Looking back on 50 Years of the Ford Mustang

Concept to Reality
Generation I | Generation II | Generation III | Generation IV | Generation V



First Generation Mustang

Halderman’s Design

Concept to Reality 1960-1963

1961 – In early 1961, Ford engineers, designers, product planners, marketers and executives begin meeting in Dearborn, Michigan – The goal, creating an automobile that would appeal to the post-war baby boomers coming of age, to design a new sporty, stylish and affordable compact car derived from the recently launched Falcon. The group became known as the “Fairlane Committee.”   After every Ford Studio submitted their sketches.

A two-seat, mid-engine sports car concept becomes the first car to wear the Mustang name – initially suggested by designer John Najjar as an homage to the legendary P51 Mustang fighter plane from World War II and further inspired by the small, nimble wild horse of the American West.

1962 – After receiving designs from every Ford studio, the sketch from Gale Halderman finally became the “IT” design. And, withing 2 weeks, a clay mode

l was ready and the car was on its way to production in April 1964.

1963 – A second concept known as Mustang II is shown at Watkins Glen, providing the first public preview of the design direction for the upcoming production Mustang



Generation I 1964-1973


April 13th, 1964
More than 125 members of the media gathered at the Ford Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair for a preview of the cars that would be on display, and the unveiling of the All-New 1965 Ford Mustang.

April 17th, 1964
The 1965 Ford Mustang is officially revealed to the world at New York World’s Fair in Flushing NY.

The 1965 Ford Mustang officially goes on sale, selling more than 22,000 on the opening weekend and nearly 420,000 units in the first year. – The Ford Mustang established an entirely new market segment, the pony car.

Standard equipment includes a 170-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine, three-speed floor-shift transmission, full wheel covers, padded dash, bucket seats and carpeting. It weighs just 2,572 pounds. Price at launch is $2,368

Gail Wise with her freshly restored 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible

Gail Wise with her freshly restored 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible

Fun Fact: 1st Retail Customer: Gail Brown, purchases a Blue Convertible from a Chicago dealer two days early on April 15th.

In 1964, Gail Brown was 22 years old and just starting out in the world. The elementary school teacher, then living with her parents and getting to work with her mother’s ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible, yearned for a car of her own. It was the mid-1960s and car culture was in full swing. Whatever car Gail ended up with, it had to be cool, and it had to be a convertible.

After touring the showroom floor, Gail confessed to the salesman: Nothing was speaking to her. With a sly grin, he said, “I’ve got something in the back that’s really new.” In a storeroom, still under a cover, sat a brand-new 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible in Skylight Blue, loaded with a 260-cubic-inch V8 engine and Rally Pac instrumentation.

“That’s me,” said Gail. “That’s what I want!”

Capt. Stanley Tucker and His Ford Mustangs, Numbers 1

Capt. Stanley Tucker and His Ford Mustang Serial Number 1

Fun Fact: Earliest preproduction Mustang, serial No. 1, is a Wimbledon White convertible with a
260-cubic-inch V8 that rolls off the assembly line in early February 1964. While on a
promotional tour of Canada, a Ford dealer in St. John’s, Newfoundland “mistakenly” sells
the car to Capt. Stanley Tucker, a pilot with Eastern Provincial Airlines. Ford reacquires
the car from Capt. Tucker in 1966 in exchange for Mustang No. 1,000,001; the original
car is now on display at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan

June 1964
After going on sale in hardtop and convertible bodystyles in April, the fastback joins the lineup

The Mustang makes it debut in the James Bond Film, Goldfinger

Mustang Sally, by Mack Rice is the earliest known reference to the Ford Mustang in song. Wilson Pickett later releases his version of the song.


April 17th
418,812 Mustangs had been sold, the best first year ever for an all new model.

