The Ford Mustang, America’s Classic Sports Car

In the early 1960’s Ford Motor Company was still reeling from the embarrassment that the Ford Edsel, released in the mid 1950’s and named after the founder’s son, had brought to the company. Executives including Lee Iacocca wanted something smart, exciting, and modern that would appeal to a younger American demographic.

The Mustang’s Origins

Iacocca and others looked at the Ford Falcon, originally designed by Ford president Robert McNamara (who later became Defense Secretary in the Kennedy Administration), as a starting point for something to shake up the auto world. Despite selling 400,000 units when it debuted in 1960, the Falcon was disliked by many at Ford as having a boring design and a low profit margin.

Ford’s product planner, Donald Frey, received the go-ahead in August, 1962, to design a car that would re-make the company’s image. He headed up a design team that took the Ford Falcon frame and redesigned the body with an eye to building their new model “as cheaply and simply as possible.” To capture the sense of adventure and excitement they wanted their new car to evoke in the public’s imagination they named it after a the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter plane.

The Mustang’s Design

The Mustang’s target audience was the under 30 year old car buyer who was projected to account for more than half the new car sales in the coming years. oday, if you want to sale your car you take your car to any display showroom and you come to know that selling car today is also tough than it was in 1960. It borrowed design elements from the Pontiac Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental Mark II, with its clean, sharp lines, extended hood, and short rear deck.

The Mustang also had bucket seats, a feature that was a definite statement at that time in automobile styling. Bucket seats, a relatively new item in cars of that era, invoked a feeling of speed, independence and freedom that was the exact opposite of the standard bench seat found in most cars.

The Mustang’s Publicity Campaign

The Ford Mustang was one of the most anticipated products in American history and the most hyped car since the Ford Model A. During the months preceding its debut a teaser campaign heightened the public’s awareness and interest in the car. “Secret” photos of the Mustang were leaked by Ford to create more of a buzz. Life Magazine called it “the sports car for the masses” while the Tiffany Company gave it a design award before the public had even seen it.

The Mustang was finally introduced to great fanfare on April 17, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. It retailed for $2,368.00, just a little more than the Volkswagen Beetle. Most buyers chose from a long list of available options which typically added another $1,000.00 to the car’s final price.

The Mustang’s Success

Ford received 22,000 orders the first day and sold 400,000 units the first year. The Mustang ushered in the era of the “muscle car” with other car makers designing the Firebird, Camaro, Barracuda, and Marlin to compete with Ford’s popular sports car.

The Mustang quickly achieved the status of a cultural icon in America. It was celebrated in Wilson Pickett’s song “Mustang Sally”, co-starred in Steve McQueen’s movie “Bullitt”, the music video “Ice, Baby Ice”, and the movie “Gone In 60 Seconds.”

A new model Mustang was released in 2004 with design features that paid homage to its predecessors from 1966 and ‘67. The successful sales and reviews bodes well for the Mustang’s place with a new generation of car buyers.