Generations of the Ford Mustang

A Collective History of the Ford Mustang

Introducing the Ford Mustang
With more than five decades of collective pavement beneath its wheels, the Ford Mustang is an automotive legend. Photo Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

With more than five decades of collective pavement beneath its wheels, the Ford Mustang is an automotive legend. For many, the Mustang has come to represent American performance. For others, the Mustang conjures up memories of youth, Friday night cruising, and the thrill of the open road. No doubt about it, the Mustang is loved by enthusiasts worldwide. So how did it all begin?

The Concept and Design (1960-1963)

In the early 1960s, Ford General Manager Lee Iacocca pitched his vision of a fun-to-drive compact car to Ford board members. His emphasis was on a vehicle that would appeal to the Baby Boomer generation and would be based off of the popular Ford Falcon. Although it was a tough sell, Iacocca, along with supporters Donald Frey, Hal Sperlich, and Donald Petersen convinced Ford to move forward on the project.

Frey, an Executive Engineer for Ford, conceived the first prototype, the 1962 Mustang I concept, which was a mid-engine two-seater roadster. The name of the car was based on the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter plane from World War II. It debuted in October at the Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, New York, and was driven around the circuit by legendary racecar driver Dan Gurney. Iacocca, however, was looking for something different, and asked the designers to come up with a new design. In the spirit of competition, he devised an intramural design contest between three in-house studios. David Ash and John Oros of the Ford Studio took the prize.

Based on the Falcon, their Mustang featured a long-sweeping hood and a high-mounted grill with a Mustang prominently featured as its centerpiece. It also featured air-intakes in front of the rear wheels, with chassis, suspension, and drivetrain components taken from the Ford Falcon. The idea was to design a vehicle that was cheap to produce, while offering up the product quality of the Falcon. In fact, the Mustang and the Falcon shared many of the same mechanical parts. It was also identical in overall length, although the Mustang had a shorter wheelbase (108 inches). In spite of its many similarities, the Mustang did look completely different on the outside. It also had lower positioned seats and a lower ride height. And with that, the Ford Mustang was born.

Ford Mustang Generations

What follows is a guide to the generations of the Ford Mustang. A generation, in this instance, represents a complete ground-up redesign of the vehicle. Although there have been numerous body style changes over the years, according to Ford, there have only been six total ground-up redesigns of the Mustang.

First Generation (1964 ½ - 1973)

On March 9, 1964, the first Mustang rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan. A month later on April 17th, 1964, the Ford Mustang made its world debut.

Second Generation (1974-1978)

For almost a decade, consumers had come to know the Ford Mustang as a power performance machine, with performance increases delivered on an almost yearly basis. Ford took a different approach with the second generation Mustang.

Third Generation (1979-1993)

Sleek and redesigned, the 1979 was the first Mustang to be built on the new Fox platform, thus kicking off the third generation of the vehicle.

Fourth Generation (1994-2004)

Not only did 1994 mark the 30th anniversary of the Ford Mustang; it also ushered in the fourth generation of the car, which was built on a new FOX4 Platform.

Fifth Generation (2005-2014)

In 2005, Ford introduced the all-new D2C Mustang platform, thus launching the fifth generation of Mustang. As Ford put it, "The new platform is designed to make the Mustang faster, safer, more agile and better-looking than ever." In the 2010 model year, Ford revised the interior and exterior of the car. In 2011, they added a new 5.0L V8 engine to the GT line up, and upped the output of the V6 model to 305 horsepower.

Sixth Generation (2015-)

On December 5, 2013, Ford officially revealed the new 2015 Ford Mustang. As Ford says, the car, which features a completely revamped design, was inspired by 50 years of Ford Mustang heritage. The new Mustang features an independent rear suspension, push start technology, and a 300+ hp turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine option.

In its 2016 model year, the Mustang featured several special-edition package options, as well as numerous nods to the classic 1967 pony car. The Mustang fastback and convertible were joined by the iconic California Special Package and Pony Package —two Mustang trim levels made popular in the 1960s. Several other new options, including new stripes and wheels, were also offered.

Source: Ford Motor Company