Shelby GT350 is introduced (306-horsepower, 289-cubic-inch V8)

Ford engineers dismantle a 1966 Mustang convertible into four sections that can fit into the elevators of the Empire State Building

1966 Mustang Convertible 86th floor observation deck Empire State Building

10:30 p.m. on Oct. 20, 1965, the crew, decked out in crisp white overalls, met at the base of the 1,472-foot-tall Empire State Building and unloaded the car. They disassembled it in front of astonished onlookers. Everything was progressing as planned and they started moving parts up the elevator.

Despite all the upfront planning, the front section was found to be exactly ¼-inch-too tall for the elevator door; the steering wheel was in the way. After some careful jostling, it was slipped through the doorway. Once at observation deck level, the team rolled the sections out the 32-inch-wide door and reassembled the Mustang in gusting 40 mph winds by 4:30 a.m. – just in time for a short break, before news helicopters gathered to begin photographing the car from above.

By 11 a.m. photographers had gotten their fill and the car was taken apart once again and reassembled in the observation floor’s inner room, where it greeted an estimated 14,000 visitors that first day and countless more for many months to come.


Ford partners with Shelby American to build a limited run of the GT350H “rent-a-racers” for Hertz.


1967 is considered by many to be the high water mark for Mustang design in the 1960s. 1967 2+2 model goes from a semi-notchback to a sweeping full-fastback roofline. Separate triple taillamps, a longer nose and a bigger grille are added for a more aggressive stance

Shelby adds a GT500 model powered by the big-block 428-cubic-inch V8 producing 355 horsepower


Slightly larger 302-cubic-inch V8 replaces the “289” midyear, and a medium-riser version of Ford’s premier race engine – the 427-cubic-inch V8 (rated at 390 horsepower) – is offered as a $622 option

April 1st
The 428 Cobra Jet engine is introduced as part of an option package aimed at enthusiasts

Oct. 17, The movie Bullitt premiers with a 10-minute live action car chase sequence featuring a Highland Green Mustang GT 390 fastback that sets a new benchmark for the genre


“Steed for every need” mindset yields 11 different powertrain combinations. New models to the lineup include the 290-horsepower Boss 302, 375-horsepower Boss 429, Mach 1 and Grande luxury model. Also offered for the first time is the 351-cubic-inch “Windsor” V8 engine producing 250 horsepower with a two-barrel carburetor, or 290 horsepower with a four-barrel


Ram-air “Shaker” hood scoop can be ordered on any Mustang equipped with a 351-
cubic-inch or larger V8


1971 cars are the biggest Mustangs ever – nearly a foot longer and almost 700 pounds
heavier than the originals. Gone from the lineup are the Boss 302, Boss 429, Shelby
GT350 and GT500. Boss 351, with its 351 “Cleveland” V8 and Cobra Jet heads, debuts.


Styling is unchanged from 1971, and the only new model offering is Sprint – a special
red, white and blue exterior paint-and-tape package with coordinated interior


The impact of gasoline shortages, rising insurance premiums and emissions controls
brings the muscle-car era to a close. 1973 is the last model year for the original Falcon-
platform Mustang. The convertible is discontinued


Generation II, 1974-1978


1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II

1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II

The completely redesigned Mustang II is introduced. Compared with the 1973 model, Mustang II is 19 inches shorter and 490 pounds lighter. It is available as a notchback, including a luxury Ghia model, and a 2+2 fastback. There are only two engine choices – an 88-horsepower 2.3-liter inline-four or a 109-horsepower 2.8-liter V6. For the first time, there is no V8 engine and no convertible

