September 19, 2021

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Mustang Evolution

5 min read

The Ford Mustang is a series of American automobiles manufactured by Ford. The Mustang is currently in its sixth generation having been in continuous production since 1964. It is the fifth-best selling model that Ford makes.

The original Mustangs were concept cars. Although conceptually it was birthed in the late 1950s, the first “produced” was the 1962 two-seater, then a pretest for public interest Ford introduced a four-seater in 1963. The latter originally based on the platform of the second-generation Ford Falcon, a compact car but the Mustang developed as a more stylized line of sporty coupes and convertibles.

The early versions are often referred to as “1964½ models” because they were produced five months before the normal start of the 1965 production year. The pony car was introduced to the public in April of 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. Developed as an affordable dream car, World’s Fair visitors were among the first in the world to see this sleek and practical design of a four-passenger sports car on display at the Ford Rotunda pavilion.

That same day in April, Americans stampeded into Ford dealerships to buy a Mustang. By the end of the day, more than 22,000 Mustangs had been purchased or ordered. It was a breathtaking start to one of the greatest product launches in history. The Mustang’s short rear deck, long hood, room for four, and $2,300 price tag made it one of the best-selling cars of its time, as reported by NBC News. A total of 73,112 Mustang convertibles and 409,260 coupes flew off the showroom floor within the first year.

The first-generation Ford Mustang were manufactured from 1964-1973. Ford designed three body styles for the future classic car — a 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible, and 2-door fastback. It had a weight of 2,570 lb. for the six-cylinder engines and a 3,000 lb. weight for the Mustangs equipped with a V8. All first-generation Mustang engines were equipped with either a 3-speed manual, 4-speed manual, 2-speed automatic, or 3-speed automatic transmission.

Already an icon of its era, the Mustang made appearances in films and television shows. One of the first movies ever made to have the Mustang was ‘Goldfinger’ released that same year, and it was most likely a pre-production car. A 1965 Ford Mustang is featured often in the series ‘Gidget.’

The debut of the 1966 Mustang brought few changes mostly in ornamentation and interior. The front ornaments and intake grilles were changed slightly and having the Horse and Corral emblem on the front grille that is so familiar for everyone today. Also, the side detailing, and wheels covers were the main changes. Under the hood was a different story. Ford introduced a huge 6.4-liter engine that provided 325 horsepower.

1966 Horse and Corral on Grille

The redesign of the 1967 Mustangs were significant. One of the most crucial design changes was the installation of V8 engines. Ford also changed the concave taillights, side scoop, rear-view mirrors, and the gas cap. The Mustang had a more massive look overall and a big block engine was possible for the first time as well as more spacious interiors due to a significant increase in its overall size.

By this time, the Mustang was equipped with a 320 hp, 390 ci FE engine. Fastback models with fold-down seats and the convertibles were equipped with folding glass windows.

Popularity of the Mustang Fastback soared after Steve McQueen drove a modified 1968 Mustang GT-390 in the movie ‘Bullitt.’ Pivotal in movie history as what most experts consider to be the first modern-day car chase scene. The scene became the standard for all that followed. It was the first to use cameras that put the audience right inside the cars and alongside the actors as McQueen’s character chased a black Dodge Charger throughout the 10-minute scene. The audience sees “King of Cool,” Steve McQueen full screen, clutching the wheel as he expertly piloted it through the bustling and steep streets of San Francisco.

That same unrestored muscle car sold for $3.4 million early last year at a Florida auction. The movie itself still holds the badge of honor as the single greatest car chase scene in film history.

The 1969 Mustang had an increased body length and was the first to use quad headlamps, two within the grille and two on the outer grille opening. Things were different under the hood with four engine choices topped off by a 5.8-liter V8 that produced 294 horsepower. This model year introduced a variety of performance packages including the Mach 1, the Boss 302, and Boss 429. The Boss 429 Mustang is the holy grail for muscle car enthusiasts with only 1,358 vehicles made.

With the 1970 Mustang, Ford relocated the headlamps into the grille opening and removed the rear fender air-scoops. It featured one-of-a-kind striping as well. A high-performance variant, Mustang Boss 302 was produced for the Trans Am racing series. A limited edition of the 1970 Ford Mustang, the Boss 302, went head-to-head with the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 and beat it making it the winner of the Sports Car Club of America Trans-am series.

The 1971 Mustang came equipped with a big-block 375 hp 429 Super Cobra Jet. These body styles were explicitly designed for the big-block installations. Customers could choose from 5.8- and 7.0-liter V8 engines on the base models. Another milestone was introduced with that year’s model, the Boss 351 version. It was one of the fastest Mustangs ever made, going from zero to 60 in just 5.8 seconds and completed the quarter mile in just 14.1 seconds at 100 mph.

1971 Mustang Boss 351

By 1972 and 1973, models were limited to a maximum of 351 ci due to stricter rules implemented by the U.S. emission control regulations. This introduction of low compression rebuilt engines that perform with restrictive induction systems caused the U.S. automakers in 1972 to switch from ‘gross’ to ‘net’ torque and power ratings. Ford added two high-performance engines in 1972 — the 351 Cobra Jet and the 351 HO. Both models were exceptionally high in performance compared to other cars of their time, yet nowhere near the level of performance of the Boss cars and original Cobra Jet.

The Mustang holds its value better than its competition. All-in-all throughout the years, the Ford Mustang continues to be a much desired and sought-after sports car that remains a classic icon for many. The beautiful styling for the last five decades has made it a staple of American muscle.

Gateway Classic Cars has hundreds of Ford Mustangs available. Click here to find the right one for you and slide behind the wheel of the most iconic vehicle in automotive history.

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