The History of the Mustang®: The Mustang Generations

June 28th, 2023 by

Updated: April 15, 2024

Roaring down the open road, a symbol of power and freedom, the Mustang has become more than just a car; it’s an American icon that has left an indelible tire track on the pages of history. From its thunderous debut in 1964 to its enduring legacy as a muscle car legend, the Mustang has enthralled generations with its sleek design, heart-pounding performance, and untamed spirit. Join us on a thrilling ride through time as we delve into the history of the Mustang, from its first-generation debut to the awe-inspiring Shelby Mustang.

The History of Ford Mustang: The Mustang Generations

The First-Generation Ford Mustang

When Ford introduced the original Mustang, they marketed it as a 1965 model, but they made a few production modifications to cars manufactured after August 1964. Interestingly, Ford had already sold a staggering 120,000 units by that time. Enthusiasts often refer to the early Mustangs as “1964½” models, while those produced after August are commonly known as “late” 1965.

Initially, the Mustang was available in convertible and notchback body styles, but the fastback version joined the lineup a bit later in the ’65 production cycle. Its extensive range of options set the Mustang apart, allowing buyers to tailor it to fit anything from everyday economical transportation to a high-performance weekend racer. The actual demand dwarfed Ford’s sales projections for the 1965 model year. Total sales, including the “1964½” cars, reached a remarkable 681,000 units—nearly seven times what Ford had initially anticipated.

Under the hood, the original Mustang came with three engine choices. These included the 170-cid straight-six, a 4.3-liter V-8, and the iconic 289-cid V-8 that could deliver an impressive 271 horsepower. However, for the later part of the ’65 model year, Ford made a few changes to the engine lineup. They increased the size of the six-cylinder engine to 200 cid (3.3 liters), and the 260-cid V-8 was replaced with a 289-cid V-8 equipped with a two-barrel carburetor. As the Mustang ventured into 1966, it underwent only minor modifications. In fact, on March 1 of that year, Ford proudly celebrated the production of the one-millionth Mustang, marking a significant milestone in the Mustang’s illustrious journey.

The Shelby Mustangs

From the early days of the Mustang, Ford collaborated with Carroll Shelby to create high-performance versions of the car. The 1965-66 Shelby GT350 featured a modified 289 engine with 306 hp, improved suspension, and brakes. There was also a race-ready GT350R version and a special edition for the Hertz rental agency called the GT350H.

In 1967, Ford took more control over the Shelby cars and introduced the GT500 with a 335-hp 427 engine. The GT350 switched to a 250-hp 302 engine in 1968, while the GT500 KR used the 428 Cobra Jet. By 1969, Ford had more influence, and the GT350 had a 290-hp 351 engine.

The Shelby-Mustang collaboration paused for several decades until it was revived in 2006 with the Shelby GT-H and the 2007 GT500. Ford continued to release updated Shelby models, with 2020 GT500 being the most powerful Mustang ever, boasting an astonishing 760 hp.

Quick Facts About the Ford Mustang

  • The Mustang made its debut in 1964 (1965 model year), just in time to be the coolest car on the block
  • Over 10,000,000 Ford Mustangs have been sold worldwide
  • The starting price (base) was $2,368
  • The current price (base) is $27,865
  • From a modest 2.3 liters to a roaring 7.0 liters, The Ford Mustang has engines to satisfy both the timid and the bold
  • Distinctive feature: The Ford Mustang has been in non-stop production since its debut in 1964

Mustang’s history and legacy are a testament to its timeless appeal and the passion it ignites in car enthusiasts. From the revolutionary first-generation model to the adrenaline-inducing Shelby Mustangs, the Mustang has left an indelible mark on the automotive world.

Experience the Power and Legacy of the Ford Mustang Today!

Ready to embark on your Mustang journey? Explore the timeless legacy of the Ford Mustang at LaFontaine Classic Cars. Discover our exquisite collection of classic Mustangs and experience the thrill of owning a piece of automotive history. Contact us today to find your perfect Mustang, and let us assist you in making your dreams a reality! Alternatively, you can also sell us your Ford Mustang. We can pick up your car from anywhere in the U.S.


Photo Cred: loopin Photography/Shutterstock

Posted in Classic Cars