The Mustang was officially introduced on April 17, 1964, at the New York World's Fair. The previous evening the car had been unveiled, in NBC, CBS and ABC television commercials, nearly 29 million viewers tuned in. The media blitz had begun, the new Mustang was exceptionally well-publicized. The first day of sales netted more than 22,000 orders. Within one year sales reached 417,000. That total established a record for a full year of sales for a brand new name. As far as we know, that record still stands.
Fords goal was to design a car that carried four people, weighed less than 2,500 pounds and costs less than $2,500. The production version came very close to those design parameters. Looks-wise, the Mustang had flair. It reflected the original Mustang I's sports car concept, with its clean and dramatic lines. It had a long hood and a short rear deck. In 1964, as today, that type of look says "performance." The Mustang's performance look was an instant hit.
Two models were marketed originally, a spunky-looking little hardtop coupe and a convertible; both with 108-inch wheelbases and an overall length of 181.6 inches. The hardtop weighed 2,449 pounds and the convertible weighed 2,615. Ford did a fabulous job selling the Mustang as a car that could be "factory customized" to suit the individual buyers needs.
The Mustang's performance theme was driven home by its selection as "Official Pace Car" for the 1964 Indy 500. Ford assembled approximately 230 pace car Mustangs. This included 35 convertibles and about 190 hardtops, most of which found their way to the consuming public. In both appearance and equipment, the hardtop pace cars were all exactly alike. They had the 260-cubic-inch V-8 engine with two-barrel carburetor, automatic transmissions and power steering.
Ford did an exceptional job of keeping the Mustang ahead of its direct competitors in the horsepower race. In 1964 available engines were the 170-cubic-inch, 101-horsepower six; the 260-cubic-inch, 164- horsepower V-8, with a two barrel carburetor; and the 289-cubic-inch, 210 horsepower V-8, with a four-barrel carburetor. By the end of 1964, the Mustang had scored 263,434 sales.
On April 17, 1965, the Mustang celebrated its first birthday. It took the cake by setting a new world's record of over 418,000 sales in its first year on the market as a new model. It exceeded the previous record, set by the Falcon in 1960, by about 1,000 units. The Mustang series was simply continued, with a number of minor changes, and the fastback 2+2 model was added. Several additional options, such as front disk brakes, luxury interiors and a GT package, were seen as well.
The 1965 Mustang was honored again. This time it was a Bronze Medal Award from the Industrial Design Institute. The public continued loving the car as much as design critics seemed to. For calendar year 1965, the Mustang racked up a total of 518,252 registrations. It was second to the Chevy Impala and very nearly equaled Dodge's entire line of cars in sales volumes.
Again for 1966, little change was made to the Mustang, a revised instrument panel that looked less like the Falcon's, was used. The grille retained its now-familiar shape, but had the Mustang horse emblem "floating in the center of the "corral." It had horizontal but no vertical dividing bars. A wind split ornament was added at the end of the "cove" on the body sides. Federal safety features including seat belts; padded instrument panel; emergency flashers; electric windshield wipers (with washers); and dual padded sun visors were made standard.
"One Million Mustangs in two years!" An interesting aspect of this announcement is that it noted the three best-selling new cars of all-time were all Fords: the Model A; the Falcon; and the Mustang. It also set the stage for another six-cylinder promotion. Ford had what was known as the Millionth Mustang Sale, offering buyers two choices; they could order a Mustang of any body style with either a six or V-8 and get a personalized nameplate. They could also get a special price on a specially equipped Limited Edition Mustang with the 200-cubic-inch six; special wheel covers; a distinctive accent stripe; a center console; and an engine decal and a chromed cleaner. No wonder sixes were selling well!
By 1967, competition in the so-called sports-compact market was noticeably stiffer, Ford was hard-pressed to improve on the "classic" Mustang it had introduced in 1964; the competition was getting keen. The Plymouth Barracuda had been the Mustang's only real competitor. The Dodge Charger was considered a "fringe" youth-market threat, but did not really go head-to-head with the original "Pony car."
Ford had caught other companies unprepared in 1964, but now they were poised to catch up. Mercury introduced its fancy version of the Mustang…called the Cougar. Chevrolet chose to develop its own, entirely new sports-compact model for 1967. It was called the Camaro; the Firebird was Pontiac's version of the Camaro.
