a new 5.0 liter V8 engine that produced 210 hp became available, but this was the last year for a carbureted V8 in a Mustang. This year was also the last for the L and Turbo GT, leaving the LX, GT and SVO in production. In 1986, the first multiport fuel-injected 302 cu in V8 with 200 hp was released.

In 1987 the Mustang saw another redesign from the inside, out. It had a more Aero look to it like that of the previous years' SVO and the models offered were the LX and GT. There was a new dash, revised seat and door trim, along with a new center console. Louvers were out on the rear quarter glass and replaced by a single larger glass that had "Mustang" displayed on the bottom rear corners.  

The LX model received a 5.0L option for the GTs performance without added expense and the slotted GT wheels from the year before became standard with the 5.0L engine option. This Mustang had the longest run over any platform and it remained popular due to its high performance and low cost. The year of 1987 also saw power rating increases to 255 hp and 300 ft-lb of torque. For 1988, Mustang's sales were at 211,255 and more than half of those sold were the 5.0 liter V8 engine.

In 1989, Ford Celebrated the Mustang's 25th Anniversary by adding the logo "25 Years" to all Mustangs produced between April 17, 1989 and April 17, 1990 and a passenger-side emblem of a galloping horse logo was affixed to the dashboard. Also in 1989, a driver's side airbag became standard.

For 1990, only 4,103 cars were produced of the LX 5.0 convertibles that came with Emerald Green exterior and white leather interior as a limited edition. Also in this year, a limited edition of 5,987 GT Hatchbacks in Silver exterior and gray interior were produced for a contest held by 7-Up, but the contest was cancelled at the last second.

Other special edition Mustangs of this time were produced in 1992 and 1993 where three special editions of the LX 5.0 convertibles in Vibrant Red with Oxford White leather interior in 1992, and Vibrant Yellow with black or white leather interior or Vibrant White exterior with white leather interior were produced in 1993. In 1992, the Mustang LX 5.0 took center stage and outsold all other Mustang models combined!

Also in 1993, the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra (SVT: Special Vehicle Team) was available with a 302 cu in V8 that produced 235 hp and 280 ft-lb of torque. It featured a more subtle design than that of the GT and it used Ford's new GT-40 high performance engine that ran 14 seconds in the 1/4 mile. A Cobra R model was also produced in 1993 that was race oriented so air conditioning or stereo systems were not offered in this model. Only 107 of the racing Cobra R models were made in 1993, and they sold out before production even began!

The Fourth Generation was between 1994 and 2004. Starting in 1994, Ford rolled out its first major redesign in 15 years that was based on an updated version of the rear-wheel drive Fox platform, also known as Fox-4. The hatchback coupe model that began in 1974 was no longer available. The lineup consisted of the base mode, the GT and the Cobra and some special editions were available for this generation.

The base model received an all new interior styling that featured a dual cockpit layout and numerous amenities and conveniences that would eventually become standard such as power windows, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control and power windows.  In 1994, all Mustangs came standard with three-point seat belts and dual front airbags.

Building on the performance of the base model, the reintroduced 1994 Mustang GT had higher performance and better handling than that of earlier models. It still housed the 302 CID Windsor pushrod small-block V8 engine (also known as the 5.0 L) that was carried over from the 1993 GT. It offered 215 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. It now featured a stiffer suspension and dual exhausts and larger 16-inch wheels. This Mustang GT was named Motor Trend's Car of the Year for 1994.

In 1996, the Modular 4.6L SOHC V8 replaced the 5.0L but matched the output of the previous engine. In 1998, the 4.6L V8 received a boost in output, placing it at 225 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. Building on the performance of the Mustang GT, Ford's SVT developed an even higher performance car: the Mustang Cobra SVT. In 1996 it was available in a special color package called the Mystic Cobra which consisted of a very expensive ChromaLusion paint job.

The paint took three years to develop and depending on what angle you looked at it and under certain lighting conditions, its colors would shift from green to amber, and from gold to purple. Only 2000 of these cars were produced. This was the first time ever that a production vehicle was to sport this fancy color-shifting paint.

In 2000, the SVT Cobra R came back for a limited run of 300 units. It was the first Mustang to ever have a six-speed manual transmission. This model was SVTs only high performance Mustang in 2000. It came with a standard 5.4L DOHC V8 engine that made 385 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. It had a cast iron block that was based on the 5.4L block that Ford used in its trucks at that time.

 In 2001, Ford introduced its throwback edition of the Mustang Bullitt GT and it was a real pavement rumbler. In 2002, the Mustang left Firebird and Camaro in the dust; they went out of production in this year. In 2003, a newly revised Mach 1 debuted with the ram air Shaker hood scoop and a 305 hp V8 engine.  In 2004, Ford reached its 300 million mark by producing a 2004 Mustang GT convertible 40-year anniversary edition.

The Fifth Generation was between 2005 and 2014. Ford was getting closer to getting back to basics and finally, a Mustang emerged that people could once again sink their teeth into. J Mays, Ford's senior vice president of design, dubbed the new model as "retro-futurism." The new Mustang could be had with every creature comfort and amenity known to man, both inside and out.

