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Ford Mustang: In The Beginning!

1964.5 Ford Mustang convertible (copyright image)

1964.5 Ford