In the third in a series of articles, we're shining the spotlight on some of the most iconic classic cars of all time, tracing their history and exploring what makes them so legendary
In this edition, we're looking at just why the Ford Mustang is among the very best of all time. If you are in the market for one yourself, check out our cars for sale.
1962 – the birth of a legend
Conceived in 1962 as the solution to the need for a new small car that seated four, had a variety of power, comfort and luxury options and sold for less than $2,500, it took just 18 months to bring the Ford Mustang to the market.
It launched in March 1964 and it became so much more than just a new car. The Mustang gave birth to a new class of automobile – the pony car.
The styling, with a long bonnet and short back end, proved a big hit – there was a hardtop at first, but convertible and fastback models came along soon after. The first generation was sold for nine years, until 1973.
A new class of car
There aren’t many models that, when launched, create a whole new class of car. But that’s what the Mustang did, giving rise to the pony car segment. It wasn’t long until the competition got in on the act.
Imitators came in the form of cars like the Dodge Charger, which went on sale for 1966, having been conceived in 1964 – the year the Mustang went on sale. The Plymouth Barracuda went on sale in 1964, while the Chevrolet Camaro came along in the autumn of 1966.
And the Pontiac Firebird arrived for 1967.
Iconic status assured
One way to sell cars is to be successful in motorsport. Another way is to make sure your car does the business on the big screen.
In 1968 Steve McQueen – one of the coolest guys around and also a huge car fan and racer – was at the wheel of a Mustang GT 390 fastback in what became one of the most famous chase scenes of all time in Bullitt.
The tussle with a Dodge Charger secured celebrity status for the cars. Sales dynamite.
It’s probably fair to say that as the Mustang progressed it lost a lot of the qualities that made the first car such an icon.
The second generation came along for 1974 and managed to, more or less, keep the good looks of the original. Ford wanted a more fuel efficient model – and they timed it just right as a huge fuel crisis hits the USA.
Things got a bit, shall we say, uglier, for the third gen car, which sold from 1979 until 1993. Towards the end of its life in particular it was a pretty unremarkable pseudo-sports car, with little similarity to the Sixties stunner.
The fourth generation didn’t improve things much. On sale from 1994 until 2004, it had a serious amount of 1990s about it looks-wise. It was reskinned in 1999, which brought back the chunkier muscle car styling back to an extent.
Things got better in 2005, when the fifth generation car returned to retro styling far more akin to the original cars. There were big engines, big power and big looks to take the Mustang back to its roots.
The past brought up to date
The one thing that we haven’t mentioned is that the Mustang was never actually on sale in the UK – all cars on British roads were imports. That was until 2015, when the sixth generation car was sold in the UK and Europe as a right-hooker for the first time.
It’s big, hefty and powerful in V8 form and offers economy in EcoBoost guise too. After 50 years, the Mustang is as great as it’s ever been.