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Photos and history of the six generations of Ford Mustang from its debut in 1964 to 2022

The Ford Pavilion at the 1964 New York Worlds' Fair

The Ford Pavilion for the debut of the Ford Mustang at the 1964 New York Worlds’ Fair. (Ford archive photos)

Table of Contents

First Generation
2nd Generation
3rd Generation
4th Generation
5th Generation
6th Generation

BY MARK MAYNARD

It began 58 years ago this Sunday, April 17, 2022. More than 51 million people from around the world packed into Flushing Meadows Park in Queens for the debut of the Ford Mustang at the New York World’s Fair. It was 1964 and just 16 days after the debut of the Plymouth Barracuda. But the 1965 model-year Mustang would prove to be Ford’s most successful launch since the Model A.

It was a media-rich event, including a test drive for journalists. The so-called Mustang Road Rally traveled from the World’s Fair to Dearborn, via Niagara Falls.

Journalists prepare to head out for the first Ford Mustang Road Rally from Westchester Country Club in New York to Dearborn, Mich., in April 1964.

Journalists prepare to head out for the first Ford Mustang Road Rally. The route went from Westchester Country Club in New York to Dearborn, Mich.

Journalists make a  fuel stop along the way to Dearborn.

Journalists make a fuel stop along the way to Dearborn.

A stop at Niagara Falls on the way to Dearborn.

A stop at Niagara Falls on the way to Dearborn.

The “1964½” Mustang

Enthusiasts dubbed the first-year car as the “1964½” Mustang. But all Mustangs were advertised, VIN coded and titled by Ford as 1965 models. Production began in Dearborn, Mich., on March 9, 1964.

Original sales forecasts projected fewer than 100,000 units for the first year, however, the mark was surpassed in three months from rollout.  Another 318,000 cars would be sold during the model year (a record). And in its first 18 months on sale, more than 1 million Mustangs were built.

Henry Ford II poses with the all-new Mustang at the Ford Pavilion during the World’s Fair debut.

Henry Ford II poses with the all-new Mustang at the Ford Pavilion during the World’s Fair debut.  The sporty four-seater is named after the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter plane from World War II. The price at launch: $2,368.

In August 2018, Ford produced the 10 millionth Mustang. It was a 2019 Wimbledon White convertible with a V-8 engine, which matched the first 1965 Mustang.

First Generation Mustang: 1965–1973

An early 1965 Mustang hardtop.

An early 1965 Mustang hardtop.

To meet its advertised list price of $2,368, the Mustang was based heavily on components that were already in production for other Ford models. This was the same business plan that Ford used for the first-gen 1955-1957 Thunderbirds. Many if not most of the interior, chassis, suspension and drivetrain components came from the Falcon and Fairlane.

1965 Ford Mustang T5 prototype

1965 Ford Mustang T5 prototype.

The Big Block Mustang

From 1967 until 1973, the Mustang got bigger, allowing a big block engine to be offered for the first time. Front and rear end styling was more pronounced, and the “twin cove” instrument panel offered a thicker crash pad and larger gauges.

The 1964 Dearborn, Mich., assembly plant.

The 1964 Dearborn, Mich., assembly plant.

Hardtop, fastback, and convertible body styles continued as before.

Around this time, the Mustang was paired with a Mercury variant, called the Cougar, which used its own styling cues, such as a “prowling cat” logo and hidden quad headlamps.

A 1965 advertisement.

New safety regulations by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had to be applied for 1967. The added feature included an energy-absorbing steering column, four-way emergency flashers, a dual-circuit hydraulic braking system, and softer interior knobs.

Mustang sales pass the 1 million mark in March 1966.

1965 Ford Mustang Fastback.

1965 Ford Mustang Fastback.

1968 Pony Car Refresh

The 1968 models received revised side scoops, steering wheel, and gasoline caps. Side marker lights were also added that year, and cars built after Jan. 1, 1968, included shoulder belts for both front seats on coupes. The 1968 models also introduced a new 302-cubic-inch (4.9-liter) V-8 engine that would meet new federal emissions regulations.

1965 Mustang interior.

The 1965 Mustang interior.

A 1966 Mustang GT fastback.

A 1966 Mustang GT fastback.

The 1966 Shelby

The 1966 Shelby Mustang GT-350H, the so-called rent-a-racer.

The 1967 instrument panel.

The 1967 instrument panel.

1969 Mustang Grows In Size

The restyling for 1969 added more heft to the body as width and length again increased. The curb weight went up markedly, too. V-8 power returns to Mustang with the 302 cubic-inch small-block.

Due to the larger body and revised front-end styling, the 1969 models (but less so in 1970) had a notable aggressive stance.

The 1968.

The 1968.

The 1969 Boss 302.

The 1969 Boss 302.

A rear view of the 1969 Boss 302.

The 1969 models featured “quad headlamps” which disappeared to make way for a wider grille and a return to standard headlamps in the 1970 models.

Ford designer Larry Shinoda in the design studio courtyard with the 1969 Mustang Boss.

