In the 1960s Ford Motor Company decided to develop a fun-to-drive car that would appeal to the post-World War II generation. The Mustang I concept made its debut in October 1962 at the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, New York where race driver Dan Gurney drove it around the circuit. The production model was introduced to the world for the first time on April 17, 1964 at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. The first Mustangs were offered with four engine variants, ranging from the base 101 horsepower, 170 cid six-cylinder to the 4-barrel 289 cid High Performance V8 with 271 horsepower. Body style was either a coupe or a convertible. An 200 cid inline V6 and a 2-barrel version of the 289 were added later in the model year.
The original Mustang’s chassis, based on the Ford Falcon, had the overall length of 181.6 inches and a width of 68 inches. The wheelbase was 108 inches. Standard equipment included a three-speed floor-shift transmission, full wheel covers, padded dash, bucket seats and carpeting. It weighed just 2,572 pounds. Ford expected annual sales of about 100,000 units, but 22,000 Mustang orders were taken on the first day, and sales reached an astounding 417,000 in the car’s first 12 months on the market. The first Mustangs sold at an average retail price of $2812, including an average of $371 in options. In 1965 the Shelby GT350 was introduced with its 306-horsepower, 289 cid V8. In March 1966 Mustang sales passed the one million mark.
In 1967 the 2+2 model was restyled from a semi-notchback to a sweeping full fastback roofline. Separate triple tail lamps, a longer nose and a bigger grille were added for a more aggressive stance. Also the Shelby GT500 went on sale, powered by a massive 428 cid V8 that produces 355 hp. The 302 cid V8 replaced the 289 midyear 1968, and the 427 cid V8 (rated at 390 hp), was offered as a $622 option. On April 1st, the 428 Cobra Jet engine was introduced as part of an option package aimed at enthusiasts. New models added to the lineup in 1969 included the 290 hp Boss 302, the 375 hp Boss 429, the Mach 1 and the Grande luxury model. Also offered for the first time was the 351 cid “Windsor” V8 engine, producing 250 hp with a two-barrel carburettor, or 290 hp with a four-barrel.
Mustang got a major restyling for the 1971 model year. The new model was the biggest Mustang ever. It was nearly a foot longer and some 600 pounds heavier than the original. Gone from the lineup were the Boss 302, Boss 429, Shelby GT350 and GT500. The Boss 351, with its 351 “Cleveland” V8 and Cobra Jet heads, debuted. The Mach 1 was available with a variety of powertrains, topped by the 370 hp 429 SCJ (Super Cobra Jet).
In the 1970s the impact of gasoline shortages, rising insurance premiums and emissions controls brought the muscle-car era to the end. The 1973 model year was the last for the original Falcon-platform Mustang. Luckily, this didn’t end the story of the Mustang as Ford introduced a new, smaller Mustang for 1974. However, the production of the Mustang convertible was discontinued in 1973.