The Ford Mustang is timeless. It’s a chic, four-wheeled racer with a mean grill and major horsepower; an American classic, a car so flashy that cops can sense its speed from miles away. But speeding tickets aren’t its only trophies. Over its lifecycle, Mustangs have won a number of prestigious awards. The Ford Mustang has appeared on Car and Driver’s esteemed 10 Best Award list ten times and the J.D power award a number of times. It was the Motor Trend car of the year in 1974 and 1994 – a true statement to its quality and staying power over time.
But even the Ford Mustang’s popularity isn’t impenetrable. Between the years 1971 and 1973, Mustang moved to respond to a growing consumer desire for a more luxurious automobile and pivoted from the famed first-generation design to one that became known as “fat and lazy”, a giant counterpart to its original iteration that weighed over 800 pounds more than the original, a cruiser built not for speed, but for comfort – a grave mistake to the Mustang aficionados that adored the “speed and power” reputation of the previous model.
The history of the Ford Mustang makes something undeniably clear, that in order to create a vehicle that will withstand the test of time it takes more than just a great car. It takes strategy, gumption, tenacity, and the ability to correct mistakes and stay the course during periods of difficulty.
First Generation (1965-1973)
The first-generation Ford Mustang ushered in a brand-new automobile category to the American public in March 1964, the Pony Car. Initially revealed as a hardtop and convertible, a fastback version went into production in August 1964. Earliest versions of the Mustang only had two seats, but Ford quickly realized by looking at the popularity of the Thunderbird that four seats were what consumers wanted to buy and moved to accommodate that. With each revision, the Mustang saw an increase in overall dimensions and engine power, solidifying its reputation as a speed king.
It even won the Tiffany Gold Medal award for its original 1964 ½ variation and is the only automobile to ever hold such an award. As it turns out, the Tiffany Gold Medal was more of a public relations stunt created in collaboration with the car’s creator, Henry Ford II, and the famed jewelers at Tiffany’s to drum up press and accolades to assist sales efforts as the car hit the market.
The 1971 model saw a drastic redesign to its predecessors, this change also a reaction to the perceived consumer desire for a more luxury vehicle. After an initial surge, sales steadily declined and it was said that “the speed business didn’t leave Mustang, Mustang left the speed business.” Luckily, as it became clear that oil prices were about to surge as tensions between the United States and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries continued to rise, Ford was prepared to pivot once again.
Second Generation (1974-1978)
The second generation ushered in an age of revival for the Mustang. In 1974, Ford premiered the smaller Mustang II based on the Ford Pinto, which used far less gas than its predecessor. This became an absolute necessity during the 1973 oil crisis. Consumers took notice and once again, the Mustang was on top.
Third Generation (1979-1993)
Sometimes called the “Foxbody Mustang”, The 1979 Mustang was based on the longer Fox platform. The interior was engineered to accommodate four people in comfort despite a smaller rear seat. The larger body meant the interior offered more space for four passengers, especially in the back seat, as well as a larger capacity trunk. On May 27, 1979, the all-new Mustang was chosen as the Official Pace Car of the Indianapolis 500. Ford commemorated this event with a mid-year addition "Indy 500" Pace Car model, and released a little over 10,000 units for public consumption. By the mid 80’s, sales of the Mustang were slumping, and Ford began considering a break from rear-wheel drive. It was only after fans of the rear-wheel Mustang wrote feverish letters to the company begging to save the Mustang that the company responded promised to keep it on the market.
Modern Generations (Fourth-Sixth)
For 1994, the Ford Mustang underwent its first major redesign in fifteen years, and Ford allocated $700 million to develop improvements. The design, code named "SN-95" by Ford was based on an updated version of the Fox platform. It featured styling by Bud Magaldi that incorporated some stylistic elements from classic Mustangs. A convertible returned, but the notchback and hatchback body styles used in the earlier Mustangs were not available and now formed a single fastback coupe body style. In February 2015, the Mustang earned a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for front, side, and rollover crash protection. Modern iterations of the Mustang are kept with their historical counterparts in the way of speed and are used as racers in a number of international professional racing competitions. As part of its fifth Generation, Ford unveiled the Ford Mustang GT, which stands apart from the V6 rental cars that boast over speed. The Mustang GT has eight cylinders of American fury under the hood and can rev from 0-60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, a speed that its predecessors would be proud of.