Ford designer Larry Shinoda in the design studio courtyard with the 1969 Mustang Boss.

This switch back to standard headlamps was an attempt to tame the aggressive styling of the 1969 model, which some felt was too extreme and hurt sales, but 1969 production exceeded the 1970 total.

Prototype testing of the Boss 302.

Prototype testing of the Boss 302.

The 1970 Fastback.

The 1970 Fastback.

The 1971 Mustang Mach 1

The 1971 Mustang Mach 1.

The 1971 model was the biggest Mustang to date. It was nearly a foot longer and some 600 pounds heavier than the originals.

The Boss 351, with its “Cleveland” block and Cobra Jet heads, debuts. The Mach 1 comes with a variety of powertrains, topped by the 429 Super Cobra Jet (SCJ).

A 1972 hardtop Mustang

A 1972 hardtop.

The 1972 Mustang

For 1972, styling is unchanged from 1971, and the only new model offering is the Sprint – a special red, white, and blue exterior paint-and-tape package.

2nd Generation: 1974–1978

The 1974 Mustang II hatchback

The 1974 Mustang II hatchback, the first application of a liftback body style.

The Pinto years

Lee Iacocca, who had been one of the forces behind the original Mustang, became president of Ford Motor Co in 1970 and ordered a smaller, more fuel-efficient Mustang for 1974. Initially, it was to be based on the Ford Maverick but ultimately was based on the Ford Pinto subcompact.

The 1975 Mustang II Ghia.

The 1975 Mustang II Ghia.

Workers perform quality control checks at the Dearborn Assembly in 1975.

Workers perform quality control checks at the Dearborn Assembly in 1975.

The new model called the “Mustang II,” was introduced on Sept. 21, 1973, two months before the first 1973 oil crisis. Its reduced size allowed it to compete against successful imported sports coupés such as the Datsun 240Z, Toyota Celica, and the European Ford Capri. (The Capri was Ford-built in Germany and Britain, but sold in the U.S. by Mercury).

The 1978 Mustang II King Cobra.

The 1978 Mustang II King Cobra.

First-year sales were 385,993 cars, compared with the original Mustang’s 12-month sales record of 418,812. Ultimately, the Mustang II would be an early example of downsizing that would take place among Detroit’s Big Three later in the decade.

3rd Generation: 1979–1993

The redesigned 1979 Mustang

The redesigned 1979 Mustang was moved to the larger Fox platform, initially developed for the 1978 Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr.

 

With the introduction of the Fox Body Mustang in 1979, more European design language was adopted inside and out. The two-spoke wheel from Mustang II was replaced with a four-spoke wheel, which was later shared with other Ford products.

The updated four-spoke steering wheel

The updated four-spoke wheel.

A larger body

The 1979 Mustang was based on the larger Fox platform (initially developed for the 1978 Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr). The larger body with an increased wheelbase yielded more interior space for four passengers, especially in the back seat, as well as a larger capacity trunk and a bigger engine bay.

The 1980 Mustang

For 1980, the 302-cubic-inch V-8 engine is dropped and replaced by an economical 119-hp, 255-cubic-inch derivative of the “Windsor” small-block V-8.

From 1981.

From 1981.

The 1982 Mustang GT.

The 1982 Mustang GT.

Body styles included a coupé (or notchback), hatchback and convertible.

The GT-350 20th Anniversary Edition was added in 1984, and the high-performance SVO model ran from 1984–1986 followed by the Cobra R in 1993.

The 1993 Mustang convertible.

After 10 years, Mustang again has a convertible model for 1983. It featured a power top and a tempered glass back window.

The third-generation Mustang had two different front-end styles. From 1979 to 1986, the front end was angled back using four rectangular headlights, known by enthusiasts as “Four Eyes.” The front end was restyled for the 1987 to 1993 model years to reflect the contemporary, rounded-off “aero” style of the Ford Taurus using flush-composite headlamps and a smooth grille-less nose.

The 1986 Mustang SVO.

The 1986 Mustang SVO.

The Mustang was selected as the 1979 Official Indianapolis 500 Pace Car with replicas sold to the public. Its special body-appearance parts were adapted by the Cobra package for 1980-81.

The Mustang received a major restyling for 1987, including the interior, which carried it through the end of the 1993 model year.

The 1987 GT convertible.

The 1987 GT convertible.

Under the newly-established Ford SVT division, the 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra and Cobra R were added. These special, high-performance models closed out the third generation of the Mustang.

4th Generation: 1994–2004

The fourth-generation Mustang

The launch of the fourth-generation Mustang included a nod to the original 1964 pony car. The new model had a twin cockpit layout and sculpted modern styling for the steering wheel and air bag.

Looking down on a top-down Mustang convertible

The interior redesign made the various buttons easier to use, while allowing for the driver to keep eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Horn buttons were replaced with a hinged air-bag cover, acting as horn control at the wheel’s center.

