The Evolution of the Original Pony Car

The Ford Mustang is widely recognized as the first of the American pony cars and is a legend of the American road. Since its first drive off the production lines in 1964, this muscle car has gone through a number of major changes to accommodate evolving tastes and preferences in the U.S. automotive marketplace. Here are some of the most important turning points for the Ford Mustang.

The First Generation

The Ford Mustang originated from the T-5 project helmed by chief engineer and assistant general manager of Ford Motor Company Donald N. Frey. The objective of this project was the development of an affordable new sports car for the Ford lineup. The Mustang was the result of the combined efforts of renowned designers Phil Clark and Eugene Bordinat, engineer Roy Lunn and automotive stylist John Najjar Ferzely. The first Mustang prototypes featured a choice of two V-4 engines capable of producing 89 horsepower and 109 horsepower respectively. Production models, however, were released with V-6 and V-8 engines and considerably more power under the hood. The iconic Mustang emblem was created by Phil Clark and still adorns modern Mustangs to the present day.

Redesigning an American Classic

Just three years after the initial release of the Mustang, Ford’s design team went back to work to create a larger version of this successful entry in the automaker’s lineup. By 1971, this trend had reached its peak with underpowered, oversized Mustangs that failed to reach the market created by its initial release. A new fuel-efficient Mustang was released for the 1974 model year; dubbed the Mustang II, the new vehicle was available in coupe and hatchback and reclaimed some of its previous audience in the U.S. marketplace.

Third Generation Mustangs

Between 1979 and 1994, Ford produced four-passenger Mustangs in a variety of configurations that included coupe, convertible and hatchback models. The Cobra and Cobra R trim levels were introduced during this period and soon earned a place among the legendary muscle cars of the American automaking industry. The relatively stodgy exterior design and lackluster performance of the Mustang, however, failed to attract the buzz and sales hoped for by Ford executives and resulted in a return to the drawing board for the automaker’s design division.

A Return to Greatness

The fourth generation of the Ford Mustang was released in 1994 and featured a 3.8-liter overhead valve V-6 engine capable of producing 145 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. The exterior of the new model featured a welcome return to the aggressive styling and powerful performance that characterized the original Mustang. This innovative retooling reignited interest in the Mustang and attracted a new generation of buyers for this classic muscle car.

In 2014, the Ford Mustang will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The modern Ford Mustang incorporates more powerful engine choices, a wide array of special editions and some of the most technologically advanced features available in the automotive market. After five decades of continuous production, the Mustang continues to enjoy exceptional popularity and delivers the performance and style buyers expect from this iconic pony car.