Between 2005 and 2010, the base model offered 210 hp and housed a cast-iron block 4.0L SOHC V6. The Mustang GT had an aluminum block 4.6L SOHC 3-valve modular V8 that offered 300 hp. Motor Trend magazine conducted a comparison test between the Pontiac G6 convertible against the Mustang V6 convertible that went from zero to 60 in 7.3 seconds. This was 1.4 seconds better than the 2006 Pontiac G6 and the 'Stang did it with its hands tied behind its back via an automatic transmission.

In 2006, 125 different colored lights for the new instrument panel were made available, and this was an industry first. Also in this year, the GT came with 18" wheels. In 2007, all of the 2008 Mustangs had seats that contained material derived from soy beans. This is something Henry Ford wanted to do all along, so you know Mr. Ford would be happy to see this brought to fruition after all these years.  

In 2009, a glass-top roof is made available. The base model V6 offers 210 hp and the GT V8 offered an impressive 300 hp. Also in this year, the reborn GT500 is offered with its mind-blowing 500 hp and if that wasn't fast enough, a limited edition Shelby GT500KR (KR=King of the Road) would blow your doors off with its supercharged 540 hp.

In 2010, the Mustang gets a more muscular design and offered features such as sequential turn signals and prominent power-dome hoods. Notable changes included a restyled Mustang emblem, and the radio antenna was moved to the rear of the car. In 2011, the return of the 5.0L V8 re-emerges and is available as the Mustang Coyote.

Boss fans were happy in 2012 as the Boss 302 returned after being absent from the lineup for more than 40 years. It is considered to be the best handling Mustang ever by "those who know." In 2013, the Shelby GT500 does it again and re-emerges as a supercharged 5.8L V8 with 662 hp. If you have the need for speed, this should handle it. This model would house the most powerful production V8 engine in the world at that time.

The year 2014 marked the Mustang's 50th Anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, the brand new 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible was displayed on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York City; New York City was where the very first Mustang debuted at the 1964 World's Fair. In order to display the car on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, the new Mustang had to be cut into several pieces and reassembled at the top.  

The Sixth Generation began in 2015 to present. The 50th anniversary of the Mustang marked its continuous production since March 1964 and it is important to note that the Ford Mustang has always been manufactured right here in America. This generation is also the first time a Ford Mustang has been marketed and sold on a global basis. It is also the first time a factory-designed right hand drive Mustang was produced for the overseas markets as a part of Ford's "One Ford" business plan. This plan applies to other Ford models, as well. 

The 2015 Mustang has a fully independent rear suspension that was specifically designed for the new model. Engines include a 2.3L EcoBoost 310 hp four-cylinder, a 3.7L 300 hp V6, or a 5.0L Coyote 435 hp V8. Other changes include a wider body of 1.5" and it is lower by 1.4" and it has more passenger room by up to 84.5 cubic feet.

A total of 5 units of the 2014 1/2 model were produced as a special edition of the Mustang's 50 Year Anniversary. The special GT Coup had a performance pack with a manual or an automatic transmission and a choice of two body colors: Wimbledon White or Kona Blue, louvered rear quarter windows, cashmere stitched, leather wrapped steering wheel and instrument panel, a Mustang 50 Year Logo, 19" alloy wheels with a unique Y-spoke design, and floor mats of suede and cashmere stitching, to name just a few. The 50 Year Appearance Package will be available on the EcoBoost Premium and GT Premium Fastback and Convertibles until they sell out.

The 2016 Shelby GT350 features a 5.2L Flat Plane Crank V8 engine that offers 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. Car and Driver magazine says this: "The all-new, all-awesome Shelby GT350 picks up where the Boss 302 left off, with more power, performance, and poise."

The 2016 Shelby GT350R was announced at the North American International Auto Show in 2015 and only 37 units were made. It is rumored that the first GT350R with the number 001 was sold at the Barrett Jackson Auction at Scottsdale, Arizona for a cool $1 million.  This is the most race-ready road-legal Mustang to ever be made.

What an incredible 50-year-and-counting history the Ford Mustang has had. It is as American as baseball, apple pie, and hot dogs, and will live on in the memory of those who will love it forever. To say that a car has touched five generations and counting-well, that pretty much says it all.

Angela Krause Ford Lincoln in Alpharetta is near North Point Mall, and it has some of the best priced Ford Mustangs you will find in North Georgia. Come in today and tell us your story about your favorite Mustang and see what the new ones have to offer. If you close your eyes and listen, you might just be able to hear the sound of a screaming engine and tires squealing that beckon you to come over to our Mansell Road Ford dealership and sit behind the wheel of what will become your favorite new Mustang.  

The 1965 Mustang won the Tiffany Gold Medal for excellence in American design and it was the very first automobile to ever do so.
The Mustang was on the Car and Driver Ten Best list in 1983, 1987, 1988, 2005, 2006, and 2011. It won the Motor Trend Car of the Year award in 1974 and 1994.


The following is a documentary that is presently on Netflix, Amazon, VUDU, and DirecTV: The David Gelb directed documentary "A Faster Horse" covers the vehicle's history creation of the 2015 Mustang.

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