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Happy Birthday Ford Mustang, Born Today, 1963

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Charles Fleming reported, in 2015, about the Mustang: In 1963, engineers at the Ford Motor Co. turned a Ford Falcon into a sporty four-door coupe. Then they took two doors off, made it sportier still and, on April 17, 1964, hit the market at the New York World’s Fair with the now-iconic Mustang.

The original pony car turns 51 today. In celebration, Ford is releasing a birthday video and filmmaker David Gelb — known for “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” — will unveil his Mustang documentary “A Faster Horse” at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday.

The celebrated Mustang, whose 2015 incarnation is the latest of six design generations, has been in continuous production since its inception.

According to legend, Ford didn’t know what it had created. The car might have been called the Cougar, Torino or even Thunderbird II. The company reportedly had hoped to sell 100,000 in the first year, at an MSRP of under $2,400. It sold more than 300,000. Ford then rushed production and built more than 1 million Mustangs in the first 18 months.

The rest is history … (read more)

via LA Times

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edmunds.com has this history of the Mustang:

For a car enthusiast, knowing the history of the Ford Mustang is as basic as knowing the laws of thermodynamics are to a physicist, knowing Hebrew is to a rabbi or knowing when the bacon is done to a cook at Denny’s. The Mustang is a pillar of American automotive lore, and the car that brought sporting dash and styling at a price almost anyone could afford.

The Mustang has never been an exotic car. Even the rarest, most powerful Mustangs ever built (such as the ’69 Boss 429) were assembled with haphazard care by a UAW workforce facing a quick-moving, continuous production line with parts that were shared in common with six-cylinder Falcons, four-door Fairlanes and stripped Galaxies. Handcrafting and taking the time to do something extra special has never been part of Mustang production.

But that hasn’t kept the Mustang from capturing the hearts of drivers for nearly 40 years. As ordinary a car as the Mustang has always been, it has always been extraordinarily attractive.

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First Generation (1964 1/2-1966)

Ford’s Mustang was conceived in full knowledge that in the mid-’60s the biggest population bubble in history was coming of age in America. Baby boomers would rule the ’60s and there was little reason to think they wanted cars that were anything like their parents’ cars. The production Mustang was shown to the public for the first time inside the Ford Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964 — two months and nine days after the Beatles first came to New York to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. It went on sale at Ford dealers that same day.

The 1964 1/2 production Mustang followed two Mustang concept cars. The Mustang I shown in 1962 was a midengine two-seater powered by a V4. The Mustang II show car first displayed at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, N.Y., during October 1963, was a front-engine, four-seater foreshadowing the production machine that went on sale six months later. Compared to those two, the production machine was dowdy. Compared to every other American car then in production, except the Corvette, the Mustang was gorgeously sleek.

To make the Mustang affordable it needed to share much of its engineering with an existing Ford product. That product was the smallest Ford of the time, the compact Falcon. In fact, the first Mustangs were built in the same Dearborn, Mich., plant as the Falcon.

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Initially offered as either a notchback coupe or convertible, the Mustang’s unibody structure was laid over a 108-inch wheelbase and stretched out 181.6 inches from bumper to bumper. While it shared its front double-wishbone/coil spring and leaf spring rear suspension as well as its overall length with the Falcon, the proportions of the Mustang were different. Its cockpit was pushed further back on the chassis, resulting in a longer hood and shorter rear deck design, and both its roof and cowl were lower. It’s with those proportions — detailed with such iconic touches as the running horse in the grille, the side scallops along the flanks and the taillights divided into three sections — the Mustang became a car people were instantly passionate about.

Engine choices started with the utterly lame 170-cubic-inch (2.8-liter) OHV straight six that made just 101 horsepower; then proceeded through a 200-cubic-inch (3.3-liter) OHV straight six rated at a flaccid 116 horsepower; a 260-cubic-inch (4.3-liter) OHV V8 breathing through a two-barrel carburetor and making 164 horsepower; a 210-horsepower two-barrel-equipped 289-cubic-inch (4.7-liter) V8; a four-barrel 289 making 220 horsepower; and, at the top, the famous “K-code” high-compression, solid-lifter, four-barrel 289 pumping out a lusty 271 horsepower. K-code-equipped cars got a special badge on their front fenders indicating that not only did the engine displace 289 cubic inches, but that it was also the “High Performance” version.

A three-speed manual transmission was standard with every engine except the 271-horse 289, which was available only with the four-speed manual that was optional on other models. The Cruise-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission was also offered.

Nothing could stop the 1964 1/2 Mustang (especially not its four-wheel drum brakes) and with Ford furiously adding production capacity for the “pony car” at plants around the country, the company sold an amazing 126,538 of them during that abbreviated 1964 model year — 97,705 coupes and 28,833 convertibles. The V8s outsold Mustangs equipped with the six by nearly three to one.

The three most significant additions to the Mustang for 1965 were the neat 2+2 fastback body, the optional GT equipment and trim package and optional power front disc brakes. Gone forever was the 260 V8 that few buyers were choosing anyhow.

Even Ford was shocked at America’s appetite for the Mustang during ’65. It sold an astounding 409,260 coupes, 77,079 2+2 fastbacks and 73,112 convertibles that year. That’s a total of 559,451 Mustangs for the ’65 model year.

With that many Mustangs in the nation’s automotive bloodstream, it was natural that many of them would be raced. But in order to go road racing head to head against Chevrolet’s Corvette, Ford needed a two-seater. And rules said that Ford had to make at least 100 of them by January 1965. That’s where Carroll Shelby came in.

Shelby, a Texan and longtime racer, saw the potential to slay Corvettes with the Mustang and took 100 of the first 2+2s equipped with the K-code engine built at Ford’s San Jose, Calif., plant down to Los Angeles for modification into “GT 350” models. Tossing the rear seats aside, Shelby added such performance items as oversize front disc brakes, a fiberglass hood and a lowered suspension with oversize tires on 15-inch wheels. Shelby’s legendary series of modified Mustangs would be built through 1970 in various forms and are today considered some of the most desirable Mustangs ever built. It’s impossible to ignore the Shelby Mustangs (which carried Shelby VIN numbers) when recounting Mustang history, but space considerations prevent further discussion of them in this article.

The easiest way to tell the 1966 Mustang from the ’65 is the later car’s lack of horizontal or vertical dividing bars in the grille — the running horse logo seems to float unsupported in the ’66’s slatted grille. Other changes were limited to color variations, a revised instrument cluster and a few trim tweaks. Incredibly, the ’66 was even more popular than the ’65 and Ford sold 607,568 of them — 499,751 coupes, 35,698 2+2s and 72,119 convertibles. That’s still the most Mustangs ever sold during a single model year … (read more)

Source: edmunds.com

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