Ford's iconic pony car

By Ted Biederman

Years ago while at a Mustang Club owners meet celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Mustang, I was treated to a story about the introduction of the original Mustang in 1964 during the World’s Fair in New York City by a wonderful writer and Automotive Journalist Floyd Freel who was present for the festivities.

Part of the story I was aware of since I had traveled to New York to see the World’s Fair and the new Mustang, which a Ford dealer friend of mine had told me about. At the time I was a young officer in the U.S. Air Force and stationed in North Carolina never even dreaming that one day I would be an automotive writer. But I was a car enthusiast and I didn’t want to miss seeing what I had been hearing and reading about. I had no idea about the following until Floyd told me the story 25 years after the fact.

As Freel tells it, the news conference for the journalists was actually being held at the Waldorf Astoria on Manhattan’s East Side prior to the reveal at the World’s Fair site at Flushing Meadows in Queens on New York’s Long Island. The Waldorf also served as the host hotel for the Ford executives and the visiting, mostly newspaper, journalists.

Journalist being what they are (at least back then), went out for a night on the town the evening before the press conference. They found their way to Times Square and came across a “headline print shop;” you know, “Margie visits Manhattan” (in 96-pt. Helvetica) that served up as a souvenir for the trip to New York.

Needless to say with a few (too many) drinks under their belts, those rowdy newspaper guys couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a good gag. They had printed up “Ford kills Mustang – Fires Iacocca!” Not just one, but hand’s full according to Freel. The next morning they papered (no pun intended) the house with the copies including the chairs of Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca then head of the Ford Division and the titular father of the Mustang.

To make a long story short: Henry the Deuce and Iacocca nearly hit the roof and high blood pressure reddened their faces until they realized what they were looking at. Of course the laughing and rolling in the isle journalists gave a hint to the mischievous prank as well. 

Well after the laugh and a nitro tab or two the press conference went on as planned, they moved out to the World’s Fair and the reveal; Henry and Iacocca flew home and the journalists drove new Mustangs back to Detroit.

So there I was at the Mustang Club meet and Don Peterson, CEO of Ford at the time was also there and I related Freel’s story and asked if he knew about it? “Know about it — I was there!” It turns out Peterson was a Ford Product Planner at the time and at the Waldorf, floored by the gag as were all.

Needless to say ever since the debut of the original Ford Mustang 45 years ago, there has been an ongoing debate about what to call the pony cars built between April and August of 1964. Are they “1964½” Mustangs or 1965 models?

Technically, all of the original Ford Mustangs are 1965 models because all carry a 1965 model year Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) even though Ford introduced it in New York as a mid-1964.

But the majority of Mustang enthusiasts throughout the world are purists at heart, and they know very well that the vehicles produced from April to August of 1964 were different enough from those manufactured during the remainder of the model year to warrant giving them another name.

“An entire generation has grown up calling these vehicles ‘1964½.’ It is part of the lexicon of Mustang history,” said John Clor, author of The Mustang Dynasty. “Technically, all of the original Mustangs are 1965 models, but true enthusiasts know that production of the car ran for a year and a half and that the car changed after the first six months.”

The biggest change was in the electrical system. The so-called 1964½ Mustangs used generators while those made during the standard 12-month 1965 model year used alternators. Also, the V-8 option was different. The 1964½ models used the 260-cubic inch V-8 engine, while the 1965 models employed a 289-cubic inch V-8 engine.

“People like to say there is no such thing as a 1964½ Mustang, and in theory they are correct,” said Charles Turner, national head judge for the Mustang Club of America (MCA). “But there is a wide range of little differences between the cars built before and after August of 1964 that make them very unique. The MCA accepts the 1964½ as a model year because we view it as a different car.”

Those lucky enough to own a Mustang built between April and August of 1964 view their pony cars as a totally different breed of the steed. “We take exception to someone calling them 1965 Mustangs because the ’64½ was a unique car when it was introduced, and it is a very special thing to own one,” said Fred Glazier, who bought his Rangoon Red Mustang coupe in May of 1964. “When you tell someone you have a 1964½ Mustang, people who understand Mustangs know what you’re talking about.”

Mustang in the movies

There however is no doubt to Mustang’s pedigree as the leading and most popular pony car ever. Its popularity has made it not only a star in the Ford family of cars but on the silver screen as well.

Perhaps nowhere is the Mustang mystique felt more than in Hollywood, where Ford’s iconic pony car has been lighting movie screens – and the small screens – for the past 45 years. The Ford Mustang has appeared in more than 500 movies and hundreds of television programs since introduced in 1964.

Steve McQueen's Bullitt Mustang          Sean Connery as James Bond in "Goldfinger"

The Mustang made its film debut in Goldfinger in 1964. A white convertible driven by a female assassin in the Swiss Alps, chased down by Sean Connery as James Bond in his Aston Martin DB5. A dubious beginning for the new darling of the Ford family.

