Perhaps no other car in automotive history enjoys the cultural significance and uninterrupted production as the Ford Mustang. Introduced in 1964, the Mustang defined the pony-car class and became a huge success. Affordable, sporty and unlike anything else on the road, the Ford Mustang intrigued American consumers from day one, and the love affair has never diminished.
Ford’s compact Falcon platform served as the conceptual design for the 1962 Ford Mustang I two-seat concept car. That design morphed into the 1963 Mustang II four-seater concept, which the automaker used to gauge public interest prior to putting the car into production. Credit for suggesting the Mustang name goes to John Najjar, executive stylist, who was reportedly inspired by his love of the World War II P-51 (Mustang) fighter plane.
First Generation (1964-1973)
Manufacturing of the first production Ford Mustang began in early March 1964 at the company’s Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant. The 1964 Ford Mustang officially debuted the following month at the New York World’s Fair. Newspapers across the country covered the car’s launch, while the Mustang gained additional visibility in the James Bond Goldfinger movie released that fall. Marketed as an early 1965 model, the entry-level Mustang, at a cost of $2,368, had a 2.8-liter straight-6 engine mated to a three-speed manual transmission.
By 1967, Ford engineers had finished design mock-ups for a larger Mustang, and from 1967 to 1973, the car increased in size, although without any notable engine-power increases. Exterior size grew to accommodate the big-block engines that would soon be dropped into the car; more than 80% of Mustangs in 1969 had V8 engines. In 1968, the Mustang 390 GT costarred with Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt.
Second Generation (1974-1978)
Marketed as the Mustang II, the 1974 Ford Mustang was completely redesigned to be much larger than the first-generation models and was based on the Pinto subcompact. Available as a coupe or three-door hatchback, the Mustang II had a base 2.3-liter SOHC inline four-cylinder engine and an optional 2.8-liter V6 engine. Featuring innovations such as rack-and-pinion steering and a separate engine subframe, the 1974 Mustang II received Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year honors. Its main competitors were the Toyota Celica and Datsun 280Z.
Ford engineers scrambled to reinstate the 4.9-liter V8 engine option for 1975 as a result of customer demand. This meant changes to the engine bay, header panel and front fenders, but there was only a two-barrel carburetor. Net power output for the V8 was a mere 140 horsepower. From 1976 to 1978, several performance and appearance options were added, including the Stallion and Cobra II in 1976 and the King Cobra in 1978.
Third Generation (1979-1993)
The 1979 redesign, which was based on the larger Ford Fox platform, was longer to accommodate more passengers. Four models (hatchback, coupe, convertible and notchback) and a variety of trim levels were offered during this generation. Two front ends were available, depending on the year. Due to escalating fuel prices and slumping sales in the early 1980s, Ford resorted to a massive face-lift of the 1987 Mustang.
Along with the Mustang I, some of the variants of the third-generation Mustang included:
- SVT Cobra
- California Special
- Mach 1
- Boss 429, 302 and 351
Fourth Generation (1994-2004)
Introduced in November 1993, the fourth-generation Ford Mustang was based on the automaker’s rear-wheel-drive Fox platform, with styling inspired from previous Mustang generations. In 1999, the Mustang received the new Edge exterior styling theme, featuring larger wheel arches, sharper contours and body-work creases. The fourth-generation Mustang was the first to be sold in Australia to compete against the Pontiac GTO from 2001 to 2002.
Fifth Generation (2005-2014)
In a major redesign effort, Ford took the 2005 Mustang back to its 1960s origins and introduced the retro-futuristic styling to consumers at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. The entry-level Mustang model between 2005 and 2010 featured a 210-horsepower cast-iron 4.0-liter V6 engine, while the GT received an aluminum block with a 4.6-liter V8 engine with variable camshaft timing.
The 2010 Mustang was redesigned on the exterior, featuring sequential LED taillights and a reduced drag coefficient. The power train was essentially unchanged, but the car’s performance did benefit from implementation of new traction and control systems, dampers and spring rates, and wheel sizes.
Sixth Generation (2015-Present)
Marked by a widened, lowered body design, a trapezoidal grille and new colors, the sixth-generation 2015 Ford Mustang, codenamed S-550, was introduced in early December 2016 in the United States, China, Spain and Australia. Four-cylinder, V6 and V8 engine options were available, including a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, 3.7-liter 300 horsepower V6 and 5.0-liter Coyote 435 horsepower V8. Automatic and manual transmissions were offered.
- The 2015 Ford Mustang received an independent rear suspension system. The car was the first version Mustang created as a right-hand drive export model for sale overseas.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the 2015 Mustang a 5-star crash protection rating.
- Ford celebrated the Mustang’s 55th anniversary in April 2018 and production of its 10 millionth car in August of that same year. According to Ford sales data, the Mustang was sold in 146 countries in 2018. The sixth-generation Mustang enjoyed worldwide sales in excess of 500,000 since 2015.
- New technology and special editions mark the 10 models of the 2019 Ford Mustang, including the Mustang Bullitt, with its 480 horsepower 4.0-liter V8 and distinctive design and trim, the Mustang Shelby GT350 and Mustang Shelby GT350R.
- For 2020, the all-new Mustang Shelby GT500 produces 760 horsepower and 625 pound-feet of torque, which makes this model Ford’s most powerful and street-legal ever.