Now in its 6th generation, the Ford Mustang has been around for over 50 years, since its launch in 1962, the Ford Mustang has been the poster boy of the American Muscle car scene. We look back at the history of the Ford Mustang.
Price* (when new)
Inflation adj. (2019)
Trim Level / Special Editions
Fastback 2+2, Grande, Convertible, Sportsroof, GT,
Coupe (hardtop), Hatchback, Ghia, Mach1, Stallion, Cobra II, King Cobra
Coupe, Hatchback, Convertible, Ghia, Cobra, L, GL, GLX, GT, Turbo GT, LX, GT-350 20th Anniversary Edition, SVO, Cobra R
GTS, GT, Cobra, Bullitt, Mach1
GT, Convertible, Boss 302, Shelby GT500, Laguna Seca
GT, Convertible, Bullitt
First Generation Ford Mustang (1965-1973)
Code named the T-5 Project, the Ford Mustang was the brainchild of Donald N Frey, head engineer of the project that was developed in just 18 months. Originally the T-5 project, or Mustang as it was later known was to be a mid-engined 2 seater sports car, however the success of other 2+2 coupes from within the US and from Europe in the shape of the Jaguar E-Type led to the addition of 2 rear seats which pushed the engine to its now front mounted position. The launch car was fitted with a V4 engine, however a six cylinder and V8 engine were soon added to the model line up.
Ford Mustang Generation 1
A variety of performance and styling additions were added during the 8 year model run aimed to capitalise on the successful formula. Mach 1, Boss 302 and Boss 429 were genuine performance upgrades, both Boss models for racing homologation purposes. 1969 see the Grande launched with a softer set up, trying to attract a new audience looking for a more luxurious Mustang. This softening of the brand however wasn’t met with sales success, quite to opposite as additional models like the Sportsroof grew heavier and bigger, diluting the performance and appeal. In fact, Ford assistant general manager at the time who oversaw Frey’s project was famously quotes as saying “the Mustang market never left us, we left it…”
something Ford looked to rectify with the second generation Mustang.
Ford Mustang 1968 Bullit
Second Generation Ford Mustang (1974 – 1978)
Now President of Ford Motor Company, Lee Iacocca sought to return the Mustang 2 to its 1964 design concept. In generation 1 guise, it added considerable size and weight during its model run, however the gen 2 car returned back to launch size and weight. The start of a downsizing trend in automotive spaces in the US and across the globe. Whilst Iacocca claimed the Mustang II would be a “little jewel”, it was now smaller than at launch, however US emissions and safety regulations added weight and performance was thwarted so much so that the galloping horse logo of the Ford Mustang was dubbed a ‘canter’ by many due it’s poor performance statistics.
Ford Mustang Cobra Generation 2
Available in coupe and hatchback format, Ford first adorned the Mustang with its Ghia badge, adding luxury and comfort (and weight), further dampening performance. The Mach 1 special edition was retained and was joined by the MPG model in 1975, delivering improved fuel economy. New trim packages like the Stallion and Cobra II followed and finally 4,972 ‘King Cobra’ editions came in 1978 to celebrate the end of the Mustang II.
Third Generation Ford Mustang (1979 – 1993)
The third generation saw the introduction of the convertible Mustang, a model that has proved popular ever since. It was the longest model run in Mustang history, spanning 15 years. During that time, engine technology developed significantly and the Mustang found no less than 8 engine types available in various Mustang options. Engines included the 2.3ltr L-4, 2.8ltr V6, 5.0ltr V8, 2.3ltr turbocharged L-4, 3.3ltr L6, 3.8ltr V6. 4.2ltr V8 and finally a higher output 5.0ltr V8.
Escalating fuel prices throughout the early 1980’s, coupled with poor sales of the Mustang saw Ford investigate the option to develop a new model derived from a Mazda MX-6. The idea of a Japaneese designed, front wheel drive Mustang was met with distain from enthusiasts who wrote to Ford objecting to the idea, which thankfully for the future of the Mustang, was acknowledged by Ford and the project went ahead under a new model name, the Ford Probe.
Ford Mustang Third Generation
The third generation will be remembered for its vast array of trim levels and special editions. No less than 9 editions were available throughout its 4 year model run. L, GL, GLX, GT, Turbo GT, LX, GT-350 20th Anniversary Edition, SVO and Cobra R badges all graced the trunk of the third generation Mustang.
