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60 Years of Ford Mustang

  • 15 May 2024
  • Author: SAI-JohnE
  • Number of views: 24
  • 0 Comments

Hopes were sky-high when Ford debuted the Mustang on April 17, 1964. But even the most optimistic Ford executive couldn’t have imagined that their humble Falcon-based sports coupe would still be in production 60 years later, let alone become a company-defining icon

Yet that is exactly what happened, and the 2024 edition Mustang promises to set new standards of Mustang performance. Buckle up for this overview of the high points of Ford's most famous car

1960s

Ford Motor Company began regular building the Mustang coupe and convertible on March 9, 1964, followed by a splashy public introduction on April 17 at the New York World's Fair and an accompanying television and media blitz

Shortly after introduction, Ford made the 271hp, Hi-Po 289 V8 available in the Mustang, and in September introduced the 2+2 fastback, followed a few months later by the GT package. A hi-po 289 GT was the first complete performance Mustang, and the perfect canvas for Shelby American to stretch the boundaries.

Conversation between Ford and Carroll Shelby American began in 1964, and the result was the Shelby GT350 in 1965. With 306 hp, side-exit exhaust, lowered suspension, and back seat removed, the GT350 was ready for street or track duty.

By early 1966, one million Mustangs had been sold. The 1966 GT350s saw new colors and comforts added to the option list, along with a special model available to rent through Hertz.

In 1967 the Mustang received its first significant revamp, growing larger and wider to accept the big block 390ci V8. Shelby, naturally, took this one step further, fitting the new 1967 GT500 with a 428ci Police Interceptor V8. In 1968, Ford debuted the 428 Cobra Jet version of the engine, which Shelby made the centerpiece of the GT500KR.

As the decade closed, the muscle car era was at full throttle, with the GT joined by the Mach 1, Boss 302, and Boss 429. The Shelby Mustangs grew even more distinct, with unique fenders, hood, grille, and center-exit dual exhaust.

1970s

As much as any other car on the market, the Mustangs of the 1970s were products of their times. They began the decade at the end of the original muscle car era with the largest displacement engines ever put into a Mustang. By mid-decade, following the first oil crisis, they were transformed into economy cars.

The last of the first wave of Shelby Mustangs were produced, as unsold 1969 GT350s and GT500s were retitled as 1970 models (although a few Shelby de Mexico and Shelby Europa Mustangs continued to be built for a couple years). The 1971 Boss 351 and Mach 1 429SCJ jousted for the title of hottest Mustang from the factory.

When the downsized Mustang II arrived for the 1974 model year, it was once again the right car for the right time. While the economy-minded Mustang II has its detractors, it was enormously popular when introduced, selling nearly 400,000 units in its first year, a number not seen since 1967.

The Mustang II Cobra II took many styling cues from Shelby Mustangs and made a cultural impact on TV shows such as Charlie's Angels. But the new Fox-platform Mustang that arrived for 1979 shifted things in a fresh direction, with crisp styling, roomier interior, an optional turbocharged 4-cylinder, and a “5.0-liter” fender badge that would soon set the performance world on fire.

1980s

For performance-minded car fans, there was plenty of gloom in the air during 1980. After years of declining performance due to new regulations, it was easy to believe the rumors that V8 engines were soon to be extinct.

But the 1982 Mustang GT, with its 157hp 5.0 HO engine, reignited a rivalry with the new Camaro that had also arrived in 1982. The following year the 5.0-liter HO received a Holley 4-barrel carburetor and 175 hp, which in 1985 rose to 210 hp thanks to a roller cam and tubular headers. The 1984 SVO Mustang achieved new levels of sophistication thanks to its turbocharged and intercooled engine and revised suspension.

By 1986, carburetors were gone, and the 1987 models introduced the “aero” restyle, fresh interior, and 5.0-liter tuned to 225 hp. The Camaro was tough competition, but the Mustang's street reputation as the cheaper and faster option attracted a new generation, along with an expanded aftermarket to service it.

