Mustang, the Ford car named after a fighter plane

The Ford Mustang is the original 'pony car'. This is an American term. It relates to cars which have a long bonnet, short boot, rear wheel drive, above-average performance and an economical price. Once Ford had launched the Mustang many other manufacturers followed with their own models but none have been anywhere near as successful.

Why call it Mustang? During World War II America had a fighter plane called the P–51 Mustang which had superb performance so rumour has it that it was named after that aircraft. It could not be used in Germany though; not because the original aircraft caused such devastation there but because the steel company Krupp had already use the name for some trucks. Ford were not particularly bothered because they were selling as many as they could make anyway!

Originally launched as a two-door, four seater hardtop it was introduced in April 1964 at the New York World's Fair. To keep costs down a lot of existing Ford hardware was used but the result was a rugged and exciting looking car that had instant curb appeal. It was powered by a 4727 cc V-8 engine generating 271 brake horsepower; this gave a top speed of 122 mph with nought to 60 acceleration within 5.9 seconds.

A sales projection of 100,000 in the first year had been estimated by Ford's marketing department; but they actually sold four times that figure, within the following year. More than 22,000 were in fact sold on the first day it became available for sale and in the first two years not far short of 1,300,000 were built altogether!

The Mustang was not only reasonably priced but it was fairly economical to run thanks to reasonable fuel consumption, cheap fuel at the time and the easy availability of very economically priced spare parts. There was a wide range of options for extras so buyers had plenty of choices. There were some complaints about legroom but overall buyers were very satisfied.

More styling and engine changes followed with the car gradually getting bigger and heavier. This was not helped by safety and emissions legislation which contributed towards an increase in weight. Unfortunately this affected performance and sales began to fall off. In addition fuel prices were starting to rise and the 1973 oil crisis was appearing on the horizon. By 1971 buyers were turning to smaller cars and a decision had to be made to switch to a smaller and more fuel efficient car, the Mustang Two, which replaced it in 1973.

The Mustang is now on its sixth generation and still selling well - the 10 millionth sale was achieved in August of 2018!

Next ➪