I was there. I attended the New York World’s Fair in 1964. It was a grand and spectacular event for a kid less than 10 years old. One of the events the Fair is best remembered for is the World Premier of the Ford Mustang. The Ford exhibit featured brand new 1964 models on a track that would take you on a trip through time. I was at the wheel of a brand-new convertible as we adventured through a land of dinosaurs. It couldn’t possibly get any better for a car-crazy kid! Our car was a Galaxie, but they had the new Mustangs too. To say that the car created a sensation would be a huge understatement. The stories of buyers camping out at dealerships to place orders are the stuff of legend. The public debut was April 17, 1964, and in March of 1966, Ford built the one millionth Mustang. It was one of the most successful new car launches in automotive history. While kids were buying Beatle records, adults were buying Mustangs. The concept of a compact yet sporty and stylish automobile at an attractive price is still attractive today, and so the Mustang is still with us, the longest-running Ford nameplate.
Not all Mustangs are created equal. This is another secret to the car’s success. A Mustang can be anything from an economical 6-cylinder convertible to a fire-breathing ultra-performance fastback coupe. Even early on the option list was extensive, and you could practically custom order your Mustang. There have been six distinct generations of Mustangs, and each still has its own rabid fan following.
Buyers had a heavy influence on the development of the Mustang. You may recall the outcry when Ford planned to go to a front-wheel drive platform. That concept became the Probe. It’s interesting that the Probe is gone, but the Mustang is still going strong. The original car was a small, inexpensive vehicle based on the compact Falcon platform. But sportiness and performance became more of a priority for buyers. So the first major restyle of the car involved a substantial increase in size to accommodate bigger engines. This was 1967. And GM joined the party with the Camaro and Firebird. Ford even added their own luxury/sport cruiser, the Mercury Cougar. A whole new category was taking shape, called the “pony car” in reference to the Mustang. Plymouth’s Barracuda technically beat the Mustang to market by a few weeks, but the revamped Valiant was no match for the Mustang in terms of public response. In 1970, Chrysler introduced a new Barracuda, along with the Dodge Challenger, and those cars have become classics in their own right. The American Motors Javelin and then the unique two-seat AMX meant that all the major American manufacturers were on board by 1970.
Few marques can match the Ford Mustang for its collectability, history, and stellar racing heritage. Indeed, the widespread acceptance and enthusiasm, along with the tremendous longevity of the nameplate is one of the all-time greatest achievements by any automaker anywhere in the world.
Volumes have been written about the performance legacy of the Mustang. Can you remain calm when the conversation turns to any of these adrenaline-inducing, historic names associated with the Ford Mustang?
- Tasca Ford
- Shelby GT350
- Cobra Jet
- Mach 1
- Boss 302
- Boss 429
- Mickey Thompson’s Mach 1
- Shelby GT500KR
It’s okay if you can’t. You don’t need to be a Ford fan or a Mustang fan, you’re just a car guy, and that’s a good thing!