It may well be fast, and undoubtedly furious, but the Ford Mustang remains a classic car of modern times that evokes a double-take from fellow drivers and pedestrians alike. So let’s take you for a quick spin through the history of this fascinating car that remains as iconic today as when Steve McQueen took to the 1968 GT390 Fastback in the film Bullitt
The Makings of a Super Car
The Ford Mustang first rolled off the production line in late 1964 but was sold as a four-seater model to the mass market in 1965.
Interestingly, it began life as a two-seater concept car in 1962 but evolved quickly to become an affordable coupe.
Ford was stunned when its initial production prediction of 100,000 cars in 12 months flew through the 1 million marks within 24 months. It was Ford’s most successful launch and dawned the 1960s American ‘muscle’ car.
Sales were aided by its affordability, then priced at $2,368, and its sexy looks, with its “Fastback 2+2” combo, which balanced a sleek exterior with a covered trunk. An advertising campaign across America, and favorable articles in 2,600 newspapers, also helped shift units further.
Who derived the ‘Mustang‘ name ricochets between two legends. Claims the car was inspired by a World War 2 fighter plane called the P51 Mustang and executive stylist John Najjar co-designing the initial Ford Mustang as far back as 1961 holds weight.
However, another claim is Ford’s market research manager Robert Eggert putting the name forward and in public focus groups, the name for the new car came out on top.
The first sale of the all-American car was to a Canadian called Capt Stanley Tucker. The story goes that a pre-production model used for an advertising campaign was inadvertently sold to him. Ford got its hands back on the model when Mr Tucker happily swapped it for the 1 millionth Mustang in 1966.
The first retail customer was Gail Brown, a school teacher from Chicago. Sold in April 1964, her family still retains the car to this day.
Over the last 55 years, the Mustang has evolved over six generations, and reached the 10th million sale in August 2018, advancing claims that it is one of the best-loved cars ever.
Ford has produced a number of limited edition Mustangs over the decades, but it remains the green Mustang Bullitt, driven by Steve McQueen in the 1968 film Bullitt which retains a special place in the hearts of aficionados.
Mustangs now sell between $20,000 and over $50,000, but the most expensive is a one-off prototype. The 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake was built as part of a Goodyear pre-test of its new Thunderbolt tyres.
The 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake, packed with a 427 V-8 engine that was rebuilt and tuned to 520hp, sold at a Florida auction in January 2019 for $2.2 million – more than double its valuation expectations.
The new record topped that created by the same car in 2013. Then it went for a whopping $1.3 million
The Mustang was sold in Germany between 1964 and 1978, but it was modelled as the T5 as the name had already been taken and utilised on heavy trucks by Krupp. Legend suggests Ford declined an offer from Krupp to buy the title for $10,000.
There are many dedicated owners’ clubs worldwide, including those specific to Mustang builds and even colours.
The most popular exterior colour on a Mustang to be sold is red over the last five decades, although black is the new red for today. Black accounts for the best sales over the past decade. Yellow is the least favoured, but still has its hardy enthusiasts who have created a registry of owners, of which there are nearly 9,000.
The Ford Mustang remains an icon of popular culture even today. Its most famous include former US president Bill Clinton, late-night YV chat host Jay Leno, actor Charlie Sheen, and actor and comedian Tim Allen.
Mustangs are also a keen following for pop stars from the legendary Jim Morrison of The Doors, to Eminem, to Funkmaster Flex and Kelly Clarkson. Back in the 1960s, Sonny and Cher had modified ‘his and hers’ Mustangs.
Off the public highway, the Mustang is just as legendary having heavily featured as souped-up, competitive cars across drag racing, circuit racing and even stock car racing. As early as 1964, the breakout year for the Mustang, modified versions has featured on racetracks.
Did you know that the Mustang has also featured as a stamp, twice? The US Postal Service used the Mustang as the first-class stamp in 1999, and then the 1967 Shelby GT-500 was among a number of muscle cars featured in a set in 2013.
According to the website – www.mustangimdb.com – the Mustang has been featured more than 3,000 times in TV and film.
Some six years before Steve McQueen’s film, the Mustang was already an icon in the making on the silver screen. Its first appearance was in the 1964 movie The Troops of St Tropez, and its first driver was French actress Nicole Cruchot.
However, its ground-breaker was in James Bond’s Goldfinger in the same year. The Mustang has gone on to feature in Diamonds are Forever and Thunderball.
The Mustang has also featured in films as diverse as Gone in 60 Seconds (the original and the remake), the Knight Rider film and 1990s TV series, as well as in Misery, Hannibal, Hollywood Homicide, Will Smith’s I Am Legend, Death Race and the 2 Fast 2 Furious.
The official Ford Mustang page on Facebook now has more than 8.5 million followers. And having now been hooked on this history run thru, we’re sure you’ll be the next one to sign up for a double-take..
While Ford has considered a museum for the Mustang, a new privately owned Mustang World has opened in Concord, North Carolina. The 40,000 sqft building showcases up to 60 different Mustangs.
CalTrend is the leading provider of Ford Mustang leather seat covers.