The Ford Mustang is one of America’s most iconic automobiles, giving its name to a whole class of vehicle, the pony car. Here’s a look at its long history:
The early days
Classicponycars.com says that the man behind the original Mustang was a vice-president at Ford, Lee Iacocca. His 1961 idea incorporated features for which the car would become known, ranging from its low starting price to its floor-mounted gear shift. There was debate within the company as to whether the car would be a success, but Iacocca won the day. The first Mustang was produced in March 1964 and was based heavily on the existing Ford Falcon in an effort to reduce costs. The car was an instant success, selling more than 400,000 units in its first year.
Into the Seventies
The first Mustang remained in production, with minor alterations, for a decade, but competitors were making it look old-fashioned by the 1970s. About.com points out that the revised “Mustang II” launched for the 1974 model year was highly controversial. Performance levels were reduced: there was no longer a V8 unit, with four-cylinder or V6 blocks offered instead. As safety standards became more rigorous, Ford removed the convertible option. Nevertheless, the new car sold well in its early days.
Ford’s longest runner
The Mustang II soon lost popularity, selling just 150,000 units by 1978 despite the reintroduction of a V8 engine. Ford had to act, and in 1979 a revised car was launched. According to edmunds.com, the most obvious change was the upright, angular styling. This allowed four adults to sit comfortably inside, but also made the car look very different from its ancestors. One move that divided opinion was the decision to drop the famous “running horse” logo from the front grille. Again, sales began strongly but tailed off. Ford made major investments in the mid-1980s, especially in terms of better transmission and fuel injection.
After 15 years of the existing Mustang, by 1994 it was time for another new model. The galloping horse returned – but, as Wikipedia states, it struggled to match the performance of the rival Chevrolet Camaro. Ford’s “New Edge” styling cues in 1999 helped a little and this generation continued until 2003, but was then replaced by the fifth-generation Mustang. This increasingly came to be seen as a niche vehicle, with sales never coming close to matching those of earlier pony cars. In 2009, just 66,000 Mustangs were sold, despite the car’s racing success. An all-new Mustang is scheduled for 2015.