A brief history of the Ford Mustang
The man with the vision
There aren’t many models of car which survive 55
years but the Mustang - arguably America’s best-known muscle car - is one you
can still see in a Ford showroom today.
The ‘Stang started out as a vision with quite a
specific brief by Lido “Lee” Iacocca, Ford Division’s vice president and
general manager. He decreed that it would be no more than 180 inches long,
weigh less than 2500 pounds (1,134kg), have a floor-mounted gear lever, bucket
seats and carry four people. And it must sell for less than $2,500. The first
Mustang rolled off the production line in March 1964 and the rest, as they say,
Lee Lacocca rose to company president six years after the Mustang launch but was
famously fired by Henry Ford
II in 1978 (despite having made the company profitable
again that year) after years of tension between the two men. He moved to
Chrysler where he managed to turn the company’s ailing fortunes around. A
shrewd businessman, his focus was on cost-cutting and marketing, two elements
still seen as key across all industries today.
Lee Lacocca passed away on 2nd July 2019. So, to
celebrate his life and the legacy of the pony badge, here is a little Mustang
The early years
One of the appeals of the Mustang was its
various options. Within its first year, it was available with six cylinders or
eight (with three power outputs from the V8). Buyers could pick a three- or
four-speed manual gearbox or an automatic. And arguably the biggest choice was
whether to go for the convertible or 2+2 Fastback.
Many have tuned Mustangs over the years but if
there’s one individual synonymous with quick pony cars, it is Carroll Shelby
who started with the GT350 version of the stiffer-bodied Fastback in 1965. In fact,
so successful and respected were his performance modifications, Ford
incorporated them on its own ‘Shelby’ cars from 1969 to 1970. A Shelby
performance version of the current model is still available in the US.
As you might imagine, the Mustang has graced
many screens. It’s hard to narrow down the list but here are our favourite
three which include plenty of gratuitous footage of the famous muscle car.
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
- So much bent metal - including the Mustang - but the modified 1971 car looks tremendous.
- Arguable one of the best car chases of all time - between Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang. So tied is the car to this film, Ford even sells a Mustang Bullitt special edition today.
Fast and Furious 3 Tokyo Drift (2006)
- Centred on the street racing and drifting scene in Tokyo, the '67 Fastback takes dominates the action.
The blander years
All eras of Mustang have their followers,
but the iconic shape of the original cars is one of the key elements which
defines the marque. However, 1974 saw the second generation (1974-1978) - based
on a Ford Pinto - and the third generation, which ran until 1993 which brought
even blander ‘80s styling. Only in 2005 did Ford re-introduce some of the
evocative design cues found on those fabulous ‘60s models.
The latest cars
The latest, sixth generation Mustang was
formally introduced into the UK in right-hand-drive form in 2015 and is still a
head-turner. And with the 5.0-litre V8, it sounds the business too. For those
after something a little less thirsty, the Mustang is also available with
Ford’s EcoBoost 2.3-litre four cylinder. The current model - refreshed in 2018 -
might not make entire sense on paper, but in the head vs. heart battle, it’s an
absolute winner. And a fitting tribute to Iacocca’s ‘60s vision.
About the Author
Andrew is a freelance motoring journalist with a background in IT and the vehicle leasing industry. With a lifetime’s passion for all things automotive, he can be found behind the wheel of everything from vans to supercars. In addition to reviewing the latest vehicles and technology, Andrew also runs a couple of classic British motors. He lives at the edge of the Peak District with his son and cat.
Andrew Wright @theMotorWriter