The Ford Mustang is an American automobile, originally based on the Ford Falcon compact named after the Southern Methodist University Mascot. The first production Mu...More »
The Ford Mustang is an American automobile, originally based on the Ford Falcon compact named after the Southern Methodist University Mascot. The first production Mustang, a white convertible with red interior rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan on March 9, 1964. Introduced to the public at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964, and via all three American television networks on April 19, it was the most successful product launch in automotive history, setting off near-pandemonium at Ford dealers across the continent. The original Mustang inspired the term pony car and prompted many imitators. The Mustang's combination of sporty design, low price, and overall performance allowed it to sell over one million units in its first 18 months on the market. After a number of different generations and redesigns, the Mustang remains available today.
Though the Mustang features equine artwork throughout, it was named after the World War II-era P-51 Mustang.
Surprisingly, for all its style and well-marketed sporty design, the Mustang was based heavily on familiar, yet simple components. Much of the chassis, suspension, and drive train was derived from the Ford Falcon and Ford Fairlane. The car had a unitized platform-type frame from the 1964 Falcon, and welcoming box-section side rails, including five welded crossmembers. Although hardtop Mustangs were the majority in sales, durability problems with the new frame led to the unusual step of engineering the (necessarily less rigid) convertible first, which ensured adequate stiffness. Overall length of the Mustang and Falcon was identical, at 181.6 in (4613 mm), although the Mustang's wheelbase at 108 in (2743 mm) was slightly shorter. With an overall width of 68.2 in (1732 mm), it was 3.4 in (86 mm) narrower, although wheel track was nearly identical. Shipping weight, about 2570 lb (1170 kg) with six-cylinder engine, was also similar. A full-equipped, V8 model weighed about 3000 lb (1360 kg).
Built to order
Much of the appeal (and the high profit) in such a low-priced car came from the options list. The Mustang's long list of optional equipment has enabled buyers to fully customize their cars to their tastes and budgets. It also resulted in typical transaction prices hundreds of dollars above the base price, making the Mustang profitable not only for the dealer but also for the manufacturer.
The option list included several power train combinations; the buyer could choose a 3 speed or four-speed manual transmission]] ($115.90 or $188.00 with six-cylinder or eight-cylinder engines, respectively) or the three-speed Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission ($179.80 or $189.60). The standard six-cylinder engine could be replaced with a 164 hp (122 kW) 260 in³ (4.2 L) for $116.00 or a 210 hp (157 kW) 289 in³ (4.7 L) V8. Boasting the V8 and four-speed manual, the Mustang Road & Track recorded a 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) time of 8.9 seconds, with the standing quarter mile in 17 seconds at 85 mph. Starting in June 1964, the new 271 hp (202 kW) "K-code" High Performance engine became available. At $442.60 (not counting the mandatory four-speed transmission you had to get on a K code engine) it was the single most expensive Mustang option, and only 7,273 of the 680,992 Mustangs sold in 1965 were equipped. With a skilled driver, K-code/4-speed equipped Mustangs could do 0-60 in around 6 seconds, and put down mid 14-second ¼ mile times with ease.
Other options included: limited-slip differential, styled wheels and wheel covers, power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, center console, a vinyl top, various radios, a bench seat, and various other accessories. Disc brakes for the front wheels became optional later in 1965. The list would continue to grow through much of the Mustang's history, in which added trim packages like the Interior Decor Group (or "pony interior") and GT package (which included disc brakes, a handling package with stiffer springs, shock absorbers, stiffer front anti-roll bar, fast-ratio steering, and duel exhaust . Additional engine choices and convenience items are well known for the Mustang.
Coming to market
Because the timing of the car's introduction coincided perfectly with the first wave of the postwar "baby boom", the Mustang entered the market with a strong force, which was heading off to work in a strong economy. Incredibly, no domestic manufacturer up until that time had anything that remotely resembled an affordable, yet youthful and sophisticated automobile aimed at this burgeoning market, and Iacocca knew it. Despite his repeated attempts to receive the go-ahead to produce such a car, his proposals fell on mostly deaf ears. Although the company was still smarting financially after the demise of the Edsel Division in late 1959, upper management at Ford under Robert McNamara (later United States Secretary of Defense under Lyndon Johnson) wasn't willing to take such a major risk.
Still, Iacocca persevered and was given the green light to produce the Mustang in mid-1962, which gave the design team only eighteen months to design and develop the car. Not only did the project wrap up in under eighteen months, it wrapped up under budget, thanks to the decision for the use of many existing mechanical parts as possible. As far as the design itself was concerned, Ford stylists basically threw out the company handbook on design limitations. This single handedly pushed the stamp of technology of the time to its limit in such design areas as the sweep of the rear lower valence and the remarkably complicated front end stampings and castings. Curved side glass was used as well, but at a stern price considering the technology to produce distortion-free curved safety glass was still in its early stages. Though most of the mechanical parts were directly taken from the Falcon, the Mustang's body shell was completely different from the Falcon's, sporting a shorter wheelbase, wider track, lower seating position, and overall height. An industry first, The "torque box," was an innovative structural system that greatly stiffened the Mustang's unitized body construction and further helped contribute to its excellent handling; at least compared to other cars of the time.