1990s

As the '90s dawned, the Fox-body Mustang was showing its age. But Ford was not done with the platform yet. In 1993, the Mustang SVT Cobra debuted with GT-40 heads and tubular intake manifold, 245 hp, and a retuned suspension for better handling and improved ride. The Cobra R was the race variant. These were the first in a series of SVT Cobra and Cobra R models that would set a high bar from 1993-2003.

The 1994 SN-95 Mustang debuted with softer styling, safety upgrades, and improved handling. In 1996 the Mustang GT's 5.0-liter pushrod V8 was retired, replaced by a new Modular 4.6-liter SOHC V8, with a DOHC version used in the Cobra. For 1999, the SN-95 was freshened with “New Edge” styling.

2000s

The new century started with a bang with the 2000 Cobra R, boasting a 5.4-liter DOHC V8, 385 hp, and the Mustang's first 6-speed manual transmission. That was followed by a string of heritage-influenced Mustangs, such as the 2001 Bullitt and the 2003-04 Mach 1.

But the new retro-styled Mustang that was introduced for 2005 set the table for the long awaited reunion between Ford and Carroll Shelby. Carroll was a consultant on the 2005-06 Ford GT program, and his new partnership with Ford resulted in the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500, a product of Shelby's input and Ford's SVT division. With a supercharged 5.4-liter, 32-valve, DOHC V8 rated at 500 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, it was the most powerful street Mustang ever released by Ford up to that point.

Shelby Automobiles' Las Vegas factory (later Shelby American) was already churning out hot Mustangs, such as a 2006 40th anniversary Hertz Shelby GT-H. The Hertz cars proved so popular that the public clamored for a version for the rest of us, which resulted in the Shelby GT. When the 2007 GT500 arrived, Shelby was ready, releasing GT500KR and the GT500 Super Snake editions.

2010s

Ford's engineering department smashed a home run when it released the Coyote 5.0-liter V8 in 2011. With 4-valve, DOHC heads with Variable Camshaft Timing, the engine ensured every Mustang GT packed more than 400 hp. In 2012 Ford reintroduced the track-ready Boss 302 with upgrades to 444 hp.

Shelby continued breaking new ground. The 2011-2014 Shelby 1000 —so named because it was targeting 1,000 horsepower — holds a place in history as the final vehicle that Carroll Shelby himself had a personal hand in developing. The 2012 Shelby GT350 built on Shelby's original concept with unique styling, track-ready Shelby suspension, and supercharger options.

A substantial update to the Mustang for 2015 introduced an independent rear suspension and Eco-Boost 4-cylinder to the mix. Ford took the baton from Shelby American for the GT350 and GT350R in 2016, building the package around a 5.2-liter V8 with flat-plane crankshaft which resulted in the most powerful naturally aspirated Ford production engine ever to that point.

2020s

The Mustangs of the 2020s have set new standards of performance. The Ford Shelby GT500 was reintroduced for 2020 with a supercharged, 760hp 5.2-liter engine, built by hand. Shelby American realized the car's full potential with the Shelby GT500 Signature Edition; it had 800+ hp, aggressive suspension recalibration, and dry carbon fiber ventilated hood. In 2021 Ford reintroduced the Mach 1, capable of 12-second quarter-mile times right off the showroom floor.

The future looks bright with the 2024 Mustang GT, which will be powered by a 4th-gen Coyote V8 of 480hp, with controls integrated into an advanced infotainment screen. It promises to be a fantastic platform for future Shelby Mustangs.

When we consider the distance traveled from the $2,300 1964-1/2 Mustang, with 170ci inline-6 and 3-speed manual transmission, to the 2025 Mustang GTD with carbon fiber widebody, 800hp supercharged 5.2-liter V8 and 8-speed rear transaxle, it reads like science fiction. But the Ford Mustang has been a very real part of American lives and culture for 60 years. There's no telling what the future holds, but we look forward to tackling it behind the wheel of a Mustang.

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