Mustang makes 50 – Graham Bigg

The FORD Mustang was introduced to the public by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca at the New York World’s Fair on the 17th April 1964.  On the evening of the 16th April FORD had bought the 9pm time slot on all major TV networks and an estimated 29 million viewers were treated to the Mustang’s unveiling.  The car’s base price was only $2,368 f.o.b. Detroit for the hardtop model.  It was advertised boldly, with displays in airport terminals, Holiday Inn lobbies, and dealer showrooms across the USA.  The car was a sensation, at one dealership 15 customers wanted to buy the same Mustang so the car was auctioned-off.  The winning bidder insisted on sleeping in the car to be sure it was not sold from under him before his cheque was cleared next morning.

Before Mustang’s introduction FORD predicted first year sales of only 100,000 units.  It took just four months to sell 100,000 mustangs.  For the full 1965 model year from April 1964 to August 1965 a total of 680,980 were sold.  An all time industry record for first-year sales.

In March 1966, the Australian motoring magazine, Modern Motor, road tested a mustang fitted with the 200 bhp V8 engine and automatic transmission.  The best top speed achieved was 117 mph with maximum speed in gears being 48 mph in 1st and 84 in 2nd.  The magazine’s test driver, Bryan Hanrahan, made the comment that every time he put his foot down hard at under 40 mph in the Mustang, “It sounded like ten vestal virgins being raped simultaneously”.  Actually it was only the tyres.

The Mustang is one of the world’s longest continuously made cars.  For the fifty years that it has been in production it has gone through five generations with the release of the 2015 being the sixth.  In 1987 when FORD was proposing to kill-off the original concept a letter writing campaign by the public saved it.  FORD was planning to replace the Mustang with the Mazda built Probe, a four cylinder, front wheel drive coupe.  The thought of a Probe with a Mustang badge was considered by many enthusiasts to be unbearable.  So it continued as a rear wheel drive, gas guzzler, made in Detroit.

The new 2015 Mustang has been designed as a world car and for the first time a right hand drive version will be made for sale in Australia, Great Britain etc. In order to lift sales it has been designed to appeal to both younger buyers and baby boomers. The 2015 is an all new car, and as a complete departure from previous models will come with independent rear suspension, an integral link design specifically tuned for performance. Three engines will be available; a more powerful 5 litre V8(440bhp), a 3.7 litre V6(over 300bhp), and a 2.3 litre EcoBoost 4(305bhp). All 2015 Mustangs will have either a six speed manual transmission or a six speed automatic with steering wheel mounted shift paddles.

For over fifty years Mustang has continued to be one of the most instantly identifiable cars with its long hood and short rear deck silhouette. It has maintained its appeal to both young and old due to its sporty performance and unique body style. And as one of the advertisements for Mustang in the sixties proclaimed, “Mustangers have more fun”.

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