It all began as a dream of one Lee Lacocca, the vice president of the Ford Division. Lacocca had a vision of a car that would bring the sportiness of sportcars to the middle class citizens. He visualized a 4-seater model with bucket seats, a floor-mounted shifter, weighing less than 2,500 pounds, was not more than 180 inches long and was affordable (did not exceed $2500).
Out of that Vision the Mustang was born, a model that went on to be at the forefront of the American automotive tradition. This is despite the fact that the Mustang is neither exotic nor rare. In fact handcrafting is not part of the Mustang production. The model’s biggest selling point over the years has been the fact that it offers a sporty and stylish appeal at an affordable price.
The first Ford Mustang rolled out of the factory line on 9th March 1964. To save on production costs, the Mustang borrowed most components from the Falcon. The car was offered in a host of exterior, interior and engine options. You could get the Mustang the way you desired it, whether plain, fancy, fast or even economical. Ford wanted the Mustang to suit different tastes of the consumers.
After heavy advertising prior to its release in all major TV networks, its debut on 17th April 1964 was met by 22,000 purchases. That year alone, the automaker sold 263,434 units and at the end of it first year in the market, the model had sold 418,812 units.
Just like that, the Mustang had cut a name for itself, a name that would stick till this day.
The First Generation 1964-1973 Ford Mustang over the Years
The 1964 ½ Ford Mustang
The first model to roll out of the production line was a convertible painted in Wimbledon White. It preceded the actual public debut in Flushing Meadows, New York. Commonly referred as the ’64 ½, the first generation Mustang was offered in coupe and convertible bodies.
The base engine was a 170-cubic inch, 6-cylinder mill paired with a 3-speed floor transmission system. A 260-cubic inch V-8 paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox or a 3-speed automatic transmission was also offered. As said earlier, the model was based on the Falcon platform. The Mustang featured bucket seats, wheel covers and a padded dashboard. The model had a starting price of $2,320.
Late 1965 Mustang
The popularity of the Mustang didn’t go unnoticed, a few months after its debut; Carroll Shelby approached Lee Lacocca with an aim to make a high-performing Mustang. Upon approval, Shelby fitted a revised K-code 289cid V-8 engine on a Fastback 2X2 version of the Mustang. The engine produced 306 horses. The model was dubbed Shelby GT350 Street.
The model made a debut in January 1965. In addition to this high performing iteration, a new engine lineup was added for the 1965 model year. A GT lineup was also introduced. A 200-inch, 6-cylinder mill replaced the 170-cubic inch engine as the base engine. The 260-cubic inch V-8 was replaced by a 289-cubic inch V-8. A variety of engine tunings was also offered. V-8 GT Mustangs were hooked up with racing stripes, GT badges and dual exhaust tips.
In 1966, Ford had already sold over a million units of the Mustang. Not wanting to mess up with things, the automaker only revised the grille, wheel covers and added a new instrument cluster as well as a new paint work and new interior features.
A more comprehensive overhaul was done in 1967. The notchback roofline was replaced by a fastback roofline. Other new features included an extended nose, a wider chassis, a bigger grille and triple taillights. The result was a more aggressive Mustang.
Shelby also released a performance oriented model dubbed Shelby GT500 which was powered by a 355 hp V-8 mill. This model helped the Mustang create a name for itself on the race tracks. Perhaps the most famous Ford Mustang from this production year is legendary GT 500 Eleanor.
In 1968, a 302-cubic inch V8 mill replaced the 289 V-8 aka ‘Hi-Po”. A 427-cubic inch V-8 good for 390 horses was also released. However, the most notable event for the Mustang was its use in the movie “Bullitt”.
In the movie, Steve McQueen raced a customized Mustang GT-390 Fastback through San Francisco. Ford would later build a special-edition Mustang in 2001 to commemorate this fete.
During this year, the Mustang’s exterior profile underwent a significant change. The model was fitted with a longer body and the Fastback was replaced by a new name “Sportsroof”. A new engine rated at 220 hp was also introduced. This year also saw the debut of the “Windsor V-8 engine”.
A number of special-edition Mustangs were also offered, they were the Shelby GT350, GT500, Boss 302, 429 and Mach 1. A Grand luxury model was also offered. During this year the long time associate of Ford, Carroll Shelby requested his name to cease being associated with the mustang. Later in the year, Carroll Shelby lost control of the Shelby design.
Only subtle changes were made on the 1970 Ford Mustang.
In ‘71, Ford made the biggest Mustang ever. It was almost a foot longer than its predecessors were. It was also 600 pounds heavier than its predecessors were. The Boss 302,429, Shelby GT350, GT500 were removed from the lineup.
In ’72, Ford introduced a Sprint model which had a red, blue and white exterior paintwork and a matching interior styling.
A fuel shortage in 1973 diminished sales as buyers sought fuel-efficient cars. This forced Mustang designers to go back to the drawing board. This marked the end of the first generation Mustang. In addition, the convertible was discontinued. This was also the last time the Mustang was based on the Falcon-platform.