Ford Mustang

The Story of The Mustang

The founding of Ford and the invention of the Mustang

As most are aware, Ford is an early and hugely influence motorized car company. Incorporated as Ford Motor Company by founder and manufacturing engineer Henry Ford in 1903, the company is responsible for making cars a more accessible, middle class luxury. Early successes in this field of production are recognizable as the Ford Model A and T.

The Ford Mustang, however, is a much later introduction to the Ford brand. Coming to the marketplace first in 1965, the Mustang represents Ford’s highly successful attempt to create a new market for a new kind of car. Dubbed ‘pony cars’, the Mustang was the most successful of a first wave of stunning, accessible performance cars. These cars sought to win the hearts of the growing youth culture in the middle and late 60s.

The Mustang’s design, its designer, and engineer

Despite the popularity of the term ‘pony cars’, and the association of the vehicle with its eponymous horse breed, the original inspiration for the vehicle was a WWII fighter jet of the same name. John Najjar, chief stylist, and Donald N. Frey, chief engineer, headed the development of the Mustang, which, at the time, was referred to simply as the ‘T-5 project’.

Since its introduction, the Mustang has been a constant centerpiece of the Ford lineup. Naturally, the car’s looks and components progress with the times, but every iteration can be found to adhere to those initial design principles: accessibility, style, scalability, and performance. The Mustang has a certain notoriety for size, which continued to grow over the first decade of its life. The car has taken on great cultural significance over the course of that life and is heavily associated with American identity and values. Much of its initial popularity was influenced by presence in film classics such as Goldfinger.

Where are Mustangs are manufactured?

Just recently, the all-American brand closed the doors of one of its American factories in Dearborn, Michigan, and announced that its new SUV would be manufactured in Mexico. Most Mustangs, however, are still manufactured in the United States, at the Flat Rock plant in Michigan.

Models Through the Years

The Originals

When the Mustang was first released in ’65, two models were offered: the convertible and notchback. Later in the same year, a fastback was added to the lineup. The convertible is, of course, a Mustang featuring a retractable roof, while notchback and fastback refer, respectively, to Mustangs with a flat, recessed trunk space (unlike a hatchback or van) or with a sloped back and windows or ‘gills’. These three Mustang denominations are still used to this day, though the flatback is notably absent from recent lineups – likely due to a growing emphasis on aerodynamics in performance cars and the obsolescence of boxy of design.

While these three exterior models circumscribe all ‘60s models, the packaged internals have always come in a multitude of specifications. The proliferation of these specs makes it difficult to overview, as packages regularky change within and between years and generations of the Mustang.

The Shelby Mustang

Designed by Carroll Shelby, the Shelby Mustang represent the most precious of Ford’s models. Until recent decades, however, Ford stopped producing American Shelbys at the end of the ‘60s. This is typically attributed to Ford gradually limiting Carroll’s creative autonomy in the design of the vehicle. The Shelby returned as the high-performance model in 2005. In both eras of production, the Shelby Mustang exists as an extension of the GT series of vehicles.

The GT

The GT specification, meaning ‘Grand Tourer’ – taken from the Italian ‘Gran Turismo’ – indicates that the given model is a luxury specification intended for the comfort and storage demands of long-distance travel while maintaining strict performance requirements. Essentially, the GT denomination means to ensure that a car model bearing it will rule even the fastest highways with ample horsepower-headroom and handling. Over time however, the term has become more of a marketing ploy, with many cars referred to as ‘GT’ failing to live up to these original ideals. The Ford Mustang has not entirely succumbed to this drift, though 2021 models with the GT suffix can vary in their intent: some GT models aim at luxury, with upgraded seating and interior materials, others more purely in the direction of performance.

Ford’s new electric Mustang SUV

Just this year (2021) Ford announced a new compact SUV to add to the Mustang line, a noteworthy departure from the pony, muscle, and supercar convention. Equally significant is the all-electric operation, a first within the Mustang lineup. Named the Mach-E, the new SUV comes with its own gradient of specifications, including the GT denomination, suggesting that the SUV may become a staple, parallel platform to the sportscar. So far, the SUV appears to make no compromises to achieve its electric function, being lauded for its safety and performance, a performance suggested by its borrowing of the ‘Mach’ name from Mustang’s perennial performance option, the Mach 1.

Performance: Mustangs from ‘Get-Around’, to Muscle Car, to Supercar

Mustang Flexibility

While Mustangs have certainly always had the look of power, and were advertised from the get-go as a sporty, race capable machine, the sheer performance capacity of any given model is necessarily variable. As per the norm of the time, the original ‘64/65 models could be manufactured to order, being offered with four different engines of graduated performance. Those specified to sit at the top of this performance curve would be using parts and engines on par with the very best available at the time, while the more affordable models were effectively stylish, sleek town cars.

