First Generation 1964 1/2 - 1973
Early 1965 Mustang
On March 9, 1964, the first Mustang, a Wimbledon White convertible with a 260-cubic inch V-8 engine, rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan. A month later on April 17th, 1964, the Ford Mustang made its world debut at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York
The first model Mustang, the early 65 (or as many refer to it, the 64 ½), was available as a coupe or convertible, and featured a base 170-cubic inch six-cylinder engine with a three-speed floor shift transmission. An optional 260-cubic inch V-8 engine was available, in addition to a four-speed manual transmission or a three-speed automatic “Cruise-O-Matic” transmission. The Falcon platform Mustang featured full wheel covers, bucket seats, carpeting, and a padded dash; all for a base retail price of $2,320. According to Ford, 22,000 orders were taken the day of its debut. This came as quite a surprise to Ford executives who had predicted annual sales of about 100,000 units. Within its first 12 months, Ford would sell close to 417,000 Mustangs.
Late 1965 Mustang:
In August of 1964, Lee Iacocca was approached by Carroll Shelby
who envisioned the creation of a high-performance Mustang. He wanted a vehicle that could hold its own both on the road and on the track. Shelby received approval from Iacocca to move forward on the project. In the end, he created a Fastback 2x2 Mustang, featuring a modified K-code 289cid V8 Engine with 306 hp. Ford termed the car the Shelby GT350 Street. It was revealed to the general public on January 27th of 1965.
Other changes in the Fall of ‘64 included an entirely new Mustang engine lineup, and the addition of the GT group. The 170-cubic inch six-cylinder engine was replaced by a 200-cubic inch six-cylinder version. This increased the six-cylinder’s performance from 101 hp to 120 hp. The 260-cubic inch V-8 was also replaced with a more powerful 289-cubic inch V-8 engine, capable of producing a whopping 200 hp. This GT Group option far surpassed the 164 hp the smaller engine had generated. In addition, an optional 289-cubic inch V-8, with a four-barrel solid-lifter, was available, capable of producing 225 hp. The 289-cubic inch V-8 "Hi-Po" was also an offering, generating 271 hp. In addition to the new Fastback Mustang, the existing notchback coupe and the convertible were also available offerings. The V-8 GT group Mustangs also touted GT badging, racing stripes on the lower body, and a dual exhaust.
In March of 1966, the Mustang had sold well over a million units. The ’66 model Mustang featured slightly moderate changes to the grille and wheel covers. An automatic transmission became available for the “Hi-Po” V-8. A new instrument cluster, as well as new paint and interior options, were also offered.
The 1967, Mustang is considered, by many, to be the pentacle of design in the 1960s. The semi-notchback was replaced by a full-Fastback roofline. A longer nose was added, as were triple tail lamps and a wider chassis. A bigger grille was also featured, giving the Mustang a more aggressive appearance. In all, the 1967 Mustang was bigger and more aggressive than ever before. In the power performance arena, 1967 marked the release of the Shelby GT500, which featured a 428-cubic inch V-8 capable of producing 355 hp. There’s no doubt about it, the Mustang was fast becoming a major contender in the world of sports cars.
1968 marked the release of the 302-cubic inch V-8 engine, thus replacing the old 289 V-8 “Hi-Po”. In addition, the 427-cubic inch V-8 engine was released mid-year, capable of producing 390 hp. This premiere racing engine was an available option priced at a mere $622. In April of ’68, the 428 Cobra Jet engine was released in an effort to provide additional performance power to racing enthusiasts. 1968 was also the year in which Steve McQueen raced a modified Mustang GT-390 Fastback through the streets of San Francisco in the movie “Bullitt”. A special-edition Mustang would be released in 2001 commemorating this appearance.
In 1969, the body style of the Mustang changed once again. Sporting a bolder, more aggressive stance, the ‘69 featured a longer body with distinct muscle car characteristics. Gone was the title “Fastback”, as Ford adopted the new corporate name of “Sportsroof”. A new 302-cubic inch engine was also released, outputting more than 220 hp. This year also saw the introduction of the 351-cubic inch "Windsor" V-8 engine, producing 250 hp with a two-barrel carburetor and 290 hp with a four-barrel.
Ford offered several special-edition Mustangs in 1969: Boss 302, 429, Shelby GT350, GT500 and the Mach 1; all of which featured performance engines. The company also offered the Grande luxury model, which featured luxury components such as a vinyl-covered roof, a softer suspension, and wire wheel covers.
It should also be noted this was the year, in which, Carroll Shelby, designer of the Shelby Mustang and longtime Ford colleague, lost control of the Shelby design. This resulted in his request for the company to no longer associate his name with the Mustang.
This was a year of minimal changes for the Mustang. The only noticeable addition to the 1970 model Mustang was the addition of a ram air "Shaker" hood scoop, which was available on Mustangs equipped with a 351-cubic inch engine.
Touted as the biggest Mustang ever, the 1971 model year was almost a foot longer than previous Mustangs, and was also much heavier in comparison. It’s said this Mustang weighed 600 pounds more than its predecessor. Several special edition Mustangs, featured in the previous two model years, were removed from the ’71 lineup. This included the Boss 302, the Boss 429, the Shelby GT350 and GT500. The Mach 1, however, remained available in various powertrain configurations.
There were no noticeable changes to the body style of the Mustang in 1972. The highlight was the release of the Sprint model Mustang which featured red, white, and blue exterior paint-and-tape styling with matching interior options. Ford launched an ad campaign that used slogans such as, “Put a little Sprint in your life.” Sprint styling was also available on the Ford Pinto and the Maverick.
In 1973, a shortage of fuel became a nationwide concern. Consumers wanted fuel efficient vehicles that were cheap to insure and capable of passing newly introduced emissions standards. As a result, the muscle car era came to an end. This meant Mustang designers would have to go back to the drawing board to create an economical car with consumer appeal. This was the last year the Mustang was built on the original Falcon-platform. The convertible model was also discontinued in ‘73. This marked the end of the first generation Mustang.