Every month in our new “Iconic Car of the Month” feature, we’ll be presenting you with a car that has ascended the garage forecourt, burned up the road, and earned its place as a cultural classic. To start this new feature with a bang, this month we’re bringing you an instantly recognisable movie chase-scene veteran with over 9 million cars sold to date: ladies and gentlemen, the Ford Mustang.
A Spot of History
The Mustang was born in 1962, when a prototype-wary Henry Ford II finally OK’d a new experimental car. Based loosely on the Ford Falcon, the car was designed with a young, teen audience in mind, who wanted sexy, fast, cheap cars until that point, a definite contradiction. Enter the Mustang, highly stylised and pacey, costing under $2500 on its debut in 1964. The car created its own class, the ‘pony class’ of vehicles: sporty coupes with long bonnets and short rears, a style that has since been picked up by other manufacturers, including the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro.
The Mustang was unveiled in New York in 1964 after a nationwide media furore and an avalanche of praising reviews. The first Mustang ever made was intended to be paraded across dealerships all over the US, but on one particularly muddled forecourt in Newfoundland it was accidentally sold to an airline pilot (somehow). Ford requested their cherished original Mustang back, and the pilot did return it, eventually, with the clock only run up 10,000 miles or so.
What’s in a Name?
The name ‘Mustang’ didn’t come directly from the American wild horse, but instead the car was named after the Second World War plane P-51 Mustang fighter plane. Other possible names thrown about were similarly animalistic, with ‘Cougar’ and ‘Torino’ briefly considered. Henry Ford II wanted to call the muscle car the ‘T Bird II’, for some reason. Ford team members also suggested names including Special Falcon, XT-Bird, and Stiletto. What Ford were thinking when they considered naming their all-American muscle car after a womans shoe isn’t entirely clear.
Through the decades Mustang evolved over several generations, gaining and losing weight quicker than a D list celebrity. It has a virtually unlimited number of trims, and its engines have varied in power from 101 bhp to a gargantuan 390 stampeding horses beneath the bonnet. Its had several major redesigns, and went through an awkward, clunky teenage phase in the late 70’s and 80’s, losing much of what made it an icon, including the galloping horse badge, much to the despair of loyal ‘Stang fans. Thankfully, over the past two decades, the fifth and sixth generations have seen a return to form, with a neo-classic, brawny body shape and scowling headlights that look absolutely livid just as they should.
From Police Cruiser to Drag Racer to Silver Screen Stud
The Mustang is nothing if not versatile, frequently used by police across the US, as well as for drag racing and stock car racing, claiming titles in all categories over the years. Further, the car has racked up a list of silver screen titles to make even Nicolas Cage green with envy, appearing in over 3000 TV shows and films over the years. The very year the car launched in 1964, a white Mustang was rammed off the road by a smirking, Aston driving Sean Connery in Goldfinger. Undoubtedly the most famous Mustang to make it to Hollywood, however, is the Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 fastback that Steve McQueen tore around San Francisco in. The 7 minute car chase is one of the most renowned of all time, and played a huge role in building the Mustang’s celebrity status.
The current, sixth generation Mustang comes with a choice of three engines, the most powerful of which is a 5.0 L Coyote 435bhp V8. Good grief. If you can’t wait to get your hands on one, you’re in luck: this year, the right hand drive Mustang has gone on sale in the UK for the first time in its glorious 50 year history – a history that would have been a lot shorter and less glorious, had it been called the Ford Stiletto.