 Facts About the Mustang II

  • Sales of small cars exploded from 23 percent of the market in 1964 to more than 40 percent by the early 1970s
  • When Mustang II debuted in the fall of 1973, it had been engineered from the ground up as a Mustang and shared few parts with other cars
  • Despite having a choice of a 2.3-liter four-cylinder or a 2.8-liter V6 at launch, Mustang II had comparable performance to the six-cylinder and V8 in the much larger 1973 model thanks to its significantly lower weight
  • A 302-cubic-inch V8 generating 139 horsepower was added to Mustang II for the 1975 model year
  • The 1977 Mustang II with the 302 V8 produced a very respectable 247 pound-feet of torque that peaked at just 1,800 rpm, Corvettes of the same era had only 8 pound-feet more at twice the speed
  • Mustang II was featured on the most popular television show of its time, “Charlie’s Angels”
  • Mustang II was actually quite technologically advanced for its time with rack-and-pinion steering, front disc brakes, well-appointed interiors and full instrumentation as standard equipment
  • Motor Trend named Mustang II as its 1974 Car of the Year
  • In its first year of availability, Mustang II sold nearly 400,000 units, almost triple what its immediate predecessor did and it remained popular throughout its five year run
  • The base Mustang II stickered at only around $3,000
  • Loaded Cobra IIs sold for about $4,800 in 1978, examples in excellent condition often sell for well over $10,000 today


V8 power returns to Mustang. But the 302-cubic-inch engine produces only 133
horsepower and comes only with an automatic transmission


Cobra II package joins the lineup, replete with nonfunctional hood scoop, racing stripes and front and rear spoilers. Available in white with blue stripes, blue with white stripes, and black with gold stripes, Cobra II is intended to recall the famed Shelby Mustangs

1978 Ford Mustang II King Cobra

1978 Ford Mustang II King Cobra


Cobra II package joins the lineup, replete with nonfunctional hood scoop, racing stripes and front and rear spoilers. Available in white with blue stripes, blue with white stripes, and black with gold stripes, Cobra II is intended to recall the famed Shelby Mustangs


New King Cobra model is the first Mustang to wear a “5.0” badge – the metric equivalent of 302 cubic inches


Generation III 1979-1993


New “Fox” platform Mustang makes its debut. The new model is longer and taller than Mustang II yet 200 pounds lighter. A sleek, European-influenced design replaces many traditional styling cues. Engine choices are a 2.3-liter four-cylinder (including a 140-horsepower turbo version), a 2.8-liter V6, a 3.3-liter inline six and a 140 horsepower 5.0-liter V8


302-cubic-inch V8 engine is dropped, replaced by an economy-minded 119-horsepower 255-cubic-inch V8


Performance heads to the back burner, as the turbo four-cylinder is dropped from the Mustang engine lineup, and new emissions controls drop the 255-cubic-inch V8’s power to 115 horsepower


As gas prices subside and new competition arrives, Mustang GT returns after a 12-year absence. Also back is the 5.0-liter V8, rated at 157 horsepower with a two-barrel carburetor. Optional T-tops return


After 10 years, a convertible model returns to the Mustang lineup, complete with power operation and a tempered glass back window. A Holley four-barrel carburetor boosts Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter V8 to a healthier 175 horsepower


New Special Vehicle Operations group that also runs Ford race programs creates the Mustang SVO. It features a front fascia with integral fog lamps, an off-center functional scoop and a polycarbonate dual-wing rear spoiler. Power comes from a turbocharged and air-to-air intercooled 2.3-liter four-cylinder producing 175 horsepower and 210 lb.-ft. of torque. Also available is the 20th Anniversary edition Mustang, a special V8-powered GT model painted Oxford White with Canyon Red interior. It can be had in coupe or convertible form


Mustang gets a revised 5.0-liter high-output V8 producing 210 horsepower when mated to a manual transmission. New Quadra-Shock rear suspension with two extra horizontally mounted dampers helps provide better acceleration by reducing wheel hop on hard takeoffs


Mustang’s V8 trades its carburetor for new sequential multiport fuel injection


Mustang is heavily restyled, with a new “aero-look” body including faired-in headlamps. The 5.0-liter V8 now produces 225 horsepower


For Mustang’s 25th anniversary, all cars produced between April 17, 1989 and April 17, 1990 sport the familiar running horse on the dashboard with “25 years” inscribed


Mustang now sports a driver’s-side airbag as standard equipment


Entry-level Mustangs receive an improved 105-horsepower, twin-plug 2.3-liter four-cylinder with distributor-less ignition.  All V8 models now come with new, five-spoke 16-inch cast aluminum wheels – the first time a 16-inch wheel is offered as a factory option on the Mustang


