Skip to content

Ford Mustang Starts the Pony Car

The introduction of the Ford Mustang in 1964 created a new class of American automobile called the "pony car". The class describes a group of affordable, sporty cars with long hoods and short rear decks.  At its peak, the class included the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, AMC Javelin, Plymouth Barracuda, and Dodge Challenger.

As baby boomers began to reach driving age, Lee Iaccoca, then general manager of the Ford Division, had a hunch there would soon to be a market for an American-made four-seat sports car.  In late 1960, he ordered the Ford Division to begin investigating the feasibility of producing such a car.

The 1962 Mustang concept car only had two seats and was based on the second-generation Ford Falcon.  The two-seat design was replaced the following year with a concept car featuring front bucket seats and a rear bench seat with significantly less space.  This four-seat model eventually became the production Mustang.

Officially introduced to the public on April 17, 1964, the original car is often designated the "1964 1/2  Mustang". The 1965 model year turned out to be one of Ford's most successful product launches since the Model A.

First Generation (1965-1973)

The 1964 1/2 Mustang was available in either a coupe or convertible.  To maintain a base price of $2368, the car used many interiors, chassis, suspension, and drivetrain parts from the Ford Falcon and Fairlane models.

Buyers had a choice of the following engines options:

  • 170 cubic inch (cid), 101 HP six-cylinder
  • 260 cid, 184 HP V8 with a two-barrel carburetor
  • 289 cid, 210 HP V8 with four barrel carburetor
  • 289 cid, 271 HP V8 with a four-barrel carburetor and solid lifters

Transmission options included a three and four-speed manual, or automatic. Multiple rear-end gear ratios were also offered.

The interior featured wall-to-wall carpet, front bucket seats, an optional front bench seat, a rear bench seat, a floor-mounted shifter, a full headliner, and a "sports car" like steering wheel.

The 1965 model year saw the six-cylinder get a bump to 200 cid and 120 HP.  A 289 cid, 200 HP two-barrel replaced the 260 cid, and the 289 cid four-barrel got upgraded from 210 to 225 HP.

The biggest change for 1965 was the addition of a new fastback model which would become the cornerstone of Carroll Shelby's GT350.

A new interior package known as the "pony" interior was introduced in 1965.  It included special seat covers with running horses on the seat backs, special door panels with integrated armrests, pistol grip door handles, a five gauge instrument cluster, a wood grain steering wheel, and other wood grain touches throughout the interior.

Also introduced in 1965 was the GT equipment group. Mechanically, the group included five-gauge instrumentation, disc brakes, bigger sway bars, a faster steering ratio, and dual exhaust.  Fog lights and lower body side stripes were added to the exterior. The GT equipment group could only be ordered with one of the four-barrel engine options.

Changes for the 1966 model year were mostly cosmetic. The number of different interior colors and styles increased to thirty-four.  This gave buyers many ways to express their personality through their Mustang.

The first major styling change occurred in 1967.  The Mustang's length and height increased by several inches.  The wider body style made room for the first "big block" Mustang engine.   At 390 cid, this big block made a whooping 320 horsepower.  Other notable options in 1967 were a tilt-away steering wheel, power disc brakes, and the new FMX transmission which provided fully automatic and manual shifting.

1968 saw only subtle changes to the 1967 model.  By the middle of the model year,  both 289 cid engines were replaced with a 302 cid four-barrel engine.  Several regional models were also introduced.  Two of the more popular were the Mustang California Special and the Mustang High Country Special.

The Mustang received another significant restyling in 1969.  Gone was the Fastback 2+2.  In its place was a new "SportsRoof" model.

Although the wheelbase remained unchanged, The new Mustang body was almost four inches longer than previous models.

The base engine remained the 200 cid six-cylinder. An economy 250 cid six cylinders was added as an option.  The two-barrel 302 continued to be the base V8 engine. However, the 302 four-barrel and 390 two-barrel were dropped as engine options.  Buyers could still choose a 390 cid four-barrel while a 351 cid with either a  two or four-barrel carburetor entered the lineup.  1969 also saw Ford introduce two limited production engines,  the Boss 302 and Boss 429.

Several new models made their debut in 1969.  These included a Mustang "E" for economy-minded buyers and the Mach 1 which only came with one of the bigger V8s including a Cobra Jet 428, the Boss 302, and the Boss 429.

Like the first generation Camaro Z/28, the Boss 302 was built specifically for the SCCA Trans-AM racing series.  The power plant included a special 302 cid engine rated at 290 horsepower and mated to a 4-speed transmission.  The exterior of the car featured a front spoiler, flared fenders, Magnum 500 wheels, and Boss 302 badging.

The Boss 429 was built to meet NASCAR requirements.  It came with a Semi-Hemi 429 engine.  In order to get the engine to fit,  Ford engineers moved the shock towers out an inch and lowered the front A-Arms an inch. The 429 came with a competition suspension, rear stabilizer bar, front disc brakes, power steering, engine oil cooler, and battery in the trunk. The exterior was identical to the Bose 302 with the exception of a large hood scoop.

Only subtle cosmetic changes were made for the 1970 model year.  The 390 ci engine was discontinued, and the 351 Windsor engine from previous years replaced the current two and four-barrel 351 cid power plants.  The Mach 1 and the two Bose models continued to be available in 1970.

The first generation Mustang saw its last major styling change in 1971. The car grew two inches longer and almost two and a half inches wider.  The wheelbase now extended to 109 inches.  The 200 cid six cylinder, 428 Cobra Jet, and Bose 302 and 429 engines were dropped.  These were replaced with new Boss 351 and 429 engines, and a Ram Air 429. The Boss 351 four barrel had a rated 330 horsepower while the two  429 engines were rated at 370 horsepower.

The Mach 1 model continued to be available with any V8 engine option in 1971. The Mustang Boss 351 replaced the Boss 302 and 429 models.  The 351 had a competition suspension, staggered rear shock, four speed transmission with Hurst shifter, power front disc brakes, dual exhaust, and a traction lock rear end.

The final two years of the first-generation Mustang saw mostly cosmetic changes.  The Boss 351 and 429 engines were eliminated.  In early 1972, Ford announced a special 351HO model.  It featured a low-compression version of the Boss 351 engine with a high-lift cam, mechanical lifters, forged aluminum pistons, and a special four-barrel manifold.  The Mach 1, which was essentially unchanged for 1972, was the only "performance" model left in the Mustang line-up.

1973 would be the last year for the "big" Mustang.  The wheelbase would drop back to 96.2 inches for the next generation.  1973 would also be the last year for a convertible model for more than a decade.

Mustang production is currently in its sixth generation.  It continues to be Ford's most classic and well-known product.  Little did anyone know that the vision of Lee Iaccoca in 1960 would produce a class of cars whose styling and performance have excited the American car-buying public for more than 50 years.

Production Numbers
1964 1/2 121,538
1965 559,451
1966 607,568
1967 472,000
1968 317,404
1969 299,824
1970 190,727
1971 149,678
1972 125,093
1973 134,867

1 thought on “Ford Mustang Starts the Pony Car

Comments are closed.