Now over half a century old, the Mustang has stories to tell.
In 1964, Lee Iacocca introduced the Ford Mustang at the New York Auto Show. Fifty-six years later and the Mustang still represents the beating heart of Ford Motor Company. It was a hit right out of the gate, but the Mustang's history has had its ups and downs including navigating the fuel crisis of the 1970s and having a close shave with becoming a front-wheel-drive car.
The latest generations have seen a substantial evolution of the Mustang. It still stays true to its roots as America's pony car but has also become a world-class sports car. Independent rear suspension was just the start of the Mustang's transition from a muscle car into a full-fledged sports car that can take corners with the best of them.
Fifty-six years of history means we have a wealth of interesting facts to explore. These are our favorites.
Sequential turn signals are heavily associated with the Mustang and considered iconic by some, but they didn't become a regular fixture until 2010. The first Mustangs to feature sequential turn signals were the 1968 Shelby GT350 and GT500. However, they had the sequential turn signals because Shelby used the rear units from the Ford Thunderbird. Sequential signals were also used on the Mercury Cougar, but only 8,201 Mustangs were built using them until before 2010.
Downsizing engines became the norm in the 2010s, and the four-cylinder Mustang caused quite a stir. However, it was the 1974 Mustang II generation that got the first four-cylinder engines. It was a 2.3-liter SOHC lump shared with the Pinto and, initially, the only other option for the Mustang II was a V6. The Mustang II was a dark time for the badge, and thankfully the new turbocharged four-cylinders are a blast to drive if you like a lighter nose.
The first turbocharged Mustang was the Fox-body, and that same four-cylinder lump was fitted with a Garrett AiResearch turbo. It bumped output from 118 to 132 hp, which took it closer to the 5.0-liter V8's 150 hp when it was introduced.
Speaking of the beleaguered Mustang II, in 1975, the four-cylinder engine lost a single horsepower to bring it down to a measly 87. On the positive side, the Mustang II shrunk in size in response to customers complaining the pony car had gotten too large. Unfortunately, its release also coincided with the oil embargo of 1973, and downsizing the Mustang's engine options happened fast. It also arrived on the same platform as the Ford Pinto and, while the Mustang II sold well, performance suffered. The V8 reappeared in 1975, but the fact was that the Mustang II wasn't Ford's finest moment.
The Mustang 5.0 became well known in the 1980s, but it first appeared in 1968. While the Boss 302 Mustang engines were powerful, the standard ones only made 220 hp unless you upgraded from a two-barrel carburetor to a four-barrel to get it up to 230 hp. The other option was a 1968 Shelby GT350, which got a larger Holley carburetor and an aluminum intake that helped take the engine to 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.
The largest displacement engines to go into a production Mustang was 429 cubic inches or 7.0 liters in size. The Boss 429 was a homologation engine needed for Nascar racing that went into around 1,500 Mustangs at the end of the 1960s. It made 375 horsepower, which was immense for the time. In 1971, Ford used the 429 cu. in. V8 from its Torino model in production cars, making 370 hp. An upgraded version was also available, and that cranked out 375 hp, the same as the Boss engine.
Even in the dark days of the Mustang II, it sold well. In 2009 though, Ford only sold 46,619 units. There was a good reason as people knew the all-new Mustang was coming with its refreshed retro styling (Including the sequential LED taillights) and handling. The updated Mustang wasn't a flat-out success as the also retro Chevrolet Camaro outsold it in 2010 by around 40 percent. The Mustang refresh also included a significant improvement in coefficient drag as well as new springs and dampers. But, it wasn't until 2011 that the drivetrain was upgraded.
The first supercharged Mustang came along in 1966, courtesy of Caroll Shelby building eleven GT350 fastbacks fitted with Paxton Superchargers. Shelby claimed the supercharger addition improved the power of Ford's factory unit by 46 percent, upping output from 271 to 395 hp. Shelby considered building a specific supercharged model of the GT350 but instead elected to make the supercharger an option costing $670. Customers could also buy them separately from Shelby, along with the new instrumentation included in the supercharger package.
It's one of the most sought after collector Mustangs out there, and last year a model sold for $132,000 through Barrett-Jackson. The Cobra R is a race-spec brute of a Mustang that only came in red and without air conditioning or a stereo, but did come with improved brakes, improved engine cooling, power steering, its own wheels, and a price tag of $26,692. 1993 was the only model year for the Fox Body Cobra R, and only 107 were built.
Many names were considered and rejected before Mustang was chosen, and even that name got dismissed initially. According to the designer John Najjar, he pitched the name and linked it to the WWII P-51 fighter plane. It was rejected, but Najjar pitched the name again. This time he said that it was named after the horse. That was when the bigwigs liked the idea, and the Mustang got its name.
We don't care what you think you know; there is no such thing as a 1964½ Mustang. We even spoke to some high ups at Ford who have been eating and breathing Mustang for decades, and they will tell you the same thing. Mustang #001 left the factory with a 1965 VIN code, along with the rest of them. Curiously, it was supposed to be kept by Ford, but the company accidentally sold #001 to a Canadian called Stanley Tucker. He later sold it back to Ford after enjoying it for many years.
The gap in the VINs issued between June-July 1964 is considered by people to be the dividing line between 1964½ and 1965 models. That was to allow a change from a generator to an alternator on the engines. Other small things changed that denote early 1965 to late 1965 Mustangs, but the fact remains: All of the first Mustangs are on 1965 VIN. A 1964½ Mustang is not a thing.
Somehow, the first 500-hp Mustang showed up a few years before the first 400-hp Mustang. In 2007, the Shelby GT500 and its 5.4-liter V8 laid down 500 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. That made it both the fastest and most powerful Mustang until that point. It wasn't until 2011 that the Coyote engine with 412 hp made its way into the Mustang GT.
Dodge's Challenger isn't a refined sports car like the Mustang, but it's a Detroit company car with a similar reputation for power. The Challenger Hellcat turned up a while back with 707 horsepower, and, more recently, the Challenger Redeye became available with 797 horsepower. The 2020 Shelby GT500 is late to the 700 horsepower party, but it's here now and rocks 760 horsepower that's controlled by a Tremec seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The purists might complain,but we love it.