Stealthy Mustang LX 5.0 develops a cult following, outselling all other models combined. Wire-style wheel covers and whitewall tires disappear from the options list


Ford’s new Special Vehicle Team introduces limited-production SVT Mustang Cobra with subtle but distinctive styling cues and performance upgrades. The low-volume, track-oriented Cobra R sells out prior to production

Generation IV, 1994-2004


For its 30th anniversary, Mustang is dramatically restyled to evoke the car’s heritage and performance tradition. Fully 1,330 of the vehicle’s 1,850 parts are changed. The new Fox-4 platform is thoroughly re-engineered and structurally stiffer. The hatchback bodystyle is discontinued, leaving the semi-fastback two-door coupe and convertible. The GT’s 5.0-liter V8 engine produces 215 horsepower. A new SVT Mustang Cobra launches midyear, producing 240 horsepower from its upgraded 5.0-liter V8


Final model year for the venerable 5.0-liter V8, which began life in 1962 as the 260-
cubic-inch V8 in Falcon, later growing to 289-cubic-inch, 302-cubic-inch and 351-cubic inch variants

The second SVT Mustang Cobra R is introduced, with only 250 units to be built. Cobra R is street-legal, but meant for racing in popular “showroom stock” classes with a 300-
horsepower 5.8-liter V8 and five-speed manual transmission


Classic small-block V8 is replaced in Mustang GT and SVT Mustang Cobra with Ford’s new 4.6-liter modular V8. The new engine is the first production Ford V8 to use overhead camshafts in the valvetrain. Mustang GT uses a single-overhead-cam layout with two valves per cylinder for 215 horsepower and 285 lb.-ft. of torque. Cobra uses dual-overhead cams and four valves per cylinder to generate 305 horsepower and 300


Ford’s Passive Anti-Theft System becomes standard on all Mustangs


Output of Mustang GT’s 4.6-liter V8 increases to 225 horsepower


Redesign gives Mustang sharply creased lines and pronounced wheel arch flares, plus a new hood, grille, fascias and lamps. Base 3.8-liter V6 gets a 27 percent increase in horsepower, to 190 horsepower, and comes with 35th Anniversary badging

SVT Mustang Cobra becomes the first Mustang with a fully independent rear
suspension. The car’s 4.6-liter DOHC V8 now produces 320 horsepower lb.-ft. from the aluminum V8


The third SVT Mustang Cobra R is produced. This lightweight, street-legal racing model has a 385-horsepower 5.4-liter DOHC V8, and features the first six-speed manual transmission ever in a Mustang. Production limited to 300 units


Inspired by the 1968 Mustang GT390 driven by Steve McQueen in the movie classic
“Bullitt,” Mustang Bullitt GT debuts. Finished in the same Highland dark green as the
movie car, it has unique side scoops; 17-inch, five-spoke Bullitt-style aluminum wheels; and lowered, specially tuned suspension


Mustang stands alone as production ends for its two closest competitors – Chevrolet
Camaro and Pontiac Firebird


Mustang Mach 1 returns with a 305-horsepower V8 engine and signature ram-air
“Shaker” hood scoop. It includes 17-inch, five-spoke heritage wheels inspired by 1969 to 1973 Mustang Mach 1 wheels and 1960s-style “comfort weave” seats trimmed in black leather

SVT Mustang Cobra gets an Eaton supercharger for its 4.6-liter V8, which ups output to 390 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. This makes the 2003 Cobra the fastest, best performing regular-production Mustang to date


Ford Motor Company produces its 300-millionth car – a 2004 Mustang GT convertible 40th Anniversary edition. The Anniversary package, available on all V6 and GT models, including convertibles, features an exclusive Crimson Red exterior with Arizona Beige Metallic performance stripes on the hood, lower rocker panels and decklid

2004 models will be the last cars built at Ford’s fabled Dearborn Assembly Plant, which produced Mustang every model year since its inception

