Ford muscle vehicles laid the groundwork for American motorsports. Ford automobiles were known for their quick lines, large engines, and a devoted following dedicated to extracting every last ounce of horsepower from them during the 1960s and 1970s.
While the machines that owned drag strips and tracks around the world may have piqued our interest, Ford’s path was forced upon him.
They were on the verge of mediocrity before becoming an automotive powerhouse recognized for their pony cars.
1964 to 1973 Era
With virtually no competition when it was first introduced on April 17, 1964, Ford sold over 618,000 Mustang 2+2 coupes by the conclusion of its first model year, making it Ford’s most successful launch since the Model A in 1927.
In 1965, Ford hired American racer Carroll Shelby to design and build the track-ready Shelby Mustang in order to prepare for prospective competitors.
The two-door Mustang was available in notchback, fastback, and convertible body styles, and was based on Ford’s rear-wheel-drive Falcon compact.
While V6 and V8 variants offer plenty of horsepower on the road, This innovation forced domestic rivals to respond with their own “pony cars,” such as the Chevrolet Camaro (1966), AMC Javelin, Pontiac Firebird, Mercury Cougar, and second-generation Plymouth Barracuda (1967), and Dodge Challenger (1968). (1970).
Imports got in on the act as well, with the Toyota Celica from Japan (1970) and Ford’s European Capri from Europe (1969).
Ford maintains its dominance by regularly introducing higher-performance Mustangs with larger V8s and more power, such as the Mach 1, Boss 302/429, and the 1971 Super Cobra Jet versions with 375 horsepower.
1974 to 1978 Era
Ford pondered making the all-new 1974 Mustang smaller — much smaller — to keep its domestic competitors at bay and to account for the oil crisis.
Lee Iacocca, one of the original Ford executives who fathered the first Mustang, requested a Mustang that would consume less fuel and compete better with new import coupes such as the Celica and Capri in 1970.
The Mustang II was the result of Iacocca’s efforts, a rear-wheel-drive, tiny Ford Pinto-based “pony car” that came in both notches- and hatchback versions (the convertible was dropped in favor of leaky T-tops).
For the first time in modern history, the oil crisis eliminated the V8 engine. This had little impact on Ford because the base models had four cylinders and the “large” engine was a V6. With the Oil Crisis at its peak, consumers flocked to Ford showrooms regardless of performance.
The 1974 Mustang sold approximately 300,000 cars, more than three times the bloated 1973 Mustangs.
Ford stuffed a 5.0-liter eight-cylinder engine into the Mustang II’s engine bay for 1975. However, with only 140 horsepower, it paled in comparison to the late-1960s Mustangs.
Ford produced “tape and decal” specialties, such as the Stallion, Cobra II, and King Cobra models, instead of true performance.
1979 to 1993 Era
The third-generation Mustang was a quantum jump in terms of ride quality, handling, and packing over the Mustang II, with a superior aerodynamic design for increased fuel economy and a nod to more sophisticated import competition.
The third-generation Mustang (in notchback, hatchback, and convertible variants) was larger and offered more interior room than the previous Pinto-based model, thanks to Ford’s rear-wheel-drive Fox platform (originally seen on the 1978 Ford Fairmont sedan).
Engines of four, six, and eight cylinders were introduced during this time period. A new 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 132 horsepower was also debuted.
In 1980, Ford replaced the 5.0L V8 with a debored 4.2L V8 due to the oil crisis that ravaged the industry in 1979.
Horsepower was reduced to 120 horsepower, the lowest in a V8 Mustang ever. Ford revived the 5.0L V8 in 1982, this time with 157 horsepower. In response to stylish European coupes like the BMW M3, Ford introduced the Mustang SVO in 1984, which included a 175 horsepower turbo-four.
The rear-wheel-drive Mustang had a major drop in sales as purchasers shifted to front-wheel-drive import coupes like the Toyota Celica and Honda Prelude, while Mustang sales slowed drastically.
In response, Ford shared the platform of its 1989 Mustang with the front-wheel-drive Mazda MX-6. The Mustang faithful forced the carmaker to revise its plans at the last minute, resulting in the Mazda-based Mustang being renamed the Ford Probe.
1994 to 2004 Era
With Ford’s “don’t mess with success” approach, Mustang became more established than ever after three decades of hard rivalry from import rivals, shifting demographics, and the threat of government regulations.
Only a major revamp of the current model’s Fox-based platform, which had been in use since 1979, was achieved.
The fourth-generation Mustang was only available as a coupe or convertible. Ford may be able to avoid supplying a four-cylinder engine due to better fuel economy.
The standard engine was a 145-horsepower V6, with a 215-horsepower 5.0 V8 available as an option (which would be replaced by Ford’s so-called “modular” 4.6 L eight in 1996).
1999 was distinguished by a sleeker appearance inspired by the 1995 Ford GT90. Special editions, in addition to the GT model, began to make a resurgence in 1999, with the 320 horsepower Cobra, the 2001 Bullitt, based on the 1968 Steve McQueen film of the same name, and the 2003 Marcello Gandini.
2005 to 2014 Era
General Motors killed out the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird for 2002, while the Dodge Challenger was last seen as a rebadged Mitsubishi in 1983, according to Ford’s “don’t meddle with success” attitude.
By 2005, the Ford Mustang was the last remaining “American” sports coupe on the market.
Mustang got its first new platform in 15 years, which was shared with the Lincoln LS/Jaguar S-Type and Ford Thunderbird.
While V6 and V8 variants were still available, the limited edition Shelby GT-H — a modern take on the 1966 GT500 originally accessible at Hertz rental counters — signaled the return of Carroll Shelby to the Mustang family in 2006.
The new Shelby GT500, with its 500 horsepower 5.4 L supercharged V8, became a regular production model the next year. It would produce a whopping 662 horsepower by 2014.