Fourth Generation Ford Mustang (1994-2004)
Code named SN-95 by Ford, the fourth generation Ford Mustang was the first major redesign of the model in over 15 years. It also saw the end of the 5.0ltr push rod small block V8 after nearly 30 years of use in the model. Replaced by a 4.6ltr SOHC V8, it was available from 1996 joining the 3.8ltr OHC V6 as the only engine options available. Patrick Schiavone was the man behind the radical new design, sharper lines, bigger wheel arches, available in GT, Coupe and Convertible.
Ford Mustang Fourth Generation
The new outlook saw many of the special editions dropped from the line-up as Ford looked to focus on it’s target market and not dilute the Mustang. Special editions were aimed directly as performance enhancing models which include the Bullitt (2001), Mach 1 (2004) and the Cobra (2004). Power peaked at 390 BHP in the 2003-4 Cobra, the most powerful Mustang to date. The fourth generation was also the first Mustang to be officially exported, where it was offered in Australia to compete directly with the Holden Monaro.
Fifth Generation Ford Mustang (2005-2014)
Internally codenamed S-197, the 5th generation Mustang available in GT and Convertible models was designed as a modern take on the late 60’s model fastback design. Engines for the 5th generation Mustang were based on a 4.0ltr SOHC V6 and 4.6ltr SOHC V8 producing 210 bhp and 300 bhp respectively. Throughout its 9 year model run, the engines developed to an eventual standard fit in 2011 of a 3.7ltr aluminium V6 and the 5.0ltr V8 that has become iconic in Mustang models to date.
Ford Mustang Fifth Generation
The Shelby GT500 is arguably the most iconic of all Mustangs and was officially designed and built by Ford. The original Shelby Mustang was built by Shelby American from 1965-68 and 1969-70 by Ford, but the 2005 Fifth Gen Mustang Shelby GT500 was the first launched by Ford itself. Fitted with a 5.4ltr supercharged V8, power was rated at 550 bhp, more powerful than any Mustang before it, only to be trumped in 2012 the relaunched GT500 with a 5.8ltr supercharged V8 making 660 bhp. The Mustang Boss 302 was also launched in 2012, a non-supercharged version of the 5.4ltr V8 making 444 bhp. A ‘Laguna Seca’ (an iconic racetrack in California
) track focussed version was launched in 2012.
Ford Mustang 5th Gen Convertible
Sixth Generation Ford Mustang (2015 – Present)
If you’re renting a Mustang in the USA
today, this is the car that you’ll end up with. Available mainly in convertible format as a rental and most likely a V6, where once renting a Mustang was reserved for those with deep pockets, today you can rent a Mustang for little more than the cost of an SUV. Code named S-550, Ford’s 2.3 ltr EcoBoost engine makes its debut in a Mustang, the smallest capacity engine ever to feature in a Mustang, although far from the least powerful, generating 310 bhp. The 3.7ltr V6 and 5.0 ltr V8 are the most popular engine configurations with the 5.0 ltr V8 being the pick of the bunch epitomising the American Muscle car. A facelift model was launched in 2018 featuring minor external design changes and most notably the 3.7ltr was dropped from the line-up leaving just the 2.3 EcoBoost and 5.0L V8, whose power was upped to 460 bhp from 435 bhp.
Ford Mustang 6th Generation
The Bullit special edition was relaunched in 2018 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the film Bullit.
Ford Mustang 2018 Bullit
Seventh Generation Ford Mustang (coming soon...)
The sixth generation Mustang has been something of a revival for the Mustang and Ford is understandably cautious about launching a new platform. There are rumours of a 4 door Mustang on the horizon, but perhaps lessons from the dilution of the brand during 1st and 3rd generations and slumps in sales play heavy on the minds of Ford bosses. Indeed, they wouldn’t want to be the names remembered for “leaving the Mustang Market”
as the Mustangs creator, Lee Iacocca famously said.
Other Mustang Special Editions
Ford Mustang Fastback
Ford Mustang 1965 Fastback
Ford Mustang Cobra
Ford Mustang First Generation Fastback
Ford Mustang Sportsroof
Ford Mustang Mach1
Ford Mustang Shleby GT500
Ford Mustang GT350
Ford Mustang GT302