When the Mustang hit the market, there was nothing like it. It was perfect for young hip adults and the talk of the new teen power scene.
From sporty car to sports car
Some minor changes to the Mustang occurred at the start of 1965 model year production, a mere five months after its introduction. First was an almost complete change to the engine lineup. The 170 in³ (2.8 L) I6 engine made way for a new 200 in³ (3.3 L) version which had 120 hp (89 kW) at 4400 rpm and 190 ft·lbf (258 N•m) at 2400 rpm. Production of the 260 in³ (4.2 L) engine ended with the close of the 1964 model year. With a new, two-barrel carbureted 200 hp (149 kW) 289 in³ (4.7 L) engine taking its place as the base V8, people started to get excited. A 225 hp (168 kW) four-barrel 289 in³ (4.7 L) was next in line, followed by the unchanged "Hi-Po" 289. The DC generator was replaced by a new AC alternator on all Fords and the now-famous Mustang GT was introduced. Available was a four-barrel engine with any body style. Additionally, reverse lights were an option added to the car in 1965. Originally, the Mustang was available as either a hardtop or convertible. During the car's early design phases, however, a fastback model was strongly considered. The Mustang 2+2 fastback made its inaugural debut with its swept-back rear glass and distinctive ventilation louvers.
A machine built for the ages, Carroll Shelby converted (with Ford Motor Company's blessing), a special model designed with only two things in mind; winning races and beating the Chevrolet Corvette. Designated simply as the "GT-350", these purpose-built performance cars started as "Wimbledon White" fastbacks with black interiors. The fastbacks were shipped from the San Jose, California assembly plant and fitted with a Hi-Po 289, four-speed manual transmission, and included front disc brakes. Also shortened hoods and rear seats with identifying trim were among other visual variations. These few cars were converted to street, road racing, and drag cars in Shelby's plant at Los Angeles International Airport.
Modifications to both the street and racing versions included: side-exiting exhausts, Shelby 15 in (380 mm) magnesium wheels (though some early cars were fitted with the factory steel wheels), fiberglass hoods with functional scoops, relocated front control arms, (to reduce understeer and neutralize handling), quicker steering, Koni shock absorbers, a Detroit Locker rear end with Ford Galaxie drum brakes, metallic brake linings at all four corners, rear-mounted batteries, rear anti-sway bars with souped-up front anti-sway bar, dash-mounted gauges, a fiberglass parcel shelf and spare tire holder where the rear seat was intended to be. Among other engine modifications, considerable overhaul boosted output to 306 hp (228 kW). Hot Rod Magazine recorded a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds.
When Ford stiffened the car's basic body structure, they included a front angled brace intended for the export models and so-called "Monte Carlo" bar; triangulating the under-hood shock absorber towers. Though Shelby's influence on the car diminished as Ford's grew, the 1965 to 1970 GT-350 and its "big-block" brother, the 1967 to 1970 GT-500 are among the most sought-after, and valued automobiles in the world; so too are the high-performance models offered over the years by other automotive tuners following in Shelby's footsteps.
Carroll Shelby also had a special GT500 in mind, called the Super Snake. Instead of the 428, the Super Snake got an all aluminum version of the upgraded side-oiler FE motor in the 427 S/C Shelby Cobra, estimated at around 600 horsepower. Unfortunately, the staggering sticker price offset the public's interest in this concept, and only one was ever documented, with that one still in existence today.
