motortopia’s Blog Posts 1 – 5 of 1,187
- Best Classic Cars for Warm Weather Cruisin'
- Wed Jul 10, 2013 | comment
- Kugel Thru The Firewall Brake and Clutch Assembly
- Fri Mar 1, 2013 | comment
- Revisited - 300 Horsepower, Under $10K
- Tue Jan 4, 2011 | comment
- Revisited - 300 Horsepower, Under $10K
- Tue Jan 4, 2011 | comment
- Cool Ride of the Week (July 01, 2010)
- Thu Jul 1, 2010 | 8 comments
9 Million Mustangs!
Apr 25, 2008 | Views: 747
- Celebrating the Mustang
- 15 photos
The Mustang was introduced in 1964 as a direct response to the Chevrolet Corvair Monza. The Corvair, introduced in late 1959 as a 1960 model, was originally intended to compete against the Ford Falcon as an economy car. But later in 1960, when Chevy introduced the Corvair Monza coupe with bucket seats and a 4-speed manual transmission, it created a whole new niche market for small sporty cars.
Ford saw the potential in this new market, and started working on their own answer to the Corvair. Interestingly, the first Mustang concept that was shown was actually a rear-engined car, like the Corvair. However, instead of an air-cooled flat-6, the Mustang concept car used a water-cooled 4-cylinder sourced from the front-wheel-drive Cardinal/Taunus from their German division. It was created in an amazing 60 days and shown in the fall of 1961. Although well-received, Ford deemed the Mustang I too expensive to produce, and the 2-seater concept car was also too impractical.
By 1962, Ford had produced several new styling mockups that met the following requirements (again, to compete against the Corvair): a $2500 target price; a 2500 lb. curb weight; 180-inch overall length; seating for four; floor-mounted manual shifter; and maximum use of Ford Falcon parts. Eventually, the design you see in the picture above was chosen as the winner. (Note the Corvair in the background, being used for comparison.) It is also interesting to note how the concept featured fake side air intake vents in front of the rear wheels, an homage to the earlier rear-engined Mustang I concept that needed those vents for cooling. Even today, the Mustang has retained that styling cue.
Prior to the launch of the Mustang as a 1964 1/2 model, Ford pulled out all the stops and produced one of the largest and most brilliant marketing blitzes in history. And it worked. The car was unveiled on April 16, 1964, to 29 million TV viewers, as it bought time on all three networks during the 9 pm time slot. The next morning, over 2600 newspapers carried ads and articles about the new car, and it was shown to the public at the New York World's Fair.
All their effort paid off: "Mustang Fever" hit the nation. There were all sorts of crazy stories going around. One trucker was so distracted by a Mustang in a San Francisco showroom that he drove right through the window. A Chicago dealer had to lock its doors to keep people from rushing in and crushing the cars -- and each other. A Pittsburgh retailer hoisted his only Mustang on a lube rack, only to find crowds pressing in so thick and fast that he couldn't get the car down until suppertime. Another dealer found itself with 15 customers wanting to buy the same new Mustang, so the car was auctioned. The winning bidder insisted on sleeping in it until his check cleared.
Ford clearly had a hit. In fact, in its first year, the Mustang set an industry record for first-year sales. The Mustang looked good, was priced right, and had a long list of options, so people could really personalize the car and make it their own. It was also cheaper to produce than Chevy's rival Corvair, since it was based on the Ford Falcon. It could also use the Ford engines out of their other models, so you could get an inline-6 if you wanted economy, and it was just as easy for Ford to drop in a big V8 if you wanted performance. The success of the Mustang smothered the Corvair, and Chevy soon realized they needed something other than the Corvair to compete. Hence, the Camaro (and Firebird) was created as a direct response, and introduced in 1967.
The Mustang continued, and grew larger and more powerful in the 60s and early 70s. In 1967, the big block V8s were available with 300+ horsepower. By 1971, you could get a 375 hp 429 Super Cobra Jet V8. Also, during these years, Carroll Shelby produced the legendary GT350 and GT500 models.
Then, in 1974, Ford made a drastic change by introducing the Mustang II. The Mustang II was originally to be based on the smaller Ford Maverick, but Lee Iacocca decided it should be based on the even smaller Ford Pinto. It was meant to compete with the Toyota Celica and the Mercury Capri. When it was introduced, you could only get a 4-cylinder or a V6. Gone were the powerful V8s you could get in the previous Mustang. In 1975, a V8 was finally offered, but only with a 2-barrel carburetor. It only produced 140 hp.
Surprisingly, the Mustang II sold really well. Over 400,000 were sold in 1974, and four of the five years of the Mustang II are in the top-ten best selling Mustang years ever. In 1976, the Cobra was introduced, and in 1977 the King Cobra was introduced to try and give it a performance image.
In 1979, Ford again redesigned the Mustang. This time, it was based on the Fox platform of the Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr. It was larger, and completely restyled. Again, the top engined was a 140 hp V8. However, during the mid-80s, Ford started increasing the power available in the Mustang. Ford offered two ways to get your speed on: the turbo-charged 4-cylinder SVO or the V8 GT.
But, sales were slumping. Ford decided the Mustang had lost its way again, and decided to replace it with a Mazda-based front wheel drive car. Mustang fans went nuts, and bombarded Ford with hundreds of thousands of letters. Ford changed their mind and decided to keep the rear-wheel-drive Mustang. The proposed front-wheel-drive Mustang replacement was released as the Ford Probe.
In 1987, Ford refocused itself on the Mustang, and gave it a styling update. Ford and Chevy started pushing each other to make the Mustang and Camaro faster. Ford introduced models like the SVT Cobra and Cobra R, while Chevy fired back with the IROC Z.
In 1994, Ford redesigned the Mustang again. This time, it was based on an updated version of the same Fox platform and featured dramatic new styling. Power eventually increased to almost 400 hp, and the Cobras even featured a new independent rear suspension.
In 2002, GM killed off the Camaro and Firebird, leaving the Mustang as the sole American-made pony car. But Ford didn't stand idly by. In 2004, they introduced a completely redesign Mustang based on an all-new platform with "retro-futurism" styling. The new Mustang looked moderan, but also clearly had styling cues from the 1967-68 Mustangs.
This current Mustang is available in several models. These include the base Mustang and Mustang GT, as well as several performance-oriented special editions, like the Bullitt, Shelby GT, Shelby GT-H, Shelby GT500, and the 500+ hp Shelby GT500KR.
For now, the Mustang is the king of the road when it comes to American muscle. However, the new Dodge Challenger is right around the corner, and Chevrolet is reintroducing the Camaro in 2010 to give the Mustang some more competition. But it is the Mustang that is here right now, and it is the Mustang that is truly a part of the American culture.
Check out the photo album to see some pictures of Mustangs, and tell us your Mustang stories in the comments.
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