Ford’s introduction of the sixth-generation Mustang on Thursday caps a half century of history – and yet the car remains instantly recognizable as a pony car, with its long hood, vertical taillights and wide-mouth grill.
As the 50th anniversary approaches – Ford rolled out the first production Mustang on April 17, 1964 – here are highlights of all the Mustangs that came before.
1962: Ford rolls out the Mustang 1 Concept — a two-seat, mid-engined sports car that foreshadowed the signature details of the production model to come: a long hood, short rear deck and sculpted flanks.
1964: The production Mustang, now a four-seat coupe, makes its world debut on April 17, 1964, at the World’s Fair in Flushing, New York. The price: $2,268. These early models later became known as “1964 1/2” Mustangs because of their uncharacteristically early release.
1966: Mustang sales pass the 1 million mark in March.
1967: Often considered the high-water mark of early Mustang design, the 1967 model boasts more aggressive styling and performance, while evolving carefully from the original. Four decades later, for the 2005 model year, Ford would issue a modern-retro Mustang in the image of this 1967 model.
1971: A new generation attempts to make the Mustang more of a luxury coupe — now some 600 pounds heavier and a foot longer than the original. The beginning of what many consider a dark era for America’s pony car.
1974: Federal demands for fuel economy and pollution control catch the U.S. auto industry flat-footed. Mustang designers respond by shrinking the car’s size and engine options drastically — calling the result the “Mustang II.” Though they sold well in their day (and starred in TV’s “Charlie’s Angels”) most of these underpowered, Pinto-based cars would die lonely deaths on scrap heaps.
1979: The introduction of the first “Fox chassis” Mustang features a new “Euro” design, with sleek and boxy sheet metal that nonetheless evokes the fundamentals of the original.
1985: The introduction of a high-output version of Ford’s 5.0-liter, 302-cubic-inch engine boasts 210 horsepower in a lightweight package — signaling the return of truly muscular Mustangs. “Five-point-oh” Mustangs become a cultural phenomenon.
1994: A restyled Mustang combines styling elements of the original, such as sculpted flanks, with a rounded, more aerodynamic look. Ford would later add sharper creases to the exterior in keeping with a “New Edge” design ethic across the automaker’s lineup.
2002: The Mustang stands alone in the “pony car” segment Ford invented as GM cancels production of the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. (The Camaro would return; the Firebird would fade into history — along with all of Pontiac.)
2005: Introducing a fifth generation, Ford goes all the way with retro, essentially building a modern version of the 1967 Mustang fastback. Enthusiasts and critics cheer the return to roots. Ford would add mild styling tweaks over the next decade. Power mushrooms: The latest base GT has 420 horsepower; high-end Boss and Shelby versions add much more. Speed and handling surpass all previous Mustangs.
2014: The next Mustang arrives just in time for the 50th anniversary.