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HomeCar CultureDamn That’s Old! Mustang Turns 60 Today

Damn That’s Old! Mustang Turns 60 Today

April 17, 1964 is a date that will live in infamy

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On this date, the Ford Mustang was officially released to the public at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The Mustang was not a secret, but no one was prepared how successful the sporty compact was going to be.

Solid market research and marketing, not dumb luck, is the explanation for the Mustang’s success. The Edsel debacle was still fresh on Ford’s mind, so Ford did its best to avoid the hubris that characterized the mid-priced brand’s existence. Thankfully, Ford found enormous success with the Falcon, a compact that eventually started Ford’s foray into sporty bucket seats and consoles. The rest of the credit can be given to youth culture, emerging two-car households, and feminism.

Below are several of the seminal Mustangs that have marked the model’s history. If you like what you see, click on the images because they’re all for sale on ClassicCars.com.

1965 Mustang GT 2+2
The dawn of the fastback for the 1965 model year gave the Mustang a contemporary body style. The introduction of the GT package made the Mustang more of a driver’s car. Combine the two and you have the quintessential early Mustang. What? You want the K-code 289? Beggars can’t be choosers, so be satisfied with the striking black and red combo, A-code four-barrel, and four-speed.

428 Cobra Jet 1968 Mustang GT
No, this Mustang is not as iconic, but look at the hood for the hint: this one’s powered by the 428 Cobra Jet. Ford had been slacking with the equipment available for its high-performance cars, as the 390 wasn’t killing it on the street. With inspiration from Rhode Island’s Tasca Ford, Dearborn finally gave Blue Oval fans something to cheer about when Al Joniec killed it at the 1968 NHRA Winternationals and others did the same on Main Street, USA.

1969 Mustang Boss 302
There’s so much to choose from for 1969: Mach I, Boss 429, and Ford’s Trans-Am racer. The latter was chosen because it was a killer small-block in a big-block world. The Boss 302 was the heir apparent for the K-code 289s but with race car duds. It also previewed the smooth rear fenders that would appear for the 1970 SportsRoof (Ford’s new slang for “fastback”). Plus, 1969s are often name-checked as the favorite Mustang of Baby Boomers.

1971 Mustang Mach I 429 Cobra Jet
Another toughie – go with the last of the big-blocks, or go with what’s arguably the fastest small-block of the era? The redesigned Mustang was larger, heavier, and racier, and the 429 CJ (making its first . . . and last appearance) holds the distinction as the only 1971 FoMoCo product produced with the Drag Pack. After this, there wouldn’t be a 13-second Mustang for decades.

1978 Mustang King Cobra
Sure, it could get worse (and, to a lot of folks, it did), but no one can deny the Mustang II was the right car at the right time. The design was tidy, much more in line with the original and, eventually, a V8 popped up on the order form. For the naysayers, it’s time to acknowledge that the Mustang II was the lifeline that was needed to buoy the model into the 1980s.

1988 Saleen Mustang
The first hint of something special was in 1982 with the return of the GT. In 1985, the 5.0 crossed the 200-horsepower threshold, though with a carburetor. With the 1987 restyle, the fuel-injected V8 achieved 225 horses and inspired many a young man and woman to lust in ways that hadn’t been possible for over a decade. The Mustang was back, and builders like Saleen gave enthusiasts the closest thing to a road-racer since 1970.

1996 Mustang SVT Cobra
The redesigned SN-95 1994 Mustang was initially a dud with only 215 horsepower for the GT – compare that with 275 horsepower from GM’s F-bodies. But when the 305-horsepower 4.6-liter Modular V8 was introduced for the SVT Cobra, happy days were here again. No longer would the Mustang ever be stuck in Malaise! Supercharging was soon to follow, foreshadowing the return of . . .

2007 Mustang Shelby GT500
The S-197 was introduced for 2005, but it was SVT’s 2007 Shelby GT500 that put things over the top. Supercharged and intercooled, the 5.4 Modular V8 put out 500 horsepower. This was 185 horses more than the Bullitt. Style-wise, Ford poured the retro on heavy, which worked in the Mustang’s favor considering the Camaro was MIA for several years.

2015 Mustang Shelby GT350
The S550 aroused epithets of “It looks Japanese!” and worse, but it quickly was embraced by Mustang aficionados and the world. While not the highest horsepower version, the 2015-20 Mustang Shelby GT350 was the most balanced and, arguably, most awe-inspiring thanks to its flat-plane crankshaft. The 5.2 Coyote “Voodoo” offered 526 horsepower without a supercharger and, while the Mustang has never been a proper sports car, this was the closest it had ever been.

Today, we are still at the dawn of a new-generation Mustang. The Dark Horse currently rules the roost, with the upcoming GTD a toy for the well-heeled. What is absolutely clear is that Ford is totally devoted to the Mustang at this point, and we anticipate the model (brand?) to outlive every enthusiast reading this.

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Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Wat a great story – well written with al these nice picture.
    I would love to get the article somehow as a pdf or other file format, so that I can copy and print if to add it to my Mustang 1965 Concertable book.
    Thanks!

    • If you’re on your laptop or desktop, right click on any of the white space of this page. Then click “Print” but change the destination to “Save as PDF.”

  2. Hey, I turn 80 this year and I am still young.
    Remember the day my girl friend’s mother came home with a new Mustang.
    She had one of the first. Thought it was a sports car. My father had a mustang in 1960, though
    they called it a Falcon.
    Morgan turned 125 years ago this year. Is old and looks old, but still love ’em.

  3. I’ve always appreciated that the mustang stood on its own in the mid to late 1960’s and didn’t morph with the styling trends (stacked headlights, body squaring, etc.) that affected almost every manufacturer at that time. One of the few that, arguably, became more attractive as each year passed. Well, up until the Mustang II. But even those have caught my eye as of recent, and I think they’ll start to go up in collectibility soon.

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