The Notchback Coupe

In November 1993, the Mustang debuted its first major redesign in 15 years. Code-named “SN-95” by the automaker, it was based on an updated version of the rear-wheel-drive Fox platform called “Fox-4.” The new styling by Patrick Schiavone incorporated several styling cues from earlier Mustangs. For the first time since its introduction 1964, a notchback coupe model was unavailable.

The 1995 Cobra coupe.

The 1995 Cobra coupe.

For 1999, the Mustang was reskinned with Ford’s New Edge styling theme with sharper contours, larger wheel arches, and creases in its bodywork, but its basic proportions, interior design, and chassis remained the same as the previous model.

A rear view of a 1998 Mustang GT convertible

“New Edge” styling.

There were also three alternate models offered in this generation: the 2001 Bullitt, the 2003 and 2004 Mach 1 and the 320-hp 1999 and 2001,  and 390-hp 2003 and 2004 Cobra.

Three Mustang convertibles on a test track.

Convertibles from 1999, 1994, and 1965.

The 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra.

The 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra.

The 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT, in the likeness of the 1968 from the movie.

The 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT, in the likeness of the 1968 from the movie.

The 2003 Mach 1.

The 2003 Mach 1.

The 300 millionth Mustang rolls off the factory line with Bill Ford leading the way

Bill Ford presents the 300 millionth Ford vehicle, a 2004 Mustang GT convertible 40th-anniversary edition. The 2004 Mustangs are the last cars built at Ford’s Dearborn Assembly Plant, which had produced every model Mustang year since the car’s inception.

5th Generation: 2005–2014

The redesigned model for 2005.

The redesigned model for 2005.

Retro Futurism

The redesigned 2005 Mustang recalls the fastback Mustangs of the late-1960s. Ford’s senior vice president of design, J Mays, called it “retro-futurism.” The fifth-generation Mustang was manufactured at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Mich.

A 2005 GT convertible instrument panel.

A 2005 GT convertible instrument panel.

The refreshed 2010 Mustang was released in the spring of 2009 with a redesigned exterior — which included sequential LED taillights.

2007 Mustang Shelby introduces a 500-horsepower supercharged version of the 5.4-liter V-8.

2007 Mustang Shelby introduces a 500-hp supercharged 5.4-liter V-8.

For 2012, a new Mustang Boss 302 version was introduced. And in the second quarter of 2012, Ford launched an update to the Mustang line as an early 2013 model.

The 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca.

The 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca.

The 2013 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Edition Mustang.

The 2013 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Edition Mustang.

6th Generation: 2015 to present

The sixth-generation redesign added a wider and lower body

The sixth-generation redesign added a wider and lower body and, for the first time, a fully independent rear suspension. A 2015 Mustang GT is shown.

The sixth-generation Mustang was unveiled on Dec. 5, 2013, in Dearborn, Mich., New York City, Los Angeles, Barcelona (Spain), Shanghai (China), and Sydney, Australia. The internal project code name is S-550.

The 2017 Mustang convertible

The 2017 Mustang adds a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

 

Changes include a body widened by 1.5 inches and lowered 1.4 inches, a trapezoidal grille, and a 2.75-inch lower decklid.  A new independent rear suspension (IRS) system was developed specifically for the new model.
The 10 millionth Mustang sold was a 2019 Wimbledon White GT

The 10 millionth Mustang sold was a 2019 Wimbledon White GT convertible with a 460-hp, V-8 and six-speed manual.

The 2018 model year Mustang featured a minor exterior redesign and the debut of a 310-hp, 2.4-liter turbocharged (Ecoboost) four-cylinder. The 3.0-liter V-6 was dropped.

The 5.0-liter  V-8 got a power boost to 460 hp and 420 lb-ft torque. The automatic transmission for all models was upgraded to a 10-speed.

A grouping of 2020 Mustangs

The 2020 Mustang GT500, the most powerful street-legal Ford to date. Its supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 producing more than 700 hp.

2022 Mustang Shelby GT500 Heritage Edition

The 2022 the limited run of 2022 Mustang Shelby GT500 Heritage Edition

The limited run of 2022 Mustang Shelby GT500 Heritage Edition fastbacks will be finished in Brittany Blue, inspired by the original hue.

The 760-horsepower Shelby GT500 Heritage Edition will also have a choice of two stripe options:

  • Painted over-the-top racing stripes with GT500 logo (available in Wimbledon White or Absolute Black);
  •  Vinyl over-the-top racing stripes with unique vinyl side stripe featuring GT500 logo (in Wimbledon White).

Carroll Shelby took his legendary Mustang GT350 model further in 1967 to craft the first-generation Shelby GT500. It was modified with a 428-cubic-inch V-8 inspired by his team’s 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans.

Shelby called the original Shelby GT500 “the first real car I’m really proud of.” 

The 2022 Mustang Shelby GT500 has a starting U.S. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $73,465 — not including the $1,195 freight charge and $2,600 Gas Guzzler Tax.

The Shelby GT500 Heritage Edition package would add $2,140. And the GT500 Heritage Edition package with hand-painted stripes adds $12,140 to the Shelby GT500’s U.S. MSRP.

Check here for 2022 Ford Mustang pricing.