Ford Mustang Through The Years – The Evolution of a Classic Car
Take a Test Drive in a Recent Model at Our Ford Dealership in Leavenworth, Kansas
The Ford pony car has an illustrious history, filled with redesigns, size changes, engine upgrades, and strategic choices to fit the car into the changing landscape of the U.S. The story is a rollercoaster at times.
Today’s Ford Mustang reminds us of the original, but how the Mustang started is certainly not where it will end up.
Come with Zeck Ford as we journey through the Mustang’s lifetime. While we won’t be discussing the offshoots of the Mustang, like the Shelby GT models, we still will have plenty to talk about and explore. After all, 1964 was quite a long while ago.
The Ford Mustang is Born
In the early 1960s, Ford VP and general manager Lee Iacocca imagined upgrading the existing Ford Falcon to a more sporty version targeted at a younger demographic. With very little money to contribute to the project, Iacocca and his team managed to get it done, introducing the 1965 Mustang at the 1964 World’s Fair.
Ford Motor Company planned 100,000 first-year sales, but buyers grabbed up 22,000 on the first day at car dealerships near them. And that, as they say, is history.
The 1965 Debut
The first Mustangs rolled off the assembly line in 1964, with convertible, notchback, and fastback body styles The original engine was a 170 cubic-inch displacement with a straight six; a 4.3-liter V8, and the 289-cid V8 that achieved up to 271 horsepower. Later in the same model year, Ford swapped out a couple of the engines in time for the 1966 model year.
Ford execs had enjoyed a big surprise; total sales for the 1964 model year were 681,000 cars, almost seven times the number Ford had projected. And by March 1 of 1966, they’d built their millionth pony car.
Bigger Isn’t Better?
The 1965 and 1966 Mustangs were relatively compact, but in 1967, Ford stretched it in all directions and stuffed underneath the hood with big-block engines, like the 6.4-liter V8 with 335 horsepower.
Again in 1969, the Mustang grew 3.8 inches longer and a half-inch wider, though the wheelbase remained the same. A 5.8-liter V8 with up to 290 horsepower replaced the previous engine that could achieve up to 289. This same year, Ford introduced the Boss and the Mach; the Boss was built for Trans-Am racing production, while the Mach was ready for the streets.
But sales had dropped. Ford produced fewer than 300,000 Mustangs in 1969 and fewer than 200,000 by 1970. Ford Execs wondered why.
So in 1971, the Mustang became bigger and bulkier again, with a buttressed rear window, but powered by smaller engines. The 351 became the largest engine available for the model year, and by 1973, the Mustang – a coupe, mind you – weighed 3,600 pounds. That’s a gain of 1,200 pounds since 1965.
And sales continued to plummet. But Ford had a plan.
Ford’s Impeccable Timing
In 1974, in response to complaints that the new Mustang had ballooned to too-large of proportions, Ford introduced the Mustang II, a subcompact available as a hatchback or notchback powered by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder or a 2.8-liter V6. They were fuel efficient and posed as a luxury economy car.
Ford Motor Company’s timing could not have been better. The Mustang II arrived in fall 1973, just in time for the oil embargo.
Sales skyrocketed to 386,000, which would become the Mustang II’s best year. For it, Ford earned the MotorTrend 1974 Car of the Year Award.
The 1975 through 1978 model years offered a 5.0-liter V8 with just 140 horsepower, plus the Cobra II and King Cobra models that offered little compared to the Shelby Cobra.
Again, sales were down, less than 200,000 per year.
The Fox and the Aero
In 1979, the Mustang’s upgraded platform was called Fox, shared with the Fairmont sedan. This new model year version was available in notchback or hatchback bodies with engines ranging from a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with just 88 horsepower to a 5.0-liter V8.
In 1980 and 1981, the 5.0-liter was dropped in favor of a 4.2-liter V8 – and that’s when the second oil crisis hit the United States. In 1982, the 5.0-liter returned.
In 1983, the first Ford Mustang convertible in a decade rolled out of the factory, plus a 3.8-liter V6 that removed the straight-six engine from the lineup altogether. And in 1984, Ford released the limited Mustang SVO, with a 175 or 205 horsepower engine and Koni adjustable shocks.
In 1987, the Mustang got a redesign. Flush headlights and a new interior went along with the aero-themed styling. It came in two trims: the economy Ford Mustang LX with an 88-horsepower engine, or the Ford Mustang GT, with low-body side skirts, louvred headlights, and a 225-horsepower engine.
And then Ford did something. They took the LX – a lightweight vehicle without the extra cladding of the GT, and dropped the GT’s engine into it. It was a deceptive vehicle, with low-key looks and a powerful engine under the hood.
And yet sales were declining after 1989.
In 1993, Ford ended the generation with the SVT Cobra. It had a modified 235-horsepower V8, less aggressive styling than the GT, and Tokico shocks and struts. The Cobra R was race-ready with all the necessary equipment. Ford sold 5,107 in total.
A Recognizable Mustang
In 1994, Ford debuted the new Mustang generation with a “jellybean shape” body and a cabin with a twin-cowl dashboard that harkened the driver back to the original pony car.
The Fox platform was enlarged and coupled with a softer ride. The new base engine was a 3.8-liter V6, with a more powerful 215-horsepower option. And in 1996, Ford replaced that one with a modular 4.6-liter OHC V8. The SVT Cobra was still available.
In 1999, the Mustang got a modification, adding the Ford “New Edge” motif and increasing the power to engine options. This year’s SVT Cobra was the first Mustang ever to have an independent rear suspension.
And then in 2002, something huge happened. Chevrolet discontinued the Camaro. In the pony car class, the Mustang rode alone.
Kicking It Old-School
Car enthusiasts began seeing more and more similarities in the 2005 Mustang to the original first-gen one, thanks, in part, to a squared-off body shape and rounded headlights. The Fox platform went away, save for the live rear axle.
Seeing the error of their ways, Chevrolet worked to revive the Camaro, and Dodge made plans to bring back the Challenger.
In 2010, the new Camaro hit the streets, and Ford revamped the Mustang again, giving it sequential tail lights a la a vintage Thunderbird and adding new engines, ranging from 305 to 444 horsepower and releasing a Boss 302 Laguna Seca, that was ready for the track.
The Mustang Goes Modern
The 2015 Mustang celebrated the car’s 50th anniversary. A 310-horsepower turbo-four joined the existing 300-horsepower V6 and 435-horsepower V8.
For the 2018 model year, the V6 was dropped, and in 2019, Ford announced something very special.
The Electric Pony
For 2021, Ford introduced the Mach-E, a four-door electric crossover bearing the pony car emblems. With a minimum range of 230 miles before recharging the Mach-E, but additional upgrades can extend the range considerably for those with lengthy commutes.
The Mustang Mach-E captures the spirit of the Mustang with a muscular body, while fulfilling a new market for drivers seeking an alternative to a gas-guzzling crossover. And with Ford’s Mach-E GT version, you can still get where you want to go, fast.
Get Your Own Mustang at Our Kansas City Car Dealership: Zeck Ford
To get a Mustang of your very own, browse our listings of new and used cars at Zeck Ford in Leavenworth, Kansas, just a short drive west of Kansas City, Missouri.
Take your favorite Mustang out for a test drive, secure financing, and leave with a new or new-to-you pony car the very same day. Our Zecksperience promise ensures you’ll never encounter a pushy salesperson, and you’ll never have to haggle to get the best deal. In fact, our transparent pricing guarantee provides you with the Kelley Blue Book Value of every vehicle on our lot.
Ride off into the sunset in a Ford Mustang. Visit us on South 4th Street in Leavenworth to get yours.