New & Used Ford Mustang: In Depth
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The Ford Mustang is one of the most recognizable names in American automotive history. It debuted at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and has since changed history—selling millions of models over the next fifty years.
As it approaches its 50-year anniversary, the Mustang is preparing for change--a new generation of pony cars is due for the 2015 model year.See our 2013 Ford Mustang review and our 2014 Ford Mustang page for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings
The Mustang was the unexpectedly, wildly popular response to the rise of the sporty compact car in the early 1960s. GM had the Chevy Corvair in its stable already when Ford, under the direction of auto legend Lee Iacocca, conceived of its own "personal car"--one that would appeal to buyers looking for an image. By reskinning the existing Falcon runabout with a stylish, enduring new body, Ford had a hit.
The Mustang made its world debut at the 1964 World's Fair in New York on April 17, 1964. Within four months, Ford had sold 100,000 copies, and by 1966, the Ford Mustang coupe and convertible logged more than a million sales. Most early Mustangs were powered by six-cylinder engines, but V-8 versions grew in popularity as the Mustang developed a muscle-car personality in models like the Shelby GT350 and GT500 and the Mach 1.
Basic Mustangs were affordable transportation; the V-8 cars quickly escalated the musclecar wars, pitting Ford's best against the Chevy Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, and the Plymouth Barracuda. A fastback body style added a graceful new look to the stable in 1967, and trim and performance packs of every stripe greeted each new model year in the Mustang's infancy.
As the Sixties turned into the Seventies, the Mustang began to lose traction. By the time a new took shape in 1971, safety and emissions rules were eviscerating all the musclecars. Power peaked with the 1971 Mustang Mach I, and fell each year until Ford took the drastic step of downsizing the car into the 1974 Mustang II. Lighter and much shorter, this Mustang also shared some running gear with the Ford Pinto. A sales hit at first, the Mustang II dented the name and the reputation--and Ford quickly planned a new car, spun from the new Ford Fairmont's rear-drive platform.
The "Fox" platform Mustang arrived in showrooms in 1979, and soldiered on in that basic form until 1993. Along the way, the four-cylinder brought back V-6 and a V-8 companion. The V-8 became the GT in 1983; convertibles returned to the lineup in 1983; and a turbocharged SVO began its short life in 1984. In the late 1980s Ford planned a front-drive Mustang replacement, but before it launched the vehicle it changed direction. The rear-drive Mustang got revised sheetmetal, while the front-drive coupe emerged as the 1989 Ford Probe. Performance models included the Cobra R and SVT editions, as Ford progressively rebuilt the Mustang's reputation for performance.
In the 1990s, the Mustang migrated from the by-then outdated look of the 1993 model, to the heritage-themed styling of the 1994-2004 edition. It also rode on a heavily revised chassis that eventually settled on V-6 and V-8 engine combinations. The 5.0-liter V-8 went away, replaced by the durable, powerful 4.6-liter V-8--but the Mustang retained its live-axle rear end. Reshaped and refined in 1999, the Mustang drove on and on until it had outlived the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird--which ended production in 2002--and until a new Mustang was ready for the 2005 model year.
With the 2005-2009 Mustang, Ford finally exorcised the Mustang's reputation for clumsy live-axle handling and dated structural engineering. The new car proved tight, well-built--not to mention great-looking, an ideal blend of modern and heritage styling themes. With revamped six- and eight-cylinder engines, new automatic and manual transmissions, a new convertible edition, and Shelby and Bullitt editions along the way, this Mustang sold hundreds of thousands of copies each year while other competitors like the Nissan 370Z and Hyundai Genesis Coupe emerged from their respective drawing boards.
For 2010, Ford carried over most of the Mustang's mechanicals, while smoothing its sheetmetal with a more forward-canted grille and by installing a much better interior. In 2011, the Mustang receives new powertrains--with the V-6 earning a 31-mpg highway fuel economy rating, and the V-8 bringing back the "5.0" badge, along with 412 horsepower. Supercharged Shelby GT500 editions of this V-8 are now the most powerful Mustangs on the road, but a special racing edition brings back the Boss 302 designation--and charges ahead with a 444-horsepower, normally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8, less curb weight, and a TracKey package that lets drivers dial up performance on closed circuits.
The Mustang carried over into 2011 and 2012 with only minor changes, but the 2013 model year brought some more modern details to the Mustang's look--including HID headlamps, flanked by two strips of LED lighting, plus LED lamps with a dark-tinted look, as well as a blacked-out area in between. Inside, the Mustang gets a new TrackApps feature that helps you time acceleration or quarter-mile times. The electric power steering also gained three-stage, driver-configurable settings. Powertrains along with most else were carried over, although the V-8 was boosted to 420 hp.
Also new for 2013 was an even more potent version of the Shelby GT500--packing a 650-hp 5.8-liter V-8, in coupe or convertible forms, and capable of (in coupe form) 200 mph.
The 2014 Mustang is expected to carry over with relatively few changes--although the latest reports suggest a half-model-year run could inaugurate the new generation. However it's designated, a new Ford Mustang is expected to be introduced in time for the car's 50th anniversary in April 2014. There's considerable discussion about the direction the new Mustang will take, in design and in running gear--given the success of the independent-suspension Camaro. At latest report, a 2015 Mustang with Fusion-like design cues and an independent rear suspension could arrive in concept form as soon as the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, with a production version set for the April auto show in New York--where it all began, back in 1964. And those rumors of a higher-output, turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang? Well within the realm of possibility.