Generation V, 2005-2014


All-new fifth-generation Mustang debuts as a 2005 model. Riding on a six-inch-longer
wheelbase than the car it replaced, the 2005 model features an all-new platform, the first
in the car’s history that is unique to Mustang. Styling draws heavily on Mustang heritage
from the 1960s, with a forward-leaning grille, side hockey stick contours and tri-bar
taillamps. Power comes from a choice of either a 210-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 or a 300-
horsepower, three-valve-per-cylinder 4.6-liter V8

Production of all-new 2005 Ford Mustang begins in fall 2004 in Flat Rock, Mich.

Ford introduces the first of a series of turnkey Mustang-based race cars, the FR500C,
which goes on to win two consecutive Koni Challenge Championships in the Grand-Am
Sport Class


Forty years after the GT350H, Ford, Shelby American and Hertz partner again for a run of 500 automatic transmission-equipped Shelby GT-H coupes. Like the original, all are painted black with gold stripes, and feature custom side scoops, grilles and badging


SVT collaborates with Carroll Shelby to develop the most powerful production Mustang built up to that time, the 2007 Shelby GT500 Mustang. Available as either a convertible or coupe, GT500 is powered by a 500-horsepower supercharged 5.4-liter V8 derived from the engine in the 2003 Ford GT


•New Cobra Jet concept adopts turbocharging technology from production EcoBoost® engines in the quest for ever more performance

New Cobra Jet

Ford returns to building turnkey factory drag racing cars with introduction of the 2008 Cobra Jet. Forty years after the original Cobra Jet won in its debut, the new model uses a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 to repeat the feat. Customers are able to order complete ready-to-race cars directly from Ford dealers

Mustang Bullitt is revived for another two-year limited run. Available in either Highland Green or Black with leather seats and aluminum interior trim, the subdued-looking Bullitt is widely regarded as one of the best street Mustangs up to that time thanks to its excellent balance of power and handling


Introduced in early 2009, the 2010 Mustang is redesigned with more sculpted haunches, chamfered rear corners and trapezoidal grille


Entire Mustang lineup receives new updated powertrains for 2011 model year

  • Standard engine is a DOHC 3.7-liter V6 generating 305 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque and returning an EPA-estimated 31 mpg on the highway
  • All-new DOHC 5.0-liter “Coyote” V8 generates 412 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft.
  • Upgraded supercharged 5.4-liter V8 for Shelby GT500 now features a lighter aluminum block with plasma-coated cylinder bores. GT500 now produces 550 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque, the most ever in a production Mustang
  • All engines are now paired with six-speed automatic or manual transmissions


Mustang Boss 302 is revived as a track-oriented model for a two-year limited-edition run. 5.0-liter V8 is upgraded to produce 444 horsepower and features Ford’s first launch control system


2013 Ford Shelby GT500

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

2013 Shelby GT500 is upgraded with the world’s most powerful production V8 – a
supercharged 5.8-liter unit generating 662 horsepower and 631 lb.-ft. of torque, enough to push the coupe to a top speed of just over 200 mph


Flat Rock Assembly Plant celebrates production of its 1 millionth Mustang, a red GT
convertible on Mustang’s 49th birthday, April 17, 2013

On June 10, DreamWorks Studios and Ford announce a modified Mustang will be the
hero car in the upcoming film adaptation of the long-running video game series Need for Speed

On Dec. 5, the all-new sixth-generation Mustang is simultaneously revealed in six
locations around the world


2015 Ford Mustang Empire State Building

2015 Ford Mustang atop the Empire State Building

On April 16-20, 2014, Mustang fans from around the world gather for massive
celebration of 50 years of Mustang at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor

April 17th Ford recreates the Empire State Building scene with the All-New 2015 Mustang


Arriving at Koons Ford Lincoln of Annapolis late 2014

More images & video on the 2015 Ford Mustang
50th Anniversary Celebration – Empire State Building 2014




Pin It on Pinterest

Share This