Great American Cars: Ford Mustang

The Mustang, still in production, is among the automotive industry’s most successful cars. Since the vehicle premiered in New York at the 1964 World's Fair (it went on sale April 17 that year), the legendary, Ford Falcon-based car has captured imagination across America. The Mustang posted sales of 418,812 in its first year on the market, according to its maker, the Ford Motor Company.

Those were different days for the U.S. auto industry. In fact, when it came out, Mustang—produced in hardtop, coupe and convertible—graced the cover of both Time and Newsweek magazines.

With a 108-inch wheelbase, a length of 181.6 inches, engine choices from a 170-cubic-inch, 101-horsepower, six-cylinder to a 289-cubic-inch V-8 with 271 horsepower, the Mustang, priced to purchase under $3,000, was an affordable selection for a stylized automobile. Ford changed the car in 1969, creating a new body and adding an uptown hardtop with a vinyl roof and lush interior, the Grande, and a fastback version called the Mach 1.

After a couple of style changes in the early 1970s, when the Arab oil embargo caused an oil crisis, a newly redesigned Mustang was produced in 1979. Then the next major step didn’t come until the 1990s. Ford celebrated the car’s 35th birthday in 1999 with an anniversary edition. For the 40th, other special edition cars were brought out. Actor Steve McQueen famously tested the Mustang in a chase scene in the 1968 cop thriller Bullitt and, in 2001, Ford built a special edition Mustang Bullitt GT.

With Ford Motor Company now the last great U.S.A. car company not to be operated by the government, Ford’s classic, wild Mustang brand seems more appropriate than ever—and Ford seems poised to stake a claim on the spirit of American independence; during a recent interview with cable business channel CNBC, Ford executive Bill Ford, referring to the future of the Ford Mustang, suggested that the company might soon be selling a 400 horsepower Ford Mustang.

Next up: the history of America's only big automaker not corralled by the government. Later, more about the man who created the company that created the legendary Mustang.

[Sources: Ford Motor Company, CNBC]

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