Who could forget Steve McQueen as the hardened police detective chasing down killers in a 1968 Mustang GT390 in the 1968 film Bullitt? How about Will Smith as the sole survivor of an apocalypse racing around the gray, deserted streets of New York behind the wheel of a red and white 2007 Shelby Mustang GT500 in the 2007 feature film I am Legend?


Perhaps the most famous car chase in movie history features a 1973 Mustang Mach 1 nicknamed Eleanor driven by stunt man, actor and director H.B. Halicki in the original 1974 "Gone in 60 Seconds." Ninety-three cars were destroyed in a 34-minute car chase in Los Angeles. In the above scene, Eleanor achieved a height of 30 feet and covered 43 yards jumping over several cars in an unscripted accident. Halicki sustained minor injuries.


Those are just a few examples of the more than 500 movies and hundreds of television programs that the Ford Mustang has appeared in since 1964.

“Mustang has had the most roles of any Ford vehicle, and there are no competing cars that come close,” said Bob Witter, of Ford Global Brand Entertainment (FGBE), the Ford office in Beverly Hills that works to “cast” Ford-branded vehicles in movies, television and other entertainment media. “From a product placement perspective, Mustang is the gift that keeps giving and giving.”

Witter says Mustang has been a hot property in Hollywood ever since its introduction at the World’s Fair in New York four and a half decades ago. “The Mustang set off a revolution almost to the level of the Model T in terms of making a cool sports car affordable to the average person,” he said. “When you were driving a Mustang, you were special; you were noticed; you stood out. And today the Mustang delivers the same attributes.”

Filmmakers often use the Mustang as a way to help define a character because there is something about its styling and what the brand means that symbolizes quintessential American cool. If a filmmaker wants a character to look cool, clever and tough, a great way to convey that is by putting him behind the wheel of a Mustang.

Steve McQueen’s Bullitt and Will Smith’s Robert Neville certainly were perceived as cool driving their Mustangs in Bullitt and I am Legend. In some instances, however, America’s iconic pony car doesn’t just help define a character; it is one of the characters such as Eleanor in the 1974 movie Gone in 60 Seconds and the 2000 remake starring Nicolas Cage.

Morgan Freeman with "The Bucket List" Mustang

In some movies, the Mustang is cast as the ideal aspirational vehicle for one of the characters, such as in the 2007 film The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Given only a few months to live, Freeman’s character lists “Drive a Shelby Mustang” as one of the things he longs to do before he kicks the proverbial bucket. And in the recently released film, Race to Witch Mountain, a Mustang Bullitt plays an integral role in the plot. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character fantasizes about owning the “car from Bullitt,” and at the end of the film his dream comes true.

“The Mustang Bullitt has a very prominent placement in the film,” said Witter. “There is a million dollar shot of Johnson’s character getting into the car and driving away.”

When asked what accounts for Hollywood’s fascination with the Mustang over the past 45 years, Witter responded, “It’s all-American. It’s a sports car. It’s fun. It’s fast. Mustang makes that kind of statement, and it has been engrained into the American psyche since 1964.”

Several things come to mind at this point of the Mustang story. First off, special thanks to Alan Hall and the Ford PR team for all their hard work and creativity for putting together much of what you have read here considering that few if any were at the 1964 reveal and many weren’t even around for the 25th anniversary.

Additionally all Mustang enthusiasts and drivers owe thanks to one time Ford CEO Don Peterson. According to a piece written in 1986 for the Washington Monthly writer Gregg Easterbrook notes nearly all Peterson's assignments at Ford, as we know, had been in product planning, the car-lover's end of the business. During the mid-1970s Peterson according to Easterbrook was instrumental in pushing for a smaller, handsome new version of the Mustang to replace the lumbering ‘Mustang II.’ “The new Mustang, released in 1979, proved a durable design and, like the better European designs, to look sharper rather than duller every year.”

The continuing success of the Mustang is a tribute to Peterson as well as the designers, engineers and craftsmen who have kept Mustang relevant for the last 45 years. 

Lee Iacooca with 45th Anniversary Silver Edition 2010 Mustang

And just to prove that some things do come around full-circle, a new version of the famous pony car — the Iacocca Silver 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang – was introduced in July. It’s a wonderfully unique vehicle that utilizes the latest in Ford performance technology with a style and panache that screams Mustang fastback. Only 45 “2009½” Iacocca Silver Edition Mustangs – all painted a special “Iacocca” chosen silver hue – will be built.