The 67 Mustang had a jazzy new body, a wider tread for better road grip and a wider range of engines. Option choices were also widened. Styling followed the same theme, but in a larger size. That was, absolutely a wise move. Emphasizing and strengthening a look that was already popular, left a definite impression that improvements had been made; clearly suggesting that a good thing had gotten better.
On the exterior, the 67 Mustang was heftier and more full-fendered. Especially low & sleek was the new 2+2 fastback, featuring all new sheet metal. The wheelbase was unchanged, but overall length grew by nearly two inches. The front and rear tread widths went up by 2.1 inches and overall width was 2.71 inches wider at 58.1 inches. Sculpturing was more obvious, with lots of rounded contours, and a larger snout-like grille.
1968 only brought slight alterations. They included metal trim on the cove, the new script style Ford lettering in the grille, and a new two-tone hood. The GT options included strips that started at the front fender, extended through the door and wrapped around the indentation in the rear quarter in front of the rear wheel. Other GT Mustang upgrades were fog lights in the grille, GT gas cap and hubcaps. Production totaled out at 17,458 GT models for the 1968 year. The GT with the 390 cubic inch engine is considered a desirable collector car. Even though production fell in 1968 for the Ford Mustang, it still was the best selling pony car.
For model year 1969, the Mustang got its third major restyling. A new body for 1969, kept the Mustang image. Its styling was not drastically changed, but in size it grew 3.8 inches. Mustangs were still loaded with sporty features like wall-to-wall carpeting; bucket seats; and a floor-mounted shift. Though the styling theme remained Ford-like, Mustang adopted a GM-like marketing program with distinctive models to suit the tastes of different buyers. Now in basic luxury, sporty and high performance formats like a Camaro or Firebird.
The basic Mustang models continued to come in three body styles, with the 200-cubic-inch/115 horsepower six as standard engine, a 302-cubic inch/200 horsepower engine as the base V-8. Two new models were introduced in 1969: The Grande was the most elegant of the longer, wider, roomier new mustangs. It was known as the "Most refined sport known to man". The Mach I came with GT suspension, wide oval belted tires, rear deck spoiler, 5 hot V-8's, up to optional 428 Cobra-Jet ram-air with through-the-hood "shaker".
Introduced late in 1969, the Boss 302 received high acclaim from the performance crowd. Rightly so, this little fastback could blow-the-doors off almost anything around town in 1969 and 1970, including many of the big-block muscle cars. Beside its obvious high performance and engineering, the Boss 302 had the name and the real "macho" image, plus the extension of power and speed dominance. The main asset of the 302 was the high performance engine beneath the hood.
Ford named the whole car after the engine, without it the car loses its value. The boss 302 had special cylinder heads that gave it a performance advantage over previous small-block V-8's. Styling-wise, the whole car was a showcase for high performance features.
The biggest change for the 1970 model was the return to single headlamps. They were located inside a larger, new grille opening. Simulated air intakes were seen where the outboard headlights were on the 1969 models. The rear end was also slightly restyled. A total of 190,727 Mustangs were built in 1970; this included 13581 Grande coupes, 7,673 convertibles, 40,970 Mach 1's and 6,319 Boss 302's.
The 1970 Mustang Grande offered a three-quarter landau-style vinyl roof and luxury hounds tooth upholstery. The Mustang Mach I had a low-gloss grille with fog lamps, a striped hood and dual body-colored racing mirrors.
The Boss 302 returned in 1970 with minor improvements. They included revised front and rear styling, new brilliant colors and a "hockey stick" stripe with the words Boss 302 above and on the "blade" of the hockey stick. The 1970 Mach I had the taillights recessed in a flat panel with honeycomb trim between them, ribbed aluminum rocker panel moldings (with big Mach I call-outs) and a cleaner upper rear quarter treatment.
Boss 429s were built in 1969 and 1970. All of these had a gloss black hood scoop and smaller hubcaps. Like other performance models, the Boss 429 got the new Hurst shifter and brilliant paint colors.
Ford offered the most options ever with the Mustang. Beside the body styles of the Mach 1, Grande and Boss 302, you could also order your Mustang in a hardtop, convertible or "sport-roof". The Mustang offered none engines plus your choice of: power front-disc brakes; functional hood scoop; rear window louvered sports slats; vinyl roof; Hurst shifter; selected air conditioning; stereo system; tachometer; drag pack; and exciting exterior paint colors.