Today marks the 48th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. The original car was launched on April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair. To pay tribute to the storied pony car, we decided to take a brief look back at the history of the Ford Mustang.
First Generation — 1964-1973
The so-called “1964 and a half” Mustang came equipped with a 2.8-liter inline six engine and three-speed manual transmission, and cost just $2368. Though Ford planned to only sell about 100,000 Mustangs per year, over 417,000 were sold during the car’s first twelve months on the market. Launching in the spring was something of an unusual move: new cars were almost always unveiled in the fall in that era, so by showing off the new Mustang as an “early 1964″ in April, Ford hoped to gain more media coverage and public interest.
In 1965, Ford launched the Shelby GT350 model with a 306-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 engine. It was followed two years later by the Shelby GT500, which had a 7.0-liter V-8 good for 355 hp. And in 1968, Ford replaced the 289-cubic inch (4.7 liters) V-8 with a 302-cubic inch (5.0-liter).
Second Generation — 1974-1978
The Ford Mustang was all-new for 1974, becoming 19 inches shorter in length and 490 pounds lighter than the bloated 1973 model. Neither a V-8 nor a convertible model are offered; the coupe and new notchback are available with a 90-hp, 2.3-liter inline-four engine or a 100-hp, 2.8-liter V-6. These decisions were made, in part, in response to the ongoing oil crisis that had caused many Americans to buy smaller, less powerful cars.
A V-8-powered model was launched in 1975, but the 5.0-liter was available only with an automatic and produced just 130 hp. To help appease convertible fans, a version of the Mustang with removable glass “T-tops” was added for 1977; the V-8 also received an optional four-speed manual transmission the same year.
Third Generation — 1979-1994
In 1979, Ford launched the “Fox body” Mustang, based on the same Fox platform that was used for a variety of vehicles ranging from the Mercury Zephyr to the Ford Thunderbird. Though longer and taller than the Mustang II, the new car was still 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor.
Engine choices comprised a 2.3-liter inline-four, a 140-hp turbocharged version of that engine, a 2.8-liter V-6, a 3.3-liter inline-six, and the 140-hp 5.0-liter V-8. Sadly, the 5.0-liter was dropped for an “economy-minded” 119-hp 4.2-liter V-8. A year later, tighter emissions controls forced the V-8′s power down to 115 hp, while the turbo four-cylinder engine was canceled.
The Mustang GT returns in 1982 with a 157-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 engine, and a Mustang convertible returns for 1983. Other important upgrades include the addition of fuel injection to the V-8 model in 1986, a driver’s airbag becoming standard in 1990, and the launch of the special SVT Mustang Cobra in 1993. The Cobra used a specially modified 5.0-liter V-8 with 235 hp, and also had various handling and braking upgrades. There also is a 107-unit run of race-only Cobra R models.
Fourth Generation — 1994-2004
For its fourth generation, Ford claims that 1330 of the Mustang’s 1850 parts were redesigned. That included making the body stiffer, and dropping the hatchback body to leave just the coupe and convertible. The GT model’s 5.0-liter V-8 engine made 215 hp, while the SVT Mustang Cobra got an upgraded version of that mill with 240 hp.
In 1996 the venerable 5.0-liter engine was phased out in favor of a 4.6-liter “modular” V-8, making the same 215 hp as its predecessor. The Cobra scored an all-aluminum dual-overhead cam version of the engine with 305 hp.
For 1999, the Mustang received a thorough redesign to the “New Edge” design, including more creases and angular body parts. The base 3.7-liter V-6 engine is upgraded to 190 hp and gets special 35th anniversary badging to commemorate the car’s birthday.
To pay homage to the car driven by Steve McQueen in the classic movie “Bullitt”, Ford launched the Mustang Bullitt GT in 2001. It had unique side scoops, 17-inch wheels, and a unique lowered suspension. Then in 2003, the company launched another special edition with the Mach 1 (inspired by the 1969-1973 Mustang Mach 1). It wore unique 17-inch wheels, a “Shaker”-style hood, a 305-hp version of the 4.6-liter V-8 engine, and special black leather meant to recall that of the 1960s cars.
Fifth Generation — 2005-?
The fifth and current generation of the Ford Mustang launched in 2005 with an entirely new design. Production also moved from Dearborn, Michigan to Ford’s factory in Flat Rock, Michigan. Production of the 2005 model starts in fall 2004; engine and body choices were again limited to a coupe and convertible, and V-6 and V-8. In 2007, the Shelby GT500 was launched with a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 good for 500hp. In 2010 the Mustang received a mild redesign to freshen its appearance, adding numerous retro touches.
The biggest news for this generation of car came in 2011, when Ford launched two new engines for the Mustang. The new base engine was an all-aluminum 3.7-liter V-6 with 305 hp and 280 lb-ft, while the upgrade engine marked the return of the famed “5.0″ with an aluminum 5.0-liter V-8 producing 412 hp and 390 lb-ft. The new year also marked a change for the GT500, which scored an all-aluminum engine good for 550 hp. The Mustang Boss 302, which has a 5.0-liter engine upgraded to 444 hp and sundry chassis upgrades for track uses, debuted for 2012.
The most recent updates to the Ford Mustang come in the form of a facelift with new lighting for 2013. The V-8 engine gains eight horsepower, for a total of 420 hp.
An all-new Mustang is expected for 2014 or 2015. It may wear futuristic “Kinetic 2.0″ styling inspired by the Ford Evos concept, and could adopt independent rear suspension. There’s even talk of the Mustang returning to a turbocharged four-cylinder engine — but for now, much of that is speculation.