In 2014, Ford’s iconic creation, the Mustang, became the latest member of an exclusive club of automotive legends – cars that had been in production for more than fifty years. Although it’s a noteworthy achievement from whatever angle you look at it, the Mustang really didn’t need it to establish itself as one of the most iconic cars in the world. That status had been achieved a long time ago.
Now, we could wax lyrical about the ‘Stang for hours and hours. After all, we’re talking about the car that gave rise to an entirely new breed of cars: the muscle car.
So yes, as far as American success stories go, few are as riveting as the Ford Mustang’s creation and journey. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how the ‘Stang evolved from an affordable, modest sports car for the blue-collared masses to the pop-culture icon it has become today.
The very first Mustang was unveiled by Ford back in 1964 and became an instant success story. It marked a new chapter in the American automotive giants’ history, becoming its biggest product launch since 1928’s Model A. It had a revolutionary design, consisting of a long, sweeping hood and flared haunches – a design that’s known today as a “pony car.” The first-gen Mustang breathed new life into an American sports car segment that had become stagnant and stale.
To say that the original Mustang was a success would be a gross understatement. Ford could barely keep up with the demand and sold more than 22,000 units on the day it was launched. It ended up selling more than 4,000 units in the first year, raking in more than a billion in profits.
The oil crisis hit the U.S hard in the seventies, forcing Ford into making its popular sports car smaller and more fuel-efficient. The second-gen Mustang was launched in 1974 and was based on the Ford Pinto, a subcompact model. While the new car was smaller than its predecessor, it weighed more. The extra bulk significantly impacted its performance, causing it to lose much of its “muscle car” appeal.
1979 saw the launch of the radically-changed, third-generation Mustang. The new model was unrecognizable from its predecessor and was the first ‘Stang offered in multiple body styles. The third-gen Mustang was offered as a convertible, a notchback, a hatchback, and a coupe. However, all of them shared the same Fox platform underneath, featuring a considerably longer wheelbase.
However, the third-gen Mustang went on to be a flop, with millions of Mustang lovers accusing Ford of taking away the car’s “muscle car” soul.
With Mustang sales plummeting fast, Ford knew it needed to make some drastic changes for the fourth-gen Mustang. And they did. It underwent a major makeover, and the result was a car that looked like a modern version of the original first-gen ‘Stang. The sharp contours, the flared haunches, the angular, menacing silhouette were all back.
Also, the fourth-gen marked the introduction of the Mustang in Australia, where it went up against the Pontiac GTO, a perennial favorite. Ford worked in collaboration with Tickford Vehicle Engineering to make the Mustang suitable for the automotive design regulations in Australia.
Although the fourth-generation ‘Stang was definitely a step in the right direction, it was its successor that truly marked the car’s return to the global automotive spotlight. Unveiled in 2005, the fifth iteration of the Mustang closely resembled the first-gen’s iconic “fastback” silhouette. The base variant of the fifth-gen came with a fairly-impressive 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine. However, it was the range-topping ‘GT’ variant that came equipped with the mesmerizing small-block V8 powerhouse with variable valve and camshaft timing. The fifth-gen car was also the first Mustang to feature electronic driver aids, such as electronic stability control and traction control.
This brings us to the latest and the greatest in a long lineage of iconic cars. With the current Mustang, Ford took an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary approach to things. The styling of the sixth-gen Mustang is quite similar to the fifth-gen. However, there are still a number of notable changes.
The front fascia of the car is noticeably different from its predecessor. It’s more aggressive and angular, fitted with redesigned headlamps and a reshaped grille and front diffuser.
Moreover, a number of important changes were made to the car’s dynamics as well. The sixth-gen Mustang is noticeably lower and wider than its predecessor. On the road, this translates into a lower center of gravity, which means better high-speed and cornering stability.
Various changes were made to the powertrain as well. Thanks to minor exhaust and cooling system modifications, the mighty V8 now pushes out a solid 435 hp.
In the Mustangs of yesteryear, a persistent complaint was the inferior quality of the materials used on the interior. However, Ford has finally addressed the problem with the latest Mustang. The sixth-gen Mustang’s cabin is truly a wonderful place to be. In addition to being spacious and airy, it features some premium quality materials, such as high-grade plastics, brushed aluminum, leather, and even carbon fiber if you opt for the range-topping GT variant.
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