On this day in 1964 America’s automotive industry won the hearts of horse lovers. There’s something intrinsically romantic about wild horses – mustangs and brumbies – running free on an open range. The automotive industry picked up on this idealism and they drove it down the road to the bank.
The day before it’s release, Ford ran simultaneous commercials at 9:30pm on all three major television networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS. The following day, April 17, 1964, people “attacked” the Ford showrooms. Everyone was in a frenzy to be one of the first to own the Mustang. Ford sold over 22,000 Mustangs the first day.
In 1961, Lee Iacocca, vice president and general manager of Ford Division, had a vision. America’s baby boomers were in the job market, getting married and making a huge impact on the consumer market. Ford understood that these young adults did not want to buy a car like their parents. Iacocca’s vision was a car that would seat four people, have bucket seats, a floor mounted shifter, be no more than 180 inches long, weigh less than 2500 pounds, and sell for less than $2500.00. Out of this vision, the Ford Mustang was born.
Even Ford was shocked at America’s appetite for the Mustang during ’65. It sold 1,288,557 Mustangs sold in 2 ½ years.
With that many Mustangs in the nation’s automotive bloodstream, it was natural that many of them would be raced. But in order to race against Chevrolet’s Corvette, Ford needed a two-seater. Racing rules required that Ford had to make at least 100 of the racers by January 1965 to compete. Enter Carroll Shelby.
Shelby, a Texan and longtime racer, saw the potential to slay Corvettes with the Mustang and took 100 of the first 2+2s for modification into “GT 350” models. Tossing the rear seats aside, Shelby added such performance items as oversize front disc brakes, a fiberglass hood and a lowered suspension with oversize tires on 15-inch wheels. Shelby’s legendary series of modified Mustangs would be built through 1970 in various forms and are today considered some of the most desirable Mustangs ever built.
Over the decades the Ford Mustang has undergone many transformations. But it has always retained a special place in the hearts of automotive enthusiasts and perhaps even a or two #WARHorses?
There are many rumors and little documentation about how the Mustang was named. Is the name a historic nod to the Mustang P-51 fighter of WWII and Korea or reference to America’s wild horses?
R.H. Bob Maguire, my boss, and I were looking through a list of names for the car. I had been reading about the P-51 Mustang airplane and suggested the name Mustang in remembrance of the P-51, but Bob thought the name as associated with the airplane was too ‘airplaney’ and rejected that idea. I again suggested the same name Mustang, but this time with a horse association because it seemed more romantic. He agreed and we together selected that name right on the spot, and that’s how it got its name.
From “Mustang Genesis: The Creation of the Pony Car” by Robert A. Fria