The wait is over as the Ford Mustang arrives in Irish Showrooms we chart its 51-year history
Ford executives watched gleefully as the public enthusiastically checked out the new Ford Mustang at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Based on the regular, humdrum Falcon but clothed in a modern, handsome body and with a raft of options including cruise-o-matic transmission, power disc brakes, handling packs, air conditioning and a choice of wheezy straight-six or 260 and 289 cubic inch V8s. $2368 was good value but it only cost Uncle Henry $1000 to make and surely they would shift 80,000 in a year right? Panic ensued when Ford flogged 22,000 in the first day. One California dealer had to hold a raffle to find a customer amongst the sixty who besieged the showroom looking to buy the sole Mustang. 318,000 found homes in a year, a record yet to be broken. So panicked were Ford that Mustangs went out with the names of other Ford products still attached to parts. Some early Mustangs had steering wheels with the word Falcon written on them.
Ford’s pony car was helped along partly by the company’s hyper-active marketing men who came up with slogans such as ‘designed to be designed by you’ and ‘Mustangers have more fun’. Infamous Walter Mitty style TV ads kept traffic coming into the showrooms. Soon GM had rolled out the Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro while Chrysler’s Dodge Challenger and AMC’s Javelin arrived to steal sales from the original pony car. Competition and regulations meant the ‘Stang got bigger. The average 1970 Mustang was now a third of a ton heavier than the ’64 original. 302 and 429 Boss Mustangs enjoyed great racing success and the ’68 390 GT is forever associated with a certain Mr. McQueen but sales were starting to slip.
Lee Iacocca, one of the driving forces of the original Mustang, became Ford president in 1970 and he ordered the Mustang go on a diet. Smaller and lighter the 1974 Mustang II horrified purists. There were no V8s in 1974 and this was the first four-cylinder Mustang. Critics also bemoaned the lack of a full convertible. The new Mustang hit showrooms in time for the oil shock and nearly 386,000 customers in ’74 reckoned Ford was on the right track. Most versions might not have been capable of 100mph but they flew out of showrooms. The Mustang II is the least collectable generation of Mustang and the shortest lived. It was all over by ’78.
The Fox platform Mustangs from 1979 saw a welcome return to form, even if the base 2.3-litre model could only muster 88hp. Most customers ticked the options boxes for 2.8 V6 or the much healthier 4.9-litre 140hp Windsor V8 although a second oil shock saw it drop to 4.2-litres in 1980. The longest lived of the Mustang’s, the car enjoyed a very skilfully executed facelift in 1982 which saw the use of the iconic ‘five-point-oh’ emblems on the side if you ordered a sporty V8 and the triumphant return of the convertible after nine years. However, while sales were strong they paled in comparison to previous generations. Ford decided to replace the Mustang with a front-wheel-drive coupe developed in conjunction with Mazda. Soon Ford was being sent angry letters claiming such a move to be nothing short of blasphemous and they backed off. The new coupe became the Probe and for 1987 for oldest swinger in town got another facelift; this time with larger headlights and a blanked off grille.
By 1994 Ford had not bothered to comprehensively redesign the Mustang in fifteen years. The fourth generation car initially was deemed a bit soft but Ford stuck with it. The styling sharpened up, the 5.0 was replaced by a vaguely modern modular 4.6-litre V8 and the last of the Fox Mustangs enjoyed a ten-year career managing to see off its GM rivals; the Pontiac Firebird and Chevy’s Camaro were dropped in 2002 leaving the pony car market to the original pony car.
2005 looked a lot like 1964 when the fifth generation car hit the showrooms. Ford cheerily reported that the average time between a Mustang hitting the showroom floor and leaving with a new customer was 15 minutes. The base V6 was now a 210hp 4-litre while the V8 models went from 300hp for the ’05 4.6 to 420hp for the 2014 5.0 GT. Critics liked the styling too, a homage to Mustangs past, but cribbed at Ford for the Neolithic live rear-axle and by 2013 it was being outsold by the reborn Chevy Camaro.
The new Mustang not only has impressed critics with its styling, quality and driving dynamics but Ford will sell the new car globally which means you can now buy a Mustang in the same place your Dad once bought a Cortina. After over 50 years Irish buyers will get to see if Mustangers really do have more fun.
29th October, 2015