A legend was born 50 years ago when the Ford Mustang made its debut on April 17, 1964.
The typical debut of new cars happened during the fall months; however Ford had a better idea about the Mustang and brought it out in the spring.
Chrysler had done the same thing with the Valiant Barracuda with its debut on April 1, 1964, but the pony car market really fired up with Ford’s aptly named Mustang.
The spring 1964 debut of the Mustang was actually an early launch of the 1965 Mustang, although it was dubbed a 1964 1/2 and anybody who calls it a ’65 will be beaten severely by an angry mob of Mustang purists.
Most people probably already know the first Mustang was essentially a Ford Falcon dolled up in prettier sheet metal and shared a basic platform with the less sexy Ford compact.
The first year ‘Stang debuted with a sales projection of less than 100,000 vehicles, a forecast that fell well short of the 100,000-plus Mustangs sold within the first three months alone following its April launch.
These ponies left Ford’s corral so fast they were forced to upgrade on the fly and bump up its original 260 V-8 option up to the beefier 289 engine.
Ford also added an alternator to later models, as well as backup lights, while replacing the Falcon horn ring with one unique to Mustang.
The net result was 121,538 Mustangs that are considered to be the 1964 1/2 models because of their debut in April of that year and the cars’ first three months with heavy Ford Falcon features hidden under a Mustang skin.
I was in elementary school when the Mustang debuted in April 1964 and I can recall how much excitement this first pony created in car world. The short deck and long hood of the first Mustang would be a trailblazer for its Big Three competition in future years.
The original Mustang was a favorite for women because it was sporty, good looking and affordable in 1964. The car is still a favorite among car girls and we have encountered many proud female owners of these first ponies at car shows.
I ended up with a 1965 Mustang in the late 90s until about 2007 and my primary reasons for ownership were its attractive sale price, nostalgia from my childhood when these cars were new, a very beefy 289 under the hood, but mainly because the car was a fastback.
The Mustang never really came alive for me until the debut of the fastback model in 1965. I liked the original Mustang but I loved the original Mustang fastback and purists will remind me the first fastback was indeed a ’65 model-not a 1964 ½ model.
The fastback design made the first-gen Mustang into something very special for me when I was a kid.
The fastback seemed more macho and it played to the strength of the overall design of the car in my opinion then and now.
However, we are here to celebrate the birth of a true automotive legend in its earliest form, so Happy Birthday Mustang and long may you run.