The Complete History of the Ford Mustang

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Car companies routinely alter their signature vehicles to perform better and faster. From child-friendly SUVs to intense midsize pickup trucks to fast sports cars, vehicles change a lot over time. This includes America’s favorite muscle car: the Ford Mustang. Any Ford fan must know the complete history of the Ford Mustang to learn how it went from a gas-guzzling fastback in 1964 to a sleek, electric roadster in 2021. Even the Mustang’s MSRP prices have changed dramatically from 1979 to today’s models.

Beginnings (1964-1978)

In 1964, Ford released its debut muscle car, the Ford Mustang. The first generation sought to market a sleek, fast vehicle. Ford initially expected light sales, but the car appeared in over 2,600 newspapers. The company made several upgrades following the initial reveal; back-up lights, alternators, an upgraded engine, and a facelift, to name a few. By 1969, the Mustang had more heft to its body, and its weight increased greatly. The Mustang soon proved to be a fierce competitor against other famous muscle cars of the era, such as the Chevrolet Camaro, Plymouth Barracuda, and Pontiac Firebird. Using a Falcon-based chassis, other models such as the GT500 and Mach-1 debuted in 1967 and 1969, respectively.

The 1973 recession hit Ford hard, and the company had to downsize its second-generation Mustang II to a Pinto chassis. Handling and engineering features greatly reduced the performance.

Major Restyling (1979-2004)

The third and fourth generations of Mustangs were bigger with the new Fox platform. This larger body increased the wheelbase and the interior passenger space. This style became known for its rectangular “four-eye” headlight design. The car saw various stylistic changes in the 1980s, and in 1993, Ford introduced the new Special Vehicle team (SVT) division, which included the Mustang SVT Cobra and Cobra R. The fourth-generation Mustangs included an updated four-wheel drive Fox platform and V6 engine. The end of the 90s featured a New Edge styling theme with sharper contours, larger wheel arches, and bodywork creases. 

Today’s Sports Car (2005-Present)

Finally, in the mid-2000s, the Mustang became the car we see on the streets today. Ford’s redesign for the fifth-generation Mustang was based on a D2C platform to promote a retro-futuristic appreciation of the 1960s and 1970s fastback. The 2009 Mustangs featured redesigned exteriors, LED taillights, and a reduced drag coefficient of 4% for base models and 7% for GTs. The engine remained unchanged, but spring rates, dampers, traction, stability control, and wheel sizes all changed. This latest generation of Mustangs featured a widened body, a trapezoidal grill, a lower decklid, new colors, and a new independent rear suspension system specific for this model. In 2015, Ford issued a recall of 19,486 vehicles for production issues.

As of 2019, Ford has released a peek into the new 2020/2021 Mustangs—and interestingly, they’re electric. The Mustang Mach-E is an electric crossover with rear-wheel and all-wheel drive, a 300-mile range, and different trim options. This is an interesting shift all the way back to the 1964 model.