The industry reacts
In its first two years of production, three Ford Motor Company plants in San Jose, California; Dearborn, Michigan; and Metuchen, New Jersey produced nearly 1.5 million Mustangs, a record unequalled before or since. It was a success that left General Motors utterly unprepared and the Chrysler Corporation only slightly less so. Chrysler had just introduced a car only a few weeks before that would be a competitor, the Plymouth Barracuda. Though the "'Cuda" would grow into one of the most revered muscle cars of all time, it started out at as just a Plymouth Valiant with a hastily grafted fastback rear window. As for GM, they were certain that they had a Mustang fighter in their rear-engine Corvair Monza, but sales figures didn't even come close. The Monza was a fine performer, but boasted a six-cylinder, not competing to the Mustang's available eight-cylinder. It took GM until the 1967 model year to counter with the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. Even Lincoln-Mercury joined the fray in 1967 with the introduction of an "upmarket Mustang" (and subsequent Motor Trend Car of the Year), the Mercury Cougar. The Cougar name had originally been given to the Mustang during the development phase. In 1968 American Motors (AMC) would introduce the Javelin and later, the 2-seat high-performance AMX. This genre of small, sporty, and often powerful automobiles was unofficially dubbed the "pony car" as a tribute to the car that started it all. The 1968 Mustang fastback gained pop culture status when it was used to great effect as Steve McQueen's car of choice in the crime thriller Bullitt. The Mustang was pitted against the Dodge Charger in the film's famous car chase through the streets of San Francisco. The Mustang also got a boost in its already high-performance image when Holman-Moody racing ordered 15 1966 Mustangs for use in the A/FX drag racing class. These Mustangs were turned into brutes, thanks to the incredible 427 Single-overhead-cam Hemi-headed V-8. Seriously underrated at 657 horsepower with 2-4bbls, these motors were absolute screamers, redlining at over 10000 rpm. Drivers routinely made passes in the mid-10's, with trap speeds around 130-135 mph, not too shabby considering the pathetic traction that slicks of the day provided, not to mention the mustang's aerodynamics (or rather, lack thereof).
The Mustang grows up
The 1966 Mustang debuted with only moderate trim changes, and a few new options such as an automatic transmission for the "Hi-Po," a new interior and exterior colors, an AM/eight-track "Stereosonic" sound system, and one of the first AM/FM monaural radios available in any car. The 1967 model year would see the first of the Mustang's many major redesigns with the installation of big-block V8 engines in mind. The high-performance 289 option now took a supporting role on the option sheet behind a massive 335 hp 390 in³ (6.4 L) engine direct from the Thunderbird, which was equipped with a four-barrel carburetor. Stock 390/4speed equipped Mustangs of the day were recording ¼ mile times of mid 13's , with trap speeds of over 105 mph. A drag racer for the street took a stand during the middle of the 1968 model year, as the 428 Cobra Jet (7.0 L) officially rated at 335 hp (250 kW), but in reality producing well in excess of 400 hp. 1969 saw the introduction of both the car's third body style and a hand-built muscle car intended solely to satisfy the homologation rules of NASCAR, the Boss 429.
Available in 1969 and 1970 only, with a standard Mustang SportsRoof (the new corporate name for the fastback) and the new Mach 1 muscle car version's deluxe interior, the Boss 429 sported none of the garish decals and paint schemes of the day. Only a hood scoop and 15 in (380 mm) "Magnum 500" wheels fitted with Goodyear "Polyglas" tires, with a small "BOSS 429" decal on each front fender, hinted that most powerful Ford V8 of all time was fitted under the hood. Ford intentionally underrated the Boss 429 for advantages both in racing as well as insurability at 375 hp (280 kW) and 450 ft·lbf (610 N•m) of torque. Several dynos showed it to be more around 500-525 horsepower, at very high rpm however. Even with racing touches straight from the factory such as aluminum heads with hemispherical combustion chambers, along with a combination of O-rings and seals in place of head gaskets, it was believed that yet another 75 to 100 hp (50 to 75 kW) was on tap once the single four-barrel carburetor, intake, the restrictive factory exhaust system, and engine speed governor were either replaced or removed. While power steering was a "mandatory option" on the Boss 429, neither an automatic transmission nor air conditioning was available. In the case of the latter, there simply wasn't enough room under the hood. It should be noted that due to the extremely free breathing capabilities of these heads, combined with the smallish carburetor(the Boss 302 had a larger one) and restrictive exhaust, it wasn't necessarily the best choice for a street car, especially since the rev limiter was locking in its revving potential. The Boss 429 made its power in a significantly higher RPM range than most other big block street cars, much like the 426 street hemis, and of course street racing was prevalent in the day. Owners of these could often be surprised by "lesser" cars of the day in stop light drag racing.
Also available during that two-year period was another homologation special for the up-and-coming sport of Trans-American sedan racing. The Boss 302 was Ford's attempt to mix the power of a muscle car with the handling prowess of a sports car. The automotive press gushed over the result, deeming it the car "the GT-350 should have been." Boasting a graphic scheme penned by Ford designer Larry Shinoda, the "Baby Boss" was powered by an engine that was essentially a combination of the new-for-1968 302 in³ (4.9 L) V8 and topped with cylinder heads from the yet to be released new-for-1970 351 in³ (5.8 L) "Cleveland". This combination meant that the Boss 302 was good for a conservatively rated 290 hp (216 kW) through its four-speed manual transmission. Ford originally intended to call the car Trans Am, but Pontiac had beaten them to it, applying the name to a special version of the Firebird. In the ¼ mile the Boss 302 could post very similar times to the Boss 429, oddly enough, despite the smaller displacement and an incredibly free-breathing induction system in the car. It should be noted that the blocks from these cars are incredibly strong, and Ford Racing plans on selling new Boss 302 blocks in the near future.
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