The Ford Mustang as the first — and so far the only — car to receive the Tiffany Award for Excellence in American Design. Not bad for a car that was designed using mostly existing components, an existing chassis (from the Ford Falcon), and base price of $2368. A rediscovery of the classic proportions of long hood and short deck set the Mustang apart from its contemporaries. The Mustang was also an instant hit wîth the car-buying public. Over 100,000 were sold in the first four months and in less than 24 months Ford had sold its 1 millionth Mustang, a record that has yet to be equalled or eclipsed. The Mustang was quite simply the right car at the right time.
The Mustang created a category of cars, called ‘Pony’ cars. The Mustang’s debut in the spring of 1964 (the early models were called 1964 and 1/2) took advantage of the lack of new models from other makers. It took other automakers until 1967 to bring out real competition for the Mustang. As the advertisements on display show, the Mustang was promoted as ‘a car to escape the mundane nature of life.’
After the record-breaking success of the Falcon, Ford decided to offer the public a small sporty car in the lower price range – a decision that promptly gained success with the motoring public and which continues to this day.
During its debut in the mid-1964, the Mustang was offered in a 108-inch wheelbase hardtop coupe or convertible that weighed nearly 2,500 pounds and cost under $2,700 for the convertible and under $2,400 for the hardtop. Since it was introduced mid-year, the Mustang faced virtually no competition. By the end of 1964, 263,434 Mustangs had been sold – and that level of popularity has not diminished.
The Mustang was introduced at the 1965 New York World’s Fair, Mustang Mania instantly swept the country, and a new automotive market segment was created – the 2+2 or better known as the ‘ponycar.’ Though its mechanical underpinnings descended from the Falcon, the Mustang was completely different. It was a compact, tight, clean package weighing in at a modest 2,550 pounds – a departure from the ever-enlarging American cars of the day. The classic long-hood short-rear-deck combined wîth a forward-leaning grille, elegant blade bumpers, sculptured body sides, fully exposed wheel openings and restrained use of bright trim gave the car a unique look that belied its affordability. Its looks were backed up wîth power, providing three optional V8 engines wîth up to 271 horsepower. Other options included automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, styled chrome wheels and air conditioning. Not surprisingly, the entry-level modes were a minority of the production.
To say that the first Mustang was a success is an understatement. Following the introduction, the Mustang was on the cover of both Time and Newsweek. A week before introduction, Ford ran ads wîth the air times for the first television commercials, which all three networks broadcasted simultaneously. Mustang was selected as the Official Pace Car for the 1964 Indianapolis 500, and more than 22,000 orders were taken the first day. By its first anniversary, over 418,000 Mustangs had been sold, breaking the all-time record for first year sales of a new nameplate.