In the early 1960’s, Ford decided that they were going to introduce a new breed of car to rival the large American muscle cars of the era. In 1964, the Ford Mustang was launched, and within its first 3 months sold over 300,000 cars. The ‘pony car’ was here, and here to stay.
The Mustang’s popularity was for a number of reasons. Firstly people loved its looks, with its long hood and short trunk, but as well as this the car came with a number of options for easy customisation and 4 seats to reach more of the market. The Mustang also used many components from existing Ford’s, so development and manufacturing costs were low. Initially the Mustang only had a 170 cubic inch (cid) 6 cylinder engine, but it didn’t take long for this to be increased to a 289cid V8 producing 271bhp, giving some performance to match the looks. As if this wasn’t enough, Shelby got involved, producing the GT350 producing 306bhp, had no back seat and only available in white.
The next major upgrade came in 1967, when the Mustang received a full fastback roofline and more aggressive looks. The biggest change however was the engine, now armed with Ford big block 390. On top of this, a new Shelby was available, the GT500 powered by a 428 V8, as well as being more civilised and available with a number of luxury options. This was the last of the Shelby Mustangs actually produced by Shelby, later models were produced by Ford with very little input from Shelby.
The 1968 styling was similar to the previous model, and a limited number still used the 427 engines producing 390bhp. This year saw the Mustangs fame increase due to it’s appearance in the film Bullitt, where pssobily the most famous car chase in cinematic history took place on the streets of San Francisco, with the Mustang GT390 chasing a 1968 Dodge Charger. On the 1st April Ford unveiled its 428 Cobra Jet engine, and whilst listed at 335bhp, there were rumours of Mustangs receiving 410bhp from these engines.
The re styled 1969 Mustang gained over 140lb as well as some added length. The Mach 1 body style had the option of a Cobra Jet engine, but came standard with a 351 cid V8. 1969 also saw the release of the Boss Mustang, production cars being built in order to qualify for NASCAR. These Mustangs were race ready with a 429 cid V8 and nowadays demand premium price, particularly the Boss 302 and Boss 429.
The glory days of the Mustang faded a little from 1971 – 1973 (the end of the Series 1). Consumer demand turned from speed to larger luxury styling. The Mustangs became fat, growing in length, width and weight resulting in a drop in performance and leading the Mustang away from it’s roots. Eventually interest faded in the Mustang.
The late 60’s were the true glory days of the Mustang, and these are the models that remain in the history books. That said, the Mustang is still being produced to this day with great success, and is everything a modern American muscle car should be.