Are Mustang’s Muscle Cars?

While Mustangs are often perceived, by assumption, as muscle cars, this term is only truly appropriate to those modified by enthusiasts for drag racing (a rare few being directly specialized by Ford for this purpose), or more loosely, the models introduced from the third generation (mid ‘80s) under the GT and Turbo GT specification. ‘Muscle car’ connotes a vehicle which is specialized for acceleration and top speeds, sacrificing all other parameters, especially handling, in the name of this singular goal. Mustangs have always sought to be strong general performers and thus, while the term is superficially applicable, it doesn’t accurately depict the true character and intent of the Mustang.

Mustang’s ‘best’ model to date, and its foremost supercar at 760 horsepower

Mustang’s most recent, top-of-the-line model, the Shelby GT500, is recognized as the very best of its weight-class. It earned the number one spot for Automobile magazine’s ‘All Star’ competition, indicating that it trounced the competing lineup of supercars. This is surely adequate answer to the question of Mustang performance: set your sights appropriately within the Mustang lineup and you will find indisputably powerful, complete, and exciting cars. While choosing the best Mustang might be like being asked to pick your favorite child, if by best we mean the most car, the Shelby GT500 is indisputably that.

Price: The Most Expensive, and Most Affordable, Mustangs

A Mustang for most budgets

Mustangs from any point in the line’s history can still be found and purchased today. There is a lively community of collectors and preservers, and all generations are the subject of adoration, with the partial exception of mid ‘70s Mustangs. Price is incredibly variable within generations and between, depending upon the condition and particular specifications of the car. Late ‘60s Mustangs fetch anywhere from $50, 000 - $200, 000, with Shelbys in each instance earning the highest prices. The current range offered by Ford spans $300,000 - $100,000.

Do Mustangs hold their value?

Any first time Mustang buyer will necessarily be curious about the return on their investment, should they ever decide to part with their car. As with every aspect of the Mustang discussed so far, the answer is variable and dependent. So long as a model has a resembling analogue available new today, that model will earn a lower price on the used market – after all, why would someone pay near full value for a car their get close enough to, as new? Consequently, Mustangs from the fifth generation (2005+) onward are substantially depreciated in the used market, a fact which makes them popular for purchasers looking to acquire their first Mustang. The inverse of this holds for vintage Mustangs and Mustangs built on a prior platform, i.e., generation four. With these Mustangs, keeping your car in optimal condition will ensure a return on investment. Reach far enough back into the Mustang catalogue, and your car will likely increase in value with the years.

The Expenses of Maintenance to Your Mustang

The costly generation

As with any model of longevity, the ease and expense of maintenance to Ford Mustangs can vary greatly through years and generations. A large part of the diminished popularity of 70s Mustang IIs is the difficulty found in their maintenance. During this period Ford was obliged to quickly adapt to new emissions standards which required changes to engines and pursuit of greater efficiency in the face of an oil shortage. As a result, these Mustangs typically house engines which were short-lived, employing technology that was quickly better understood and thus replaced. As such, the relevant parts and know-how are in short order today.

Mustangs are generally affordable to maintain

That being said, Mustangs have always been built on platforms shared between different Ford models and even where the high performers are concerned, employed common non-foreign production parts. Especially when compared to European vehicles, Mustangs have more in common with a run-of-the-mill sedan that a BMW, in terms of maintenance and operation cost. Given the huge numbers produced even in the ‘60s, the population of Mustang enthusiasts attracts an uncommonly large selection of aftermarket parts, and this keeps prices lower than they might if Ford were to hold monopoly.

While these points hold for all Mustangs, it is unavoidable that more recent models will be cheaper to maintain, and less likely to require that maintenance, given their regency. The platform used by the fifth generation forward (2005+) will be most affordable to maintain. For these cars, the standard checkup interval is ten thousand miles, and they are generally regarded by owners as very robust vehicles when cared for properly.

Key Takeaways

The Ford Mustang, since its inception in the mid ‘60s, is a centerpiece of the Ford brand and an icon of American culture. The Mustang was an immediate success and has adhered to its initial design principles through to the present. Now in its sixth generation, models like the Mach-E and especially the Shelby GT500 suggest new horizons and heights for the Mustang line. Excluding the Mach-E, the Mustang continues to be a proudly American made car. Due to the popularity and quality of Mustang sportscars they are relatively easy to maintain and can be found at a variety of price points, especially on the used market. That said, such a storied and respected vehicle deserves care appropriate to its status. Mustang owners universally insist on proper care for the vehicle – an objective towards which is perfectly suited to assist.