Nearly two years in the making, the Iacocca Silver Edition Mustang is a collaborative effort by Iacocca, designer Michael Leone, and Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters, a coach-building and design company in Fountain Valley, Calif. The new business venture is called I Legacy, and it will be in concert with Galpin Ford, in North Hills, Calif., the exclusive Ford dealership to offer these Iacocca Silver 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustangs to the public. According to a Galpin sales executive only about 20 remain to be built and customized to customer specs.

Two power plant options are offered, a normally-aspirated 4.6-liter Ford V8 rated at 320 horsepower and an optional supercharged version that delivers 400‑horsepower. Both engines are covered by a factory Ford warranty.  Both engines are matched to a quick-shifting 5-speed manual transmission.

To quote Lee Iacocca, “Once in a while a car comes along that changes everything, and that was the original Mustang.”  He knows; he lived it.       


Mustang through the decades

Compiled by Ted Biederman

The 1962 Mustang concept car

 The First 10 Years

Flash back to the spring of 1964. The mood of the country is still sullen, following the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Lyndon B. Johnson is leading the nation forward as president of the United States. “Beatlemania” is sweeping the country, with hits like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” at the top of the Billboard charts. The price of gas is 30 cents a gallon, and it costs 5 cents to buy a postage stamp. “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Bonanza” and the “Dick Van Dyke Show” are among the most popular shows on television, and “From Russia with Love,” starring Sean Connery as James Bond, is playing at U.S. theaters.

On April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang, with its long hood, short rear deck and sporty features, caused a sensation when it was introduced to the public at the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens.

“When the Mustang was unveiled, the reaction was so positive that there was no doubt it was going to be a success,” recalls Joe Oros, chief designer of Ford’s original pony car — dubbed the 1964½ because it was launched at an unusual halfway point in the year.

Don Frey, product planning manager for the original Ford Mustang, says he knew the car was going to be a hit months earlier when the design team gave Ford employees a sneak peek at one of the prototypes.

“We built the first prototype in an experimental garage, and employees flooded the place to see it,” he said. “Their reaction was spectacular, and it was very revealing to us. We knew the car was going to be roaring success from the start.”

The 1964½ Mustang debuted at a price of $2,368 – a bargain even in 1964. Ford expected annual sales of about 100,000 units. But 22,000 Mustang orders were taken on the first day, and sales reached an astounding 417,000 in the car’s first 12 months on the market. Within two years, Mustang sales reached one million.

Frey says he believes the car had such dramatic appeal because the styling was very unusual for its day. “The design was very European, particularly the front end,” he said. “There was no other car like it in North America at that time.”

The Second 10 — 1974-1982

It’s 1974. Americans have lost faith in government, following the Nixon Watergate scandal, but the country is moving forward under the direction of President Gerald Ford. The Vietnam War is coming to an end. Peace signs, mood rings, hip-hugger pants and pet rocks all are popular signs of the time. “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” wins the Oscar for Best Picture, and “All in the Family” continues to be a ratings success on television. “Love Will Keep Us Together,” by Captain and Tennille, is at the top of the record charts. The cost of a postage stamp is 10 cents, and there is a gas shortage in the U.S. – the likes of which hasn’t been seen since World War II. The oil crisis, rising insurance premiums and tighter emission control standards helped bring the era of high-performance muscle cars to an abrupt end in 1973, and Ford responded with the second generation of the Ford Mustang – the smaller, more fuel-efficient Mustang II, which debuted in 1974.

The Mustang II — built on a derivative of the “Arizona” platform that gave Ford the Pinto — was 19 inches shorter and 490 pounds lighter than the 1973 Mustang. The 1974 model year was the first ever that a V-8 was not offered in the Mustang, and the Mustang II years never saw a convertible option.

The 1974 Mustang II, left, and a 1976 Mustang II

Despite its smaller size, the Mustang II brought back traditional Mustang design cues, such as the side scallops from the ‘60s. It also retained classic Mustang traits, like three-place taillights, setback headlamps and the running horse in the grille.

Though the Mustang II has been much maligned over the years by some enthusiasts who claim the car lacked the power and luster of a true Mustang, it was a strong seller for Ford. In its first model year, nearly 386,000 vehicles were sold, and the Mustang II captured the coveted title of Motor Trend “Car of the Year.”

“The fact that the Mustang II arrived amid the Arab Oil Embargo was further testament that Ford had, indeed, delivered the right car at the right time,” said John Clor, author of the book The Mustang Dynasty. “There’s no denying that the II had connected with its customers in a way few cars of that era had.”

Performance-hungry enthusiasts prompted the return of the V-8 to the Mustang lineup in 1975. Ford introduced the Shelby-inspired Mustang Cobra II in 1976. And a special edition King Cobra Mustang debuted in 1978.

The third major transformation in the history of the Ford Mustang came in 1979, when Ford introduced a sleek, European-inspired pony car. The all-new vehicle shared its Fox platform with the Ford Fairmont and the Mercury Zephyr, and it was totally different from everything else on the road.

