Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy 50th Birthday, Ford Mustang

Be True to Your School
The Ford Mustang premiered in spring of 1964 as a sporty affordable compact for the masses of Baby Boomers getting their first driver licenses, the first "Pony Car" and still considered the epitome.

Built on the second generation Ford Falcon compact platform, the Mustang was the product of a team headed by Lee Iococca and designed with the vast youth market coming of age in the mid 60s. The Mustang was affordable, attractive, sporty, and with a myriad of options could be anything from an economical 6 cylinder convertible for high school girls to a muscular street car for her brother.

Called by Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson "the most significant car of the 20th century", the Mustang was a blockbuster sales success for Ford, sales surpassing the 1 million mark within 18 months of production.

The first generation offered a powerplant choice of the 6 cylinder 120 hp 200 ci (3.3 L) or the muscular 289 ci (4.7 L) V8 which started at 200 hp for the basic 2 barrel carb up to 270 for the high output options. When the 1967 and 1968 models came around, the street racers could choose from a gearhead's dream shopping list of the 302 "Boss" to the Carroll Shelby collaborations with the monster 428 Cobra Jet with 335 hp from the factory, easily scaleable to over 500 hp.

It was the 1968 GT with the 390 FE that Steve McQueen drove to cinematic car chase immortality in "Bullitt"

But by 1970, Mustangs began to suffer the same bloat as almost every other American car of the early 70s, it was longer, wider, much heavier and with the "smog motors" it was much slower with the top powerplant being the 351 "Cleveland" topping out at 275 hp from the factory

The nightmare began for the Mustang in 1974 with the introduction of the subcompact Mustang II based on the legendarily bad Ford Pinto platform. A panic response to the 70s oil crisis, the first year provided only a weakling 2.3 L 4 cyl or an anemic 2.8 L V6, only adding a pitifully castrated 302 V8 with all of 140 hp. The Mustang II was mercifully put to death after the 1978 model year and still resides on countless "worst cars ever" listings.

Update- GGE from "Last Refuge of a Scoundrel" has informed me that the Mustang II was based on the Maverick platform, not the Pinto. Since he'd marry his Mustang if it was legal in his state, I'll accept his word on this as an expert. The Maverick was also the relative that the Ford family speaks of in hushed tones.

The Horror .... The Horror ...
From 1979 to 1993, the Mustang would return to it's original platform criteria, starting out slow but by the mid 80s it had returned some respectability with the 302 now designated as the 5.0 liter (nicknamed the "Point" by the growing urban culture) with the light body making it the fastest American production car not named the Buick Grand National.

The mid 90s brought a more attractive and sleeker look over the boxy 80s Mustang, still popular with those who loved a youthful sporty young car, but it's street cred had been bypassed by the turbocharged Hondas and Mitsubishis while the well heeled youth of the day were given BMW's and other German sport coupes for their 16th birtday

In 2005, Ford hit a home run with the new retro design with the lines of the first generation. It is gorgeous and like its progenitor it is widely scaleable with the base V6 offering 300 hp and the top of the line Shelby putting out over 500 hp from the factory

Nice Pic of a 2006 Mustang
In the autumn of 2014, the Mustang will premier a new generation with an entirely new look that comes to mind "Aston-Mustang", will feature turbocharged 4 cylinders and will join the 21st century with independent rear suspension, which I hope will satisfy the main complaint of the Top Gear trio had about the live rear axle.

Trivia tidbit - The Mustang was not named by its development team for the small horse, but for the P-51 Mustang fighter planes of WW II.

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