Initially based on the second generation Falcon, the Ford Mustang was introduced on April 17, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair: it was their most successful launch since the Model A in 1927. It went on to become a cultural icon, one of the most successful brands in American automotive history, and it inspired a whole new class of American sports cars- the “pony” car.
The original Mustang I concept was introduced in 1962 by the Fairlane Group, a committee of Ford managers led by Lee Iacocca. The company was looking for a new low-cost sports car to counter the success of GM’s Corvair Monza sports coupe, and designer Eugene Bordinat delivered: a small, mid-engined V4, open two-seater with aluminium body work. The unibody skin was riveted to a space frame, and the seats were integrated for additional rigidity; features included adjustable steering column and pedals and dual side mounted radiators. Lead designer John Najjar proposed the name “Mustang” for the concept vehicle, based on what he saw as design similarities with the P-51 Mustang fighter plane.
|1962 Mustang I concept with H.L. Misch, v.p., engineering (left), and Gene Bordinat, v.p., styling.|
Two prototypes were made, one showcar and one racing model. The Mustang I made its formal debut at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York on October 7, 1962, where test driver and Formula One racer Dan Gurney lapped the track in a demonstration using the second “race” prototype. His lap times were only slightly off the pace of the F1 race cars.
For the next two years both cars appeared at shows and automotive events, as well as touring colleges as a marketing tool.
One of the original Mustang I models languished in storage for several years, sporadically appearing in displays and museum loans. The remains of the car were restored and donated to The Henry Ford Museum, where it officially became part of the museum collection in 1982.
|1960 Ford Falcon|
After public reaction demonstrated a limited appeal to the Mustang I, a completely new Mustang II concept car appeared in 1963.This four-seater Mustang was already chosen for production, using a four-seat configuration and front engine layout based on the popular Falcon. The Mustang II was much more conventional, and the concept design closely resembled the final 1964 production model. Practically the only design element remaining from the original Mustang I were the radiator scoops, which were now fake louvers.
|1963 Mustang II Concept|
The production “1965” Mustang had a suggested retail price of US$2,368, and was based on simple components which were already in production for other Ford models: most of the interior, chassis, suspension and drivetrain were pulled from Ford’s Falcon and Fairlane. This use of common components shortened the learning curve for assembly and repair workers and allowed dealers to pick up the Mustang without having to invest in unique spare parts inventories. A huge ad campaign heralded the car’s release, with publicity articles appeared in 2,600 newspapers the day after its announcement. Original sales forecasts projected less than 100,000 units for the first year, but that was surpassed within three months of rollout. Another 318,000 would be sold during the ’65 model year -a record for Ford- and in its first eighteen months more than one million Mustangs rolled out of the factory in either “fastback” or convertible models.
Several changes were made between the original April ’64 release and the official 1965 run which came out four months later including reverse lights on some models, the introduction of alternators to replace generators, and an upgrade of the V8 engine from a 260 to a 289 cubic inch. In at least some Mustangs the rush into production included some unusual quirks, such as a horn ring bearing the ‘Ford Falcon’ logo beneath a trim ring emblazoned with ‘Ford Mustang.’ These characteristics made enough difference to later designate the first 121,538 cars as “1964½” model-year Mustangs, a distinction that has endured with purists.
By 1967 the Mustang still retained its original body structure but the lines were modified to give it a more muscled look. Front and rear styling was more pronounced, and the instrument panel featured a thicker pad and larger gauges. Hardtop, fastback and convertible body styles continued as before, but a host of Federal safety features were standard that year including an energy-absorbing steering column and wheel and 4-way emergency flashers. In 1968 the side scoops were revised along with the steering wheel and gas cap. Side marker lights were also added, and cars built after January 1, 1968 included shoulder belts for both front seats. The ’68 models also introduced the 302 small-block V8 engine, designed for new Federal emissions standards.