The 1979 Mustang built on the Fox platform

“We wanted to make a fresh statement for Mustang,” recalls Jack Telnack, chief designer of the 1979 Mustang. “We were very strongly influenced by European design, and we knew that we had an opportunity to make a contribution to the fuel economy of the car by more efficiently bending the sheet metal, giving the car a more aerodynamic wedge shape.”

Unlike its predecessors, the 1979 Mustang featured a slant-back front end. It was four inches longer in body length and wheelbase than the Mustang II. And though it was a bigger car with a more spacious interior, it was 200 pounds lighter than the previous Mustang, due to advanced body engineering and the increased use of lightweight materials.

“We actually wanted people to be uncomfortable with the car when they first saw it because if they weren’t uncomfortable with it, that would mean they had seen it before,” said Telnack. “It took people a little while to get used to the new look, but once they did, they understood the design, and they appreciated that it was a Mustang.”

It didn’t take long for people to fall in love with the new Mustang. Ford sold 370,000 cars in the vehicle’s first year.

No significant changes were made to the Mustang between 1979 and 1981, but in 1982, the “Boss” was back. The Mustang GT returned after a 12-year absence, and the 5.0-liter V-8 engine returned for specially equipped 1982 Mustang hatchbacks. At the heart of the Mustang performance revival was a tweaked “high output” 302-cubic-inch small-block engine that produced 157 horsepower – the most since 1971.

The Third 10 — 1983 to 1993 

The year is 1983. Ronald Reagan is serving his first term as President of the United States. Sally Ride makes history as the first woman astronaut in space, as a crew member aboard the space shuttle Challenger. The average household income is $20,885, and the cost of a postage stamp is up to 20 cents. Cabbage Patch dolls and Nintendo Entertainment Systems are big hits. The final episode of M*A*S*H airs, with a record 125 million people watching. Terms of Endearment captures Best Picture honors at the Academy Awards. And Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” wins the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

By 1983, the Mustang convertible was back. And so was the “Boss” performance attitude, as Ford’s pony car steadily rekindled its sporting heritage.

Following the gas crisis and tighter emissions standards of the 70s, the Mustang lineup of the early 1980s was still unable to deliver on the on the kind of performance that driving enthusiasts embraced with the first generation. Some even felt that Ford product planners had forgotten the true meaning of “Mustang.”

Neil Ressler was Ford’s chief engineer of Midsize and Small Cars at the time. Ressler’s team decided to beef up the Mustang’s power by replacing the two-barrel carburetor with a four-barrel and upgrading the tires and the brakes.

“That began the resurgence of the Mustang GT,” said Ressler. “The horsepower rating jumped to 175.”

While Ressler’s team was reintroducing the GT model, another group at Ford was working on a special low-volume edition of the Mustang for the 1984 model year called the SVO (developed by Special Vehicle Operations). It sported a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a sports-tuned suspension, a unique front fascia with fog lamps and even a dual-wing rear spoiler.

In addition to the SVO model, Ford produced another limited-edition Mustang – this one to commemorate the nameplate’s 20th anniversary. All of those cars – coupes and convertibles – were painted Oxford White with Canyon Red interiors and powered by either a V-8 or a turbocharged inline four-cylinder.

Mustang power continued to accelerate from 1984 to 1986, which in turn helped to boost sales for that period. Customer preference for the 5.0-liter V-8 spelled the end of the SVO Mustangs.

By 1987, it was again time for Mustang to keep up with a changing market, so designers gave the Fox-body — the platform introduced in 1979 — a facelift with new “aero-look” design cues.

               The re-designed 1987 Mustang

 While Mustangs continued to evolve from the early to mid-80s, Ford’s product development team was already looking for alternatives to the Fox-body.

“There were people who thought Mustang was headed for the scrap heap,” said Ressler. “Sales were sluggish, and they thought that front-wheel drive modern-looking cars were the wave of the future.”

After Ford signed an agreement with Mazda to build the Mazda 626 and MX-6 at a new plant just outside of Detroit, the idea was to use the front-wheel drive Mazda platform as the underpinnings for the “new Mustang.”

“When news came out that the all-American Mustang was going to be based on a Japanese car and built by a Japanese company, plus move to front-wheel drive and again go back to losing its V-8 engine, the nameplate’s legion of fans could hardly believe it,” said John Clor, author of the book The Mustang Dynasty.

“By the time a cover story in AutoWeek magazine hit the newsstands on April 13, 1987 – questioning ‘The Next Mustang?’ – the Mustang-badged Mazda was already the target of a letter-writing campaign launched by the editors of Mustang magazines across the country.”

The public had spoken, and Ford listened. The front-wheel drive Mazda became the 1989 Ford Probe, and the Ford Mustang lived on.

