Thursday, June 23, 2011
History of the Ford Mustang ... because I never write about Fords
Never mind that I just this year I drove the new Focus and F-150, posted about the all-Ford show in Olathe, did a history of Carroll Shelby, and lamented the passing of the Crown Victoria; I never write anything about Fords.
Well here it is, brother, the story you’ve been waiting for—the history of the Ford Mustang.
By ’65, the Mustang was starting to show its full potential. A fastback was added to the lineup, and Carroll Shelby came on-board to help build the Mustang performance legend. Sure, you could still get a 200-hp straight-six (up 30-hp from the year before), but people lusted over that 306-hp Shelby GT350. Mustang was becoming a performance icon.
By 1971, there were still lots of different engines and options, but the car was restyled as more of a boulevard cruiser. This version was a little more portly; a little softer; not the airy, athletic sprinter people had come to know and love. Ford still sold big numbers of the upsized Ponycar between ’71 and ’73, but the cars were continually getting slower, gas mileage was becoming more important, and there were going to be some big changes if the Mustang was to remain in Ford’s lineup.
And yet, the Mustang II thrived. The cute little guy sold three times more than it did in 1973. And as the Mustang II continued its tenure, Ford worked marketing magic up-and-down the scale. A fancy Mustang II may have been equipped with a hoity-toity Ghia-designed vinyl top. A sporty version might have been decorated with retro Shelby stripes or a big, scary Cobra decal on the hood.
The Fox platform also underpinned the more substantial Ford Fairmount and Mercury Zephyr. More than 396,000 were sold in 1979, which proved that people wanted their Ponycars to be more than just econo-boxes.
As the 1980s wore on, the 5.0, as it was normally referred (302-c.i. translates to 5.0-liters), increased in power and increased in popularity.
For quieted the critics in ’88 when the same 225-hp, 5.0-liter engine that came standard in the GT would now be an option on the bare-bones LX model. A notchback LX coupe was the perfect platform for the Stoplight 500, or it could be transformed into a formidable competitor on the drag strip. Thanks to a solid starting point and enormous support from the aftermarket, 5.0-liter Mustangs from ’87 to ’93 are some of the most popular budget performance cars ever.
A 215-hp, 4.6-liter V8 replaced the venerable 5.0 in ’96 as the Mustang tried to be a little more refined than before. Cobras were fitted with a 305-hp 4.6-liter engine.
There, I did a Mustang story. Hope everyone’s happy now.
Below is a slideshow of nearly 200 pictures from throughout the Mustang’s history. This seems like a big slideshow, but honestly, it was pretty easy to come up with. Ford seems to hold the history of this car in a higher regard than you see at most car companies, and they make historic photos easy to access for journalists. So you’ll see lots of examples from every generation of Mustang. The thing that really struck me is how many different models, trims, and versions there are for a car that has remained basically the same concept throughout its lifespan. Enjoy.