For 1969 and 1970 models, the Mustang received an even larger body with a more aggressive stance and a wider grille. ’69 models featured “quad headlamps” which disappeared to make way for an even wider grille in the ’70 models. This trend towards a heavier body continued through the 70’s, and left some fans wondering if their sleek, powerful “pony” might be getting a bit fat.
|1965 Shelby GT|
The Shelby GT’s:
Caroll Shelby- a World War II fighter pilot turned Formula One driver (setting 16 U.S. and international speed records along the way)- started Shelby American in 1962 with the goal of producing high performance aftermarket parts and cars. The company started out modifying British made AC “Ace” roadsters with 260 cubic inch Ford V8 engines, which became famous as the iconic Shelby Cobra. He turned his attention to the Mustang in 1965 -the first full year of production- and the resulting GT-350 was a true street-legal race car. Shelby installed a monster 289 cu in (4.7 L) V8, replaced the stock Falcon rear axles with a heavier set from the Galaxie, dropped in a 4-speed Borg-Warner T-10 manual transmission and stripped everything else down as much as possible. This amounted to 306bhp at 6000rpm, enough for a 138mph top speed and 0-60 in 6.6 seconds.
562 Shelby Mustangs were built in 1965, 36 of them ’R’ models specifically designed for racing. The ’66 models featured more options and were geared a bit more towards the consumer market, and production jumped to almost 2,400 fastbacks along with about 250 early production models with stock 1965 Mustang bodies. Although Shelby American became less involved after ’66, Ford continued the GT-350 and a larger GT-500 through 1969 and revived the ’66 custom Hertz version in 2006.
|1970 Boss 302|
The Camaro/Mustang rivalry had begun in 1967, and the Camaro was the largest threat to the lead Ford had in the “pony car” field: the big block Chevrolet was more than a match for the 289 and 390 stock Mustang V8’s. In an effort to polish up their “total performance” image Ford introduced the Boss 302 in 1969, a composite engine using the “tunnel port” Windsor block and large Cleveland heads.
Designed by Larry Shinoda, a former GM employee, the car featured unique reflective “c-stripe” strips and dropped the fake rear louvers: it was also one of the first production cars with a front spoiler and rear deck wing. The name “Boss” came about when Shinoda was asked which project he was working on and he simply answered “the boss’s car” as the project was secret. When Parnelli Jones won the 1970 Trans-Am title, the “Boss” name stuck.
A total of 7,013 1970 Boss 302s were produced in 1970, with an SRP of $3,720. The 1970 car could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.9 seconds. The quarter mile (~400 m) took 14.6 seconds at 98 mph (158 km/h).
|1969 Mach 1|
By 1969 Ford had 6 factory performance Mustang models with nine variations of V-8s. The GT model was discontinued after 1969, replaced by a new fastback package the company dubbed the Mach 1.
The Mach 1 was introduced as an “in-between” model, designed to bridge the gap between the now consumer oriented GT and the track oriented Boss 302s and 429s. Ford added several performance enhancements such as upgraded suspensions (depending on powertrain choices) and the signature “Shaker hood”, an air scoop mounted directly to the top of the motor named for its tendency to “shake” above the rumbling V-8. A 351 cu in (5.8 L) Windsor tall deck V8 with a 3 speed manual transmission came stock, but option packages included a 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 and the massive 428 cu in (7.0 L) Super Cobra Jet as well as a 4 speed manual and “traction lok” rear axle.
Visually, the new design integrated a matte black hood with hood pins, chrome gas cap, wheels and exhaust tips and dealer optional spoilers and louvers along with integrated turn-signal lights mounted in the back of the scoop. The interior boasted teak wood grain details, full sound deadening material and high-back sport bucket seats.
In 1969, Performance Buyer’s Digest put a new Mach 1 through its paces at Bonneville, breaking some 295 USAC speed and endurance records. Ford kept the Mach 1 alive through the 1970’s, and it became the primary street performance Mustang.
Lee Iacocca was pushing for a smaller, more fuel-efficient Mustang, and the ’74 came out based on the less than exiting Pinto. Its reduced size allowed it to compete against imported sports coupés such as the Toyota Celica, but performance was drastically reduced and sales slumped. By the third generation (1979-1993) the car had become little more than a standard compact car with an optional gas-guzzling engine: new U.S. emission and safety regulations had effectively cut the balls out of it. In 1994 the Mustang underwent its first major redesign in fifteen years, and the base model came with a 3.8 liter V6, 145 bhp (108 kW) in 1994 and 1995, or 150 bhp (110 kW) (1996–1998), and was mated to a standard 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic.
Today the Mustang is available in 11 models, including a redesigned Boss 302 and “Shelby” GT 500. But sales have continued to slump during the last decade, and the current economic crisis certainly hasn’t done Ford any good. Vintage Mustangs still enjoy a huge fan base, and it remains one of the most desired collectible cars in the USA.
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