“It was the only time I can remember in my career when the will of the public affected a major decision in advance of the decision being made,” he said. “They brought about something I thought at the beginning was worth trying but wouldn’t work. But I was enthusiastic. I thought it was crazy to get rid of the only performance rear-wheel drive car we had.”

In the early 90s, Ressler and a group of performance enthusiasts within the company came up with the idea to build an increased-performance Mustang out of Ford Motorsports performance parts (now known as Ford Racing Performance Parts). Based on the lessons learned from the SVO Mustang program, this group's goal was to attract driving enthusiasts to the Ford brand.

“It was a confederation of people, all of whom had their own home organizations in different areas within the company, such as Marketing, Engineering and Product Planning,” Ressler explained. “When we worked together, we described our activities as occurring with the Special Vehicle Team or SVT.”

The 1993 Mustang Cobra

In 1993, SVT introduced the limited production Mustang Cobra that began a series of specialty models over the years which delivered ever-increasing performance capability – right on up to today's SVT-engineered Shelby GT500.

Interestingly enough, Ressler says many of the projects the team spearheaded at Ford – like the Mustang Cobra – were not formally approved by upper management.

“We just found the money and thought that as long as we were doing things that were good for the company, we were safe not to ask for permission,” he said. “We were prepared to ask for forgiveness, but we never had to.”

 The Next 16 — 1994 to 2010 

It’s 1994, and William Jefferson Clinton is serving his first term as the 42nd President of the United States. The price of a dozen eggs is 87 cents, and it costs 29 cents to mail a letter. O.J. Simpson flees the police in a white Ford Bronco, following the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, while the entire nation watches on television. Forest Gump wins the Academy Award for Best Picture. Seinfeld is a big hit on television. And Power Rangers are selling off the shelves in toy stores throughout the country.

The 1994 model year marked the beginning of the fourth generation of Mustangs. After 15 years of the same "Fox" platform, enthusiasts were ready for an all-new look and feel. And Ford was anxious to give them what they wanted.

“It was a do-or-die situation for Mustang at the time,” recalled William Boddie, then Ford’s program manager for small- and mid-size cars. “A lot of people at Ford thought we wouldn’t make enough money with the Mustang, and they thought we ought to kill it. This was going to be our chance to prove them wrong.”

Boddie says the team’s vision was clear. “Our goal was to create a vehicle that would be recognizable as a Mustang, even without the badging (sic),” he said. “It had to have traditional Mustang attributes, such as the three-box design, the long hood and the cockpit-like interior. And it had to symbolize power.”

“We created a competition within the design studio to see who could come up with a car that best represented the image of the Mustang,” said Boddie. “The idea was to let the creative people see what they could do to maintain the pony car heritage yet still make the vehicle a bit more modern.”

The designers came up with three different mock-ups, and they nicknamed them “Bruce Jenner” (after the Olympic athlete), “Rambo” (after Sylvester Stallone’s movie character) and “Arnold Schwarzenegger” (after the muscular movie star, now governor of California.

“Rambo was the most far out design. It looked like a snorting bull,” checked Boddie. “The ‘Bruce Jenner’ Mustang was the most refined, and the ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’ model was in between the two. That was the one that we chose.”

The design they chose was reminiscent of the vintage pony cars, yet modern enough to suit the changing tastes of auto enthusiasts. Its code name was SN95, and though its platform was a derivative of the Fox introduced in 1979, there was little resemblance between the two; 1,330 of the vehicle’s 1,850 parts had been changed.

The all-new 1994 Mustang

The galloping pony emblem returned to the front grille after a 16-year absence, and the Mustang now had a shapely, rounded body that was available as a two-door fastback coupe or a convertible. The 1994 Mustang also offered the first purpose-built convertible in more than two decades – as opposed to a conversion of a hardtop car – and its 5.0-liter V-8 engine produced 215 horsepower.

The Mustang remained relatively unchanged for 1995, but a new chapter in Mustang history opened in 1996, when the 5.0-liter small-block V-8 engine – a staple of Mustang performance for decades – was replaced by a new 4.6-liter “modular” V-8 that delivered the same 215 horsepower. The Special Vehicle Team (SVT) Mustang Cobras were equipped with a Dual Overhead Cam version of the 4.6-liter that produced a whopping 305 horsepower.

By 1999, it was time again to freshen the Mustang’s appearance. The result was the so-called “New Edge” Mustang, which sported angular body creases, more pronounced hood and side scoops and bulging wheel arches -- plus a special 35th Anniversary badge on the front fender.

SVT produced its third limited-edition “R-model” in 2000, with a unique 386 horsepower 5.4-liter V-8 that was a hint of Mustang power to come. Another specialty Mustang, the Bullitt GT – inspired by the 1968 Mustang 390GT driven by Steven McQueen in the movie classic Bullitt – made its debut in 2001. The vehicle was an instant success, spawning special Bullitt fan clubs across the country.

