Ford’s hallowed pony car reaches a historic milestone…
TEN MILLION FORD MUSTANGS
Across the pond
Back on August 8, Ford Motor Company organised a special celebration, signifying the 10 millionth Mustang produced. At the Flat Rock assembly plant in Michigan, where the current Ford pony car is built, the parking lot played host to the occasion, with 62 Mustangs of almost every model year parked to represent the number 10,000,000 when viewed from the air. Adding to the spectacle was a low-level fly past by three North American P-51 Mustang fighters, the legendary aircraft from which Ford’s iconic sporty car originally drew its name.
Interestingly, the two “commas” within that 10,000,000 display, were represented by the first serialised Mustang ever built and the 10 millionth example – both cars being, appropriately, Wimbledon White convertibles with black interiors and V8 engines (in this case a 164 hp 260 cu. in. unit for the 1964 model and a 460bhp 5.0-litre Coyote for the 2019 version).
Since it made its official debut at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, Ford’s Mustang has become an undisputed icon. In those early days, a savvy marketing campaign helped create what’s since become known as Mustang Mania. A buyers’ frenzy saw people sleep in their new Mustang to prevent the car being sold from underneath them, while others drove through showroom windows – so transfixed were they on the new Ford.
Originally, Ford division general manager Lee Iacocca had planned to sell 100,000 units for the car’s first model year. By the time that first official model year had ended (September 1965), more than 680,000 Mustangs had been sold! In fact, demand was so great that Ford had to switch a second assembly plant (San Jose) to Mustang production because the Dearborn Assembly facility couldn’t keep up.
Mustang mania continued into the 1966 model year, during which the one millionth Mustang was sold. The two millionth Mustang rolled off the Rouge assembly line in 1968, by which time both America and Ford’s motorised steed were changing. A cultural revolution was happening and the once sprightly foal was becoming a muscular quarter horse. It was also facing a growing slew of competitors; eager to capture a slice of a very lucrative market segment now termed (appropriately enough) Pony Cars.
Yet although demand for the Mustang began to shrink, Ford’s original pony car proved it had staying power. When most of its competitors bit the dust in 1974, the Mustang was reinvented, into a smaller, more economy-minded package. The Mustang II served to keep the flame alive during the dark and difficult 1970s and as performance staged a comeback the following decade, the Mustang was there, leading a charge. By the Nineties, America and the world was a very different place, but the Mustang was still capturing hearts the same way it did in 1964. More than four million examples had been sold by then and the Mustang’s popularity was strong enough to grant production a stay of execution at the historic Dearborn Assembly Plant.
A retro-revolution arrived for 2005, with Ford going back into the archives to come up with a modern take on the original Sixties classic. And modern it was, featuring the first all-new chassis in 25 years and a new assembly plant – Flat Rock, Michigan – in which to build it. There was a touch of irony here, perhaps, since Flat Rock was the assembly plant of the car supposed to replace the Mustang in the Eighties – the Probe, which only lasted a decade in production.
Since production moved to Flat Rock, the Mustang has undergone somewhat of a transformation. It has morphed from an affordable sporty car using pedestrian underpinnings, to a dedicated platform and a car that’s able to take on all-comers, from the base model Camaro in the showroom, to BMWs and Porsches competing at international motor sport events.
The latest Shelby GT 350 and soon-to-be-released GT 500 push the limits of automotive performance, rivalling exotic super cars from the world over. Meanwhile, the current S-550 model (introduced for 2015) has opened up a whole new market of fans, being designed from the outset for both left and right-hand-drive markets. Since that time, around half a million Mustangs have been exported outside the US, almost rivalling the total number produced for the extra long 1965 model year.
Very few production vehicles reach the 10-million sales mark and those that do tend to be utilitarian in nature, such as pick-up trucks or family saloons. For a sporty car to achieve such dizzying production heights is unheard of and goes to show that the Mustang’s appeal is truly universal. It is a car that is able to transcend age groups and international boundaries – one that captivates the public as much today as it did in 1964. It is, as Mustang marketing manager Mark Schaller put it, “the soul of Ford”.