Ford Mustang – The First Ten Years

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The Holy Grail for a TV production company is to have a show that seems to polarize the audience into those who cannot get enough or it and those that just cannot stand it. Such, I suspect, is the audience of Amazon’s “The Grand Tour”.

After a difficult re-birth, it’s essential television and world class car porn. Fronted by a “shaved ape in a shirt” (not my description) Jeremy Clarkson and his trusty sidekicks the first episode saw the unholy three screaming across a Southern California dessert – backed by a brilliant live soundtrack from “Hot House Flowers” – each driving driving a custom model of the sixth generation Ford Mustangs, including the Galpin Fisker Mustang Rocket – a 5 litre V8 725 bhp monster.

A later episode, during the “Conversation Street” spot, Clarkson commented that cars today looked like they had been designed by people who don’t like cars! A damning indictment of the state of car design seemingly limited to the inflexible tolerances of what the Health and Saftey Department will allow. The new generation of Mustangs are refreshing exceptions.

The most “Liked” car on Facebook but what is this iconic car’s history?

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One of only a handful of cars to have enjoyed continuous production for over fifty years the nascent Ford Mustang – “the Pony Car” – was designed in 1962 as a two-seater concept car which by 1963 had become a four seater aimed at the mid-budget demand for a sportier Ford coupe with a long bonnet.

The history of its design, its naming and the galloping Mustang logo are the stuff of legends. What seems clear is that the early design resulted from the collaboration of John Najjar and Philip T Clark who together realised the first two-seat prototype Mustang I.

Clark alone is said to have designed the car’s long-used logo.

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The car’s name may have come from by Najjar’s liking of the WWII P-51 Mustang Fighter or it may have been suggested by Robert Eggert, a Ford excecutive and horsebreeder, whose wife had given him a book “The Mustangs” as a birthday gift.

Launched on April 17, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. The car’s first base price was $2,368.

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A huge success, the early estimates of 100,000 annual sales were exceeded in the first three months – a total of 400,000 sold in the first year – and the one million manufactured mark was passed in eighteen months of launch. A dealer inadvertently sold the first production model to a Canadian Pilot, an error later rectified by Ford who exchanged his car, which had 10,000 miles on the clock, for the one millionth Mustang, made in March 1966.

At launch the Coupe and Convertible versions were joined in 1965 by a fastback version.

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By 1968 engines were upgraded from six to eight cylinders; coinciding with the role played by Steve McQueen’s character’s Mustang Fastback in “Bullitt”.

In 1969 the front end and body shell were designed to be heftier.

By 1973 the ill-conceived ‘SportsRoof’ version made the once sprightly Mustang appear bloated impacting negatively on sales and prompting a design overhaul resulting in the second generation Mustang II in 1974.

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Images courtesy of Ford Motors

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