The 2003 model year was a memorable one for Ford performance fans, as the Mach 1 nameplate returned to the Mustang lineup, complete with a hot V-8 and functional "Shaker" hood scoop.

The Mustang gets a facelift for 1999          2003 Mustang Mach 1 with "Shaker" hood scoop

But the era's benchmark car was SVT's newest Mustang Cobra. Nicknamed “The Terminator,” this new Mustang performance flagship featured a beefed-up twin-cam 4.6-liter V-8 topped with a supercharger to produce a torque-laden 390 horsepower. It left an exclamation point on the fourth-generation Mustang, ensuring that the SN95 platform would go out in a blaze of glory.

The fifth generation of America’s favorite pony car – built on the new S197 platform – made its debut in the 2005 model year. It is seen at left.

“The biggest challenge for our team was to develop a new generation Mustang that would have the functional and cost structure ‘bandwidth’ to cover the entry V-6 model all the way up to the high-performance Shelby GT500 convertible model,” recalled Hau Thai-Tang, then chief engineer of the Mustang program. “That amount of market coverage in terms of pricing and performance is very tough to achieve with one common platform.”

From a styling perspective, the aim was to design a vehicle that captured the essence of the original Mustangs from the '60s. Designers brought in a 1967 Mustang for inspiration.

“Every member of our team rallied around the vision of making the 2005 Mustang the best Mustang ever,” said Thai-Tang. “Our goal was to build on the tremendous legacy of the Mustang, to make it instantly recognizable as a Mustang and to deliver on the Mustang promise: fast, fun and affordable.”

The result was a modern interpretation of first-generation Mustangs. The canted nose with its big grille and round headlights recalled the ’67 to ’69 Mustangs, while the side sculpting, fastback roofline and taillights recalled the ponies from 1965.

Little changed for the 2006 Mustang, but for the 2007 model year Ford’s SVT delivered the Shelby GT500 – the most powerful factory Mustang ever produced, boasting 500 horsepower. It featured Shelby, Cobra and SVT badges and was offered as either a coupe or a convertible. Example below.

Thai-Tang says one of his favorite Mustang moments occurred during the development of the Shelby GT500 program. “Automotive legend Carroll Shelby was driving one of our convertible test mules, and I was riding in the passenger seat when a young man pulled up to us in a Camaro. He looked over and saw an 82-year-old man driving a funny looking Mustang, and he wanted to race us,” recalls Thai-Tang. “Needless to say he lost the race. When he finally caught up with us, he did a doubt take. He realized that it was no ‘ordinary’ 82-year-old and no ‘ordinary’ Mustang!”

A special “Warriors in Pink” Mustang was introduced for the 2008 model year to help raise funds for Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure breast cancer research. The second limited-edition Mustang Bullitt debuted the same year. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Shelby's "King of the Road" GT500 (KR) model, Ford introduced the 540-horsepower Shelby GT500KR, which surpassed the Shelby GT500 as the most powerful production Mustang ever produced.

Last year, Ford marked a major milestone when the 9 millionth Mustang was built. The company also introduced the 2009 Mustang, which offers a segment-first factory-installed glass roof as well as special 45th Anniversary badges to commemorate the birthday of the iconic car.

The 2010 Mustang convertible and coupe

The legendary Mustang drives into the future as the best muscle car yet. The 2010 Mustang is a fun-to-drive vehicle that combines modern technology and safety with Mustang's sporting heritage, including a more powerful V-8 and an even-throatier signature Mustang exhaust sound.

“The 2010 Mustang is drop-dead gorgeous,” said Paul Randle, Mustang chief engineer. “This car marks the best efforts of 45 years of passion and enthusiasm among the best designers, engineers and manufacturing experts in the business.” 

Mustang Chronology

The original Ford Mustang debuted on April 17, 1964, at a price of $2,368 — a bargain even at that time.

Dealers were inundated with requests for the vehicle. In Garland, Texas, 15 customers bid on the same Mustang, and the winner insisted on sleeping in the car overnight to guarantee that it wouldn’t get sold from under him before his check cleared the next day.

Ford expected annual sales of about 100,000 units, but 22,000 Mustang orders were taken on the first day, and sales reached an astounding 417,000 in the car’s first 12 months on the market.

Not much more than a month after its introduction, Ford’s new Mustang was on the racetrack as the pace car for the 1964 Indianapolis 500 race.

The new Mustang was the pace car for the 1964 Indianapolis 500

The early Mustangs have figured prominently in hundreds of notable films to date, beginning in 1964 with the James Bond movie Goldfinger, in which Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 chased a white Mustang convertible.

