We Celebrate the Original Pony Car
Ford Inside News
April 17, 2014
By: Austin Rutherford
On this day 50 years ago, people lined the windows and doors outside their local Ford dealer in the early morning waiting for the curtains or paper covering up the storefront to come down. For the previous nights before, Ford had bombarded the three major networks with teaser ads for an all-new model. Even on the said morning, Ford launched ads in thousands of newspapers. With the excitement building hourly for the debut, when the curtains and paper fell, the automotive industry would be forever changed.
For many years before, Ford had been looking to introduce a new sports car after the Thunderbird moved to being more of a personal coupe for families. In 1962, under the direction of Lee Iacocca, Ford debuted a small 2-seater, 2 door mid-engine sports car. Its name: Mustang, after the P-51 fighter used in World War II and made famous by pilots like Chuck Yeager and those of the Tuskegee Airmen. The original concept had a simple flaw: it would not have sold that well and Ford needed a volume product.
Ford went back to the drawing board by starting with the compact Falcon. They lengthened the hood, shortened the rear, and designed a new body for the platform. This new design was first shown with the Mustang II show car. With deep press and public support behind the new design, Ford moved ahead to launch a production version in the Spring of 1964.
On April 17, 1964, the production version of the Mustang was first shown at the New York World’s Fair following over a month of production. Ford expected only 100,000 sales in its first year of sales. It ended up selling over three times that many!
The popularity of the Mustang was not only due to the design or even the powertrains; it was the price and the options list. A base Mustang could be bought for under $2,500 USD and from there could be nearly personalized from the available options. Three body styles were offered: hardtop, fastback, and convertible. A Multitude of colors, front end and rear designs, and engines were offered.
The Mustang only took 18 months to sell its first million. It remains as a textbook case of how to launch a product and is widely considered the best nameplate launch of all time. As a response, competitors to capture their own piece of the Mustang-begotten Pony Car segment launched vehicles like the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
A lot else has happened after the launch that continued and accelerated the Mustang’s legacy, but the birth of the legend is at the forefront of its legacy. Though it now seems cliché, Happy 50th Birthday Ford Mustang!