The Ford Mustang, an iconic American automobile series by Ford, has been a mainstay since 1964, holding the record as Ford's longest-running car nameplate. Currently in its seventh generation, it leads as a top-selling Ford car, defining the sleek "pony car" class with its distinctive design.

Originally expected to sell 100,000 units annually, the 1965 Mustang exceeded projections, achieving remarkable success after its April 17, 1964 debut. Within a year, over 400,000 units were sold, hitting the one-million mark within two years. In August 2018, Ford celebrated its 10-millionth Mustang production, echoing the original 1965 model—a 2019 Wimbledon White convertible with a V8 engine.

The Mustang's triumph ignited competition from rival American manufacturers, spawning contenders like the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, AMC Javelin, and Dodge Challenger. Globally, its influence inspired coupe designs such as the Toyota Celica and Ford Capri. Additionally, the Mercury Cougar emerged in 1967 as a luxurious alternative to the Mustang.

From 1965 to 2004, the Mustang shared its rear-wheel-drive chassis with other Ford models, initially based on the 1960 Ford Falcon compact. It later adopted the Fox platform until 2004, before introducing two unique generations since 2005.

(For Shelby variants, read Shelby Mustang)[]


Executive stylist John Najjar, an admirer of the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter plane, is attributed by Ford as the individual who proposed the name "Mustang." Najjar collaborated with fellow Ford stylist Philip T. Clark to co-design the inaugural prototype of the Ford Mustang, dubbed the "Ford Mustang I," in 1961. This prototype was unveiled at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York, on October 7, 1962, with test driver and contemporary Formula One race driver Dan Gurney showcasing its capabilities by lapping the track in a demonstration using the second "race" prototype.

P-51 Mustang

Robert J. Eggert, Ford's market research manager, proposed the name "Mustang" after receiving the book "The Mustangs" in 1960. Inspired by this gift, Eggert considered it for Ford's new concept car. Despite other suggestions like Cougar or Torino, Henry Ford II favored "T-bird II." However, Eggert included "Mustang" in the list for focus group evaluation, where it emerged as the top choice for its suitability as the car's name.

However, the name "Mustang" could not be used in Germany due to trademark issues. Krupp, a company that had produced trucks under the "Mustang" name from 1951 to 1964, owned the rights to the name. Ford declined to purchase the name from Krupp for approximately US$10,000 (equivalent to $98,240 in 2023) at the time. Consequently, Mustangs were sold in Germany as "T-5s" until December 1978. Additionally, Kreidler, a moped manufacturer, also used the name "Mustang," further complicating its use in Germany.

First Generation - 1965[]

Ford Mustang (First Generation)

Donald N. Frey, as Lee Iacocca's assistant general manager and chief engineer, spearheaded the T-5 project, overseeing its development within a remarkable 18-month timeframe. Concurrently, Iacocca played a pivotal role in advocating for the project while serving as the Ford Division general manager. The T-5 prototype emerged as a two-seat roadster with a mid-mounted engine, featuring the German Ford Taunus V4 engine.

Production of the car began in Dearborn, Michigan on March 9, 1964, with sales starting quickly on April 14, 1964, in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, before its official debut at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964. Initially available as a two-door hardtop and convertible, a "2+2" fastback was added in September 1964. Notably, a Wimbledon White convertible appeared at Goldfinger's London premiere on September 17, 1964, and a Tropical Turquoise coupe was showcased at Thunderball's Tokyo premiere on December 9, 1965.

Unconventional Debut (1964½)[]

The Ford Mustang initiated production five months ahead of the usual start of the 1965 production year. Although commonly referred to as "1964½ models," all Mustangs were officially advertised, VIN coded, and titled by Ford as 1965 models. Nonetheless, minor design updates introduced in August 1964, coinciding with the formal start of the 1965 production year, led to the differentiation of 19641⁄2 production data from that of 1965 (refer to data below).

1965 Fastback

Production commenced in Dearborn, Michigan, on March 9, 1964, and remarkably, the new car was first sold to the public on April 14, 1964, at a Ford dealership in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, preceding its official introduction at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964. Available body styles included a two-door hardtop and convertible, with a "2+2" fastback joining the lineup in September 1964. Notably, a Wimbledon White convertible with red interior was prominently featured in the James Bond movie Goldfinger during its London premiere on September 17, 1964, while a Tropical Turquoise coupe appeared in the subsequent film Thunderball during its Tokyo premiere on December 9, 1965.

The day following its "official" unveiling, the Mustang garnered favorable publicity with articles appearing in 2,600 newspapers. Standard features included a four-seat configuration with ample space for the front bucket seats and a rear bench seat. The introduction of the "fastback 2+2," which began production on August 17, 1964, showcased a design that enclosed the trunk space under a sweeping exterior line reminiscent of iconic sports cars like the second series Corvette Sting Ray and the Jaguar E-Type coupe.

Affordability and unprecedented sales[]

The Mustang achieved its advertised list price of US$2,368 by utilizing familiar and simple components, many of which were already in use for other Ford models. Components for the interior, chassis, suspension, and drivetrain were largely derived from Ford's Falcon and Fairlane, streamlining assembly and repair processes. This strategy also minimized the need for additional spare parts inventory for dealers. Initial sales forecasts projected fewer than 100,000 units for the first year, but this was surpassed within three months of rollout. A record-breaking 318,000 units were sold during the model year, and within the first eighteen months, over one million Mustangs were built.


1967 Hardtop

Changes at the outset of the new model year in August 1964 included various upgrades such as the addition of back-up lights on certain models, the introduction of alternators to replace generators, and enhancements to the engine options. The six-cylinder engine was upgraded from 170 to 200 cubic inches with a power increase from 101 to 120 horsepower, while the V8 engine saw an increase from 260 to 289 cubic inches with a power boost from 164 to 210 horsepower. These modifications, along with some unique quirks like the horn ring bearing the 'Ford Falcon' logo covered by a trim ring with a 'Ford Mustang' logo, led to the designation of the early versions as "1964½" Mustangs.

Subsequent redesigns occurred, with Ford's designers conceptualizing larger versions even as the original model achieved sales success. Lee Iacocca, though expressing dissatisfaction with the Mustang's growth, oversaw the 1967 redesign. From 1967 to 1973, the Mustang grew in size but not necessarily in power. Facelifts and upgrades were implemented during this period, with safety regulations influencing design changes. The 1968 models introduced a new 302 cubic inch V8 engine and incorporated safety features mandated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The 1969 restyling brought about a larger and more aggressive-looking body, featuring quad headlamps. However, the extreme styling of the 1969 model was toned down in the 1970 models to improve sales, though production for 1969 exceeded that of 1970.


Starting in 1969, several new performance and decorative options were introduced to boost sales and maintain the Mustang's successful formula. These options included functional and non-functional air scoops, hood tie-downs, and various spoilers. Performance packages such as the Mach 1, Boss 302, and Boss 429 were introduced, with the Boss models aimed at homologating engines for racing purposes. The GT option was discontinued after the 1969 model year, only to return for the third-generation Mustang in 1982. Another model introduced exclusively as a hardtop, the Grandé, gained popularity in 1969 due to its smooth ride, luxurious trim, additional sound deadening, and simulated wood trim.

Sales fluctuation[]

1973 Ford Mustang (Sportsroof)

Under the leadership of S. "Bunkie" Knudsen, the Mustang evolved from a focus on speed and power to meet the increasing consumer demand for larger and heavier luxury-style designs. This transition resulted in what has been termed the styling missteps of 1971–73, during which the Mustang became larger and less dynamic. By 1971, Ford had largely moved away from prioritizing high-performance vehicles. This period marked the final significant redesign of the first-generation Mustang. The cars grew in size, with increases in every dimension except height, and gained approximately 800 pounds in weight. The redesign aimed to create an illusion of even greater size. The 1971 Mustang was notably wider than its predecessor, with widened front and rear tracks, particularly evident in the SportsRoof models with their almost flat rear roofline. The interior also suffered, with cramped conditions and poor visibility for the driver. Performance declined alongside dwindling sales, as consumers shifted their preferences towards smaller models like the Pinto and Maverick. Lee Iacocca, displeased with these developments, later remarked, "The Mustang market never left us, we left it."

Second generation (1974)[]

Iacocca, a key figure behind the original Mustang, assumed the presidency of Ford Motor Company in 1970 and initiated the development of a smaller, more fuel-efficient Mustang for 1974. Initially intended to be based on the Ford Maverick, the new model, named the "Mustang II," ultimately took its foundation from the Ford Pinto subcompact. Launched on September 21, 1973, just two months before the onset of the first 1973 oil crisis, the downsized Mustang II aimed to compete with popular imported sports coupes like the Japanese Datsun 240Z, Toyota Celica, and the European Ford Capri (then sold in the U.S. by Mercury as a captive import car). Additionally, it later faced competition from models like the Chevrolet Monza, Pontiac Sunbird, Oldsmobile Starfire, and Buick Skyhawk. Initial sales of the Mustang II reached 385,993 cars, slightly lower than the original Mustang's record of 418,812 cars sold in its first twelve months. The Mustang II marked an early instance of downsizing among Detroit's Big Three during the "malaise era."

1974 Ford Mustang Ghia

Iacocca aimed for the new Mustang to resemble its 1965 predecessor in size, shape, and overall styling, striving for a high standard of finish, describing it as "a little jewel." Despite its smaller size compared to the original, the Mustang II was actually heavier due to additional equipment required to comply with new U.S. emission and safety regulations. Performance suffered as a result, and even though the car featured new handling and engineering enhancements, the galloping mustang emblem now represented a less muscular image, akin to a cantering steed.

Engine options for the 1974 models included the 2.3 L I4 from the Pinto and the 2.8 L Cologne V6 from the Mercury Capri. The 1975 model year saw the reintroduction of the 302 cu in (4.9 L) Windsor V8, available only with the C-4 automatic transmission, power brakes, and power steering, a configuration that persisted until production ceased in 1978. The car was offered in coupe and hatchback versions, with a "luxury" Ghia model designed by Ghia of Italy, a company recently acquired by Ford. The coupe, marketed as a "hardtop," featured a thin "B" pillar and rear quarter windows that did not roll down. The "Ghia" variant boasted a padded vinyl roof and smaller rear quarter windows from the 1975 models onwards, presenting a more formal appearance. Various trim packages were introduced over the production years, including the Mach 1, Stallion, Cobra II, and King Cobra, with hatchback models from 1977–1978 available with a T-top roof option.

Third generation (1979)[]

1979 Ford Mustang notchback coupe

The 1979 Mustang transitioned to the larger Fox platform, which was initially developed for the 1978 Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr. This larger body, with an increased wheelbase, provided more interior space for four passengers, especially in the back seat, along with a larger trunk capacity and a bigger engine bay.

Various body styles were available, including a coupe (or notchback), hatchback, and convertible, which was introduced for the 1983 model year. Trim levels ranged from an unnamed base model to options like Ghia, Cobra, L, GL, GLX, GT, Turbo GT, LX, GT-350 20th-anniversary edition, SVO, and Cobra R.

Engines and drivetrains carried over from the Mustang II, including the 2.3 L I4, 2.8 L V6, and 4.9 L V8. A troublesome 2.3 L turbocharged I4 was initially offered and reappeared later with improvements for the mid-year introduction of the 1983 turbo GT. The 2.8 L V6 was replaced with a 3.3 L I6 engine during the 1979 model year, eventually replaced by a new 3.8 L V6 for 1983. The 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 was replaced with a smaller 4.2 L V8, then with the high output 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 for 1982.

From 1979 to 1986, the Capri was domestically produced as a Mercury-badged version of the Mustang, with a few styling differences.

The third-generation Mustang featured two distinct front-end styles. From 1979 to 1986, it had an angled back front end with four rectangular headlights, nicknamed "four eyes" by enthusiasts. For the 1987 to 1993 model years, the front end was restyled to reflect the contemporary rounded-off "aero" style, using flush-composite headlamps and a smooth grille-less nose.

In 1979, the Mustang was selected as the Official Indianapolis 500 Pace Car, with replicas sold to the public. The special body-appearance parts of this model were later adapted for the Cobra package in 1980–81.

The Mustang GT returned in 1982, replacing the Cobra, with a specially modified high-output 302 cu in (4.9 L) engine.

1983 marked the return of the Mustang convertible after a nine-year absence. Front fascias of all Mustangs were restyled, featuring new grilles with "blue oval" Ford emblems for the first time.

In 1984, the high-performance Mustang SVO was introduced, featuring a 2.3 L turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder engine along with unique bodywork.

The 20th anniversary of the Mustang was celebrated with a special GT350 model in 1984. In 1985, further front fascia restyling was implemented.

During the early 1980s, due to poor sales and rising fuel prices, a new Mustang variant was proposed, based on the Mazda MX-6 and assembled at AutoAlliance International in Flat Rock, Michigan. However, due to objections from enthusiasts, this plan was abandoned, leading to the continuation of the existing Mustang. The Mazda MX-6 variant was renamed Probe and released as a 1989 model.

A major restyling of the Mustang occurred in 1987, including interior changes, which remained in place until the end of the 1993 model year. Additionally, under the newly established Ford SVT division, special high-performance models, such as the 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra and Cobra R, were introduced.