Mustang-crazed parents bought 93,000 pedal-powered children’s Mustangs during the 1964 Christmas season.

In 1965, the Shelby GT350 was introduced, with a 306 horsepower V-8 engine, giving the Mustang performance credibility.

Mustang sales passed the one million mark in March of 1966. The 1966 Mustang was the first — and perhaps the only — car to park on the 86th floor observation deck of New York’s Empire State Building. Ford engineers disassembled a 1966 Mustang convertible and took it up in four sections using the building’s passenger elevators.
Mustang-mania hit full force. The 289-cid V-8 “Hi-Po” engine became available. Carroll Shelby adapted the Shelby GT350 for Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) competition, and the GT350 went on to win three straight SCCA national championships.

The 1967 Mustang was considered by many to be the high water mark for Mustang design in the 1960s. The 2+2 model went from a semi-notchback to a sweeping full fastback roofline. Separate triple tail lamps, a longer nose and a bigger grille made for a more aggressive stance.

In 1968, the 428 Cobra Jet engine was introduced as part of an option package aimed at enthusiasts, and it helped make the Shelby GT500 become King of the Road.

A “steed for every need” philosophy yielded 11 different powertrain combinations in 1969. New models added to the lineup included hot rods like the 290 horsepower Boss 302, the 375 horsepower Boss 429 and the Mach 1, giving the Mustang its muscle car heritage. The Grande luxury model also was introduced.
In 1970, a ram air “Shaker” hood scoop could be ordered on any Mustang equipped with a 351-cid or larger V-8.

The 1971 Mustangs were the biggest Mustangs ever – nearly a foot longer and some 600 pounds heavier than the originals. The Boss 351, with its 351 “Cleveland” V-8 and Cobra Jet heads, debuted. The Mach 1 was available with a variety of powertrains, topped by the 370 horsepower 429 Super Cobra Jet.

In 1973, the impact of gasoline shortages, rising insurance premiums and emissions controls brought the muscle car era to a close. The 1973 model was the last original Falcon-platform Mustang, and the convertible model was discontinued.

The completely redesigned Mustang II was introduced in 1974.  Compared with the 1973 model, the Mustang II was 19 inches shorter and 490 pounds lighter.  It was available in a notchback, including a luxury Ghia model and a 2+2 fastback.  For the first time, there was no V-8 engine and no Mustang convertible option available.

An orange 1973 Mustang Mach I was featured in a prominent role in the action movie Gone in 60 Seconds, which debuted in 1974.

In 1975, V-8 power returned to the Mustang.  But the 302-cid V-8 engine produced only 130 horsepower and came only with an automatic transmission.
The Cobra II package joined the lineup in 1976, replete with non-functional hood scoop, racing stripes and front and rear spoilers.  Available in white with blue stripes, blue with white stripes, and black with gold stripes, the Cobra II was intended to recall the looks of the famed Shelby Mustangs.

In an attempt to appeal to convertible fans, fastback models became available with T-Top removable glass roof panels.  A new Sports Performance Package added a four-speed manual transmission to the 302-cid V-8.

In 1978, the new King Cobra model, at right, was the first Mustang to wear a 5.0 badge – the metric equivalent of 302 cubic inches.

The new “Fox” platform made its debut in 1979.  The new model was longer and taller than the Mustang II, yet it was 200 pounds lighter.  A sleek, “Euro” design replaced many traditional Mustang styling cues.  Engine choices included a 2.3-liter four-cylinder, 
a 2.8-liter V-6, a 3.3-liter inline six-cylinder and a 140-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8.

In 1980, the 302-cid V-8 engine was dropped and replaced by an economy-minded 119-horsepower, 255-cid V-8 derivative.

In 1981, performance headed to the back burner, as the turbo four-cylinder was dropped from the Mustang engine lineup and new emissions controls dropped the 255-cid V-8’s power to 115 horsepower.
In 1982, the Mustang GT returned after a 12-year absence.  The 5.0-liter V-8, which delivered 157 horsepower was also back, and optional T-Tops returned.

By 1983, the Mustang convertible was back. And so was the “Boss,” as Ford’s pony car steadily returned to its roots as a performance vehicle, following the gas crisis and tighter emissions standards that influenced the Mustangs of the 70s.

1985 Mustang GT convertible                               1989 25th Anniversary Mustang convertible

In 1984, Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) team created the Mustang SVO. It sported a front fascia with fog lamps, functional hood scoop and a unique dual-wing rear spoiler. A turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine produced 175 horsepower.

Also in 1984, a special V-8 powered Mustang GT was created to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Mustang. It was a special limited edition done in Oxford White with a Canyon Red interior.

In 1985, Mustang received a 5.0-liter high output V-8 that made 210 horsepower when mated to a manual transmission. New Quadra-Shock rear suspension provided better acceleration and reduced wheel hop on fast takeoffs.

