History of the Ford Mustang

07th Apr 2021

By Daniel Hitchman

The legacy of Ford's pony car

It's difficult to imagine a world without the iconic Ford Mustang, a car that has amassed a strong cult following since its introduction in the 1960s. There's a number of reasons the Mustang has cemented its place as a legend, but featuring in the best cinema car chase of all-time alongside Steve McQueen continues to be a highlight for the stallion. We are, of course, referring to the 1968 thriller, Bullitt.

The only real problem with the Mustang is that it was never readily available as a right-hand drive car in the United Kingdom. However, that all changed in 2014, when Ford announced they would be bringing the latest Mustang to UK dealers, and they would be right-hand drive. Hallelujah!

We thought it was only appropriate to take a look at the history of the Ford Mustang and its transformation over the years.

1964 - 1974

01 January

First Generation (1964 - 1974)

green ford mustang fastback

Epitomising the American automotive dream, the first Ford Mustang rolled off the production line on the 9th March 1964 and created a new motoring breed: The Pony Club. Based on the second generation Ford Falcon, the Mustang was the sportier relative and was fully customisable.

The cockpit was pushed far back on the chassis, giving the Mustang a longer bonnet and shorter rear deck design than other cars in the Ford range. However, it was the detailed touches that gave the Mustang its edge; including the running horse on the grill, side scallops along the flanks, and its three tier taillight sections, all adding to its iconic aesthetics.

To appeal to racing enthusiasts, Mustangs were made available as a 2-seater, which is when Carroll Shelby came in. Shelby - a legend within his own right - saw potential and took 100 of the first 2+2s built at Ford's San Jose plant before modifying them into 'GT 350' Models. Shelby removed the rear seats and added performance items, such as larger front brakes, a fiberglass bonnet, lowered suspension, and over-sized tyres on 15-inch wheels.

1974 - 1978

01 January

Second Generation (1974 - 1978)

red ford mustang

The second-gen Mustang needed to make a big impression following the success of the original. And although sales weren't as high, Ford still shifted over 350,000 of them within the first year.

It kept many of the traditional Mustang styling cues such as the scalloped sides, three-piece taillights and the stallion on the grille. This was available as either a notchback coupé or a fastback. Interestingly, Ford introduced a four-cylinder motor for the first time, which produced a pretty uninspiring 88bhp. There was also an optional engine, a German-built 'Cologne' 2.8-litre V6, which produced a healthier 105bhp.

In 1976, the Cobra II was added, giving the Mustang a large rear spoiler, a bonnet scoop, and blue stripes across the white paint. This model soon became an icon after hitting the small screen in the American hit TV series Charlies Angels, where Jill Monroe drove the same car.

1979 - 1993

01 January

Third Generation (1979 - 1993)

red ford mustang

The original Mustang's DNA could still be seen going into the third generation, although the design was now slightly sleeker. The main change was that there was no running horse in the shovel-nosed grille.

The signature side scallops had been removed and the taillights were divided into six segments rather than three. Even though the engines were all the same from the previous generation, the Mustang did start to feel like a different animal due to its changing design and platform.

A 5-speed manual transmission finally came to the Mustang in 1981 as an option. A new grille came in 1983, which featured Ford's blue oval logo at the centre, while GLX and GT models boasted a glass rear window and rear-quarter windows that rolled down, making the Mustang convertible a very popular choice.

1994 - 2004

01 January

Fourth Generation (1994 - 2004)

red ford mustang cobra

Ford made quite a bold decision with the fourth-generation Mustang, because they decided to completely reshape the body and step away from the previous designs. Gone was that flat-looking nose and those blunt lines, this generation of Mustang now featured smooth contours and various intakes around the body. The updated styling brought the Mustang into the millennium and the 1999 Mustang had a special 35th anniversary badge on its front fenders.

The engine was beefed up for this generation, making the power higher and more accessible. The V6 was now pumping out a reasonable 190bhp (145bhp in earlier models), while the V8 was increased to a substantial 260bhp (215bhp in earlier cars). Transmissions remained either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

A limited run of 300 'Cobra R' models were produced in 2000 and were powered by a 5.4-litre, iron-block version of the DOHC, 32-valve engine, which produced a massive 385bhp.

2004 - 2015

01 January

Fifth Generation (2004 - 2015)

yellow ford mustang convertible

Ford heavily revised the Mustang going into the fifth generation. For the first time in a long while, visual cues from the original stallion could be seen throughout the styling. Ford's senior Vice President of Design called it "retro-futurism" when they unveiled the design in 2003.

Although a new V6 engine had been introduced, it was the newly introduced 4.6-litre V8 that deservedly stole the limelight because of its 300bhp output and huge levels of low-down grunt.

A revision in 2011 saw a sleek facelift applied to the Mustang. It's easy to notice this version of the pony car has very similar proportions and features to the sixth-generation Mustang that was introduced in 2015.

A Shelby GT 500 was available after the facelift and brought a 5.4-litre 550bhp V8 to the party alongside revised suspension and bigger brakes.

2015 - Present

01 January

Sixth Generation (2015 - Present)

orange ford mustang, front quarter, driving

The sixth generation marked the birth of the all-new Mustang. The designers managed to pay homage to a classic style without the end result looking like a caricature of the original. It's reminiscent of the '67 and '69 Mustangs, with the canted nose, big grille, and round headlights. While the side sculpting, fastback roofline, and taillights are alike to the ponies from the 1960s.

Available as a fastback or convertible, the long bonnet flows downwards, reducing drag, helping the car cut through the air with ease. The best part of all is that the sixth-generation Mustang is available with a 2.3-litre EcoBoost or 5.0-litre Coyote V8, both of which you can acquire through Evans Halshaw Ford retailers.

2021 has seen the reintroduction of the famous Mach-1 model, too. With enhanced performance, even greater levels of grip, and a chassis design that has been engineered to offer maximum levels of driver engagement, it more than lives up to the Mach-1 moniker.

Driving a Mustang has always been an event in its own right. So if you're considering one, it may be worth having a look at our experience beforehand.

2021 - Present

01 January

Mustang Mach-E (2021)

ford mustang mach-e charging

The early stages of 2021 herald the arrival of a new breed of pony car: the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Recognised worldwide for being slick coupes with powerful petrol V8 engines, many were surprised to learn that Ford had pursued battery power with the Mach-E.

Design cues from the traditional Mustang can be seen throughout the Mach-E. However, the SUV proportions bring benefits such as enhanced practicality. Despite the absence of an engine, the top-spec Mach-E can achieve 0 to 62mph in just 5.1 seconds. The aural sensation of the V8 may be gone, but the performance certainly isn't.

In addition to the above, the Mach-E can travel up to 379 miles on a full charge, ensuring range anxiety remains firmly at bay. All-in-all, this new addition to the family represents a step towards a greener future for the Mustang family.

Join the pony club with Evans Halshaw

The Mustang was never born a legend, but Ford did everything right from the beginning, making it almost a certainty that the raging stallion would become one of the world's most desirable cars.

Fast forward to the present day, and you have a sports car that is supremely well-polished, without losing the essence and DNA that made the original Mustang so incredibly special. In addition, they've managed to capture that magic and wrap it around a greener, all-electric SUV.

We wholeheartedly recommend getting behind the wheel of a Mustang at least once in your life. And, better yet, if you can justify ownership, then it's a must. With a wide range of new car deals on the Mustang through Evans Halshaw Ford, you could be experiencing the legacy of the pony club for yourself.