Mustang’s V-8 traded its carburetor for sequential multi-port fuel injection in 1986.

In 1987, the Mustang was restyled with a new “aero-look” body. The 5.0-liter V-8 produced 225 horsepower.

For its 25th Anniversary, all Mustangs produced between April 17, 1989 and April 17, 1990, sported the familiar running horse on the dashboard with “25 Years” inscribed underneath.

In 1990, Mustang sported a driver’s-side airbag as standard equipment.

In 1991, entry-level Mustangs received an improved 105-horsepower, twin-plug 2.3-liter four-cylinder with distributorless ignition. All V-8 models came with new five-spoke 16 x 7-inch cast aluminum wheels.

The stealthy Mustang LX 5.0 developed a cult following in 1992 and outsold all other models combined. Wire-style wheel covers and whitewall tires disappeared from the options list.

In 1993, Ford’s new Special Vehicle Team (SVT) introduced the limited-production SVT Mustang Cobra with subtle but distinctive styling cues and performance upgrades. The low-volume 1993 Cobra R, developed to be used as a race car, sold out prior to production.

The new 1994 Mustang                                             1998 Mustang convertible and coupe

The 1994 Mustang, which ushered in the fourth generation of Mustangs, was dramatically restyled to evoke its pony car heritage. The hatchback style was dropped, leaving the two-door coupe and convertible. The SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Cobra launched with a 240-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8.

1995 was the final model year for the 5.0-liter V-8, which began life as the 260- and later 289-cid engine. The second SVT Cobra R was introduced with a 300-horsepower 5.8-liter V-8 and five-speed manual transmission.

In 1996, Mustang GTs and SVT Mustang Cobras were equipped for the first time with 4.6-liter Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC) V-8, which produced 305 horsepower.
Ford’s Passive Anti-Theft System became standard on all models in 1997.

In 1998, the output of Mustang GT’s 4.6-liter V-8 was increased to 225 horsepower.

A redesigned Mustang debuted in 1999, pictured at left. It sported sharper lines, pronounced wheel arches plus new hood, grille, fascias and lamps. The SVT Mustang Cobra became the first Mustang with independent rear suspension. The 4.6-liter DOHC V-8 produced 320 horsepower.

In 2000, the third Mustang SVT Cobra R was produced in a 300-unit run. It came with a 386-horsepower, 5.4-liter DOHC V-8 mated to Mustang’s first ever six-speed transmission.

Inspired by the 1968 movie, the first Mustang Bullitt GT model was offered. It featured unique side scoops, 17-inch “Bullitt”-styled wheels and lowered and specially-tuned suspension.

In 2002, production ended for two of Mustang’s closest competitors: Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.

The Mach I returned in 2003 with a 305-horsepower V-8 under a signature ram-air “Shaker” hood scoop. The supercharged SVT Mustang Cobra produced 390 horsepower.

2001 Mustang Bullitt GT

In 2004, Ford produced its 300 millionth car – a Mustang GT convertible 40th anniversary edition. The 2004 models were the last cars built at Ford’s fabled Dearborn Assembly Plant, which built Mustangs since the car’s 1964 introduction.

In 2005, production of the
all-new Mustang moved to Flat Rock, Mich. Plant. The Mustang’s V-6 engine was increased to 4.0-liters and the V-8 increased to 300 horsepower.

The V-6 “Pony Package” debuted in 2006, pictured at right. GT models got 18-inch wheels, and owners could configure instrument panel lighting in 125 different colors, an industry first, using Ford’s MyColor instrument gauge.

In 2007, Ford introduced a special “Warriors in Pink” Mustang, designed to help raise funds for Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure breast cancer research. The vehicle lineup also included the Mustang Shelby GT and the Shelby GT500KR. The second limited-edition Mustang Bullitt was introduced in November.

The 9 millionth Mustang – a GT convertible – was built in 2008 and sold to an Iowa farmer.

The 2009 Mustang features a glass roof option and special 45th anniversary badging.

The Mustang received rejuvenated styling inside and out. But it carried on with its outdated base 4.0-liter V-6 with just 210 horsepower. The 4.6-liter V8 with 315 horsepower carried over from previous years. Small compared to the new Chevrolet Camaro V-8, it still performed almost as well with 0-to-60 times under 6 seconds.

Finally for 2011, the Mustang engines received a long-overdue update. The Mustang V-6 has a new 3.7-liter engine producing 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. The Mustang GT has a new 5.0-liter V-8 good for 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feetof torque. Both have a six-speed manual transmission as standard and a six-speed automatic as optional. Performance bragging rights returned with the V-8 clocked in the upper reaches of 4 seconds from 0-to-60.

The 2011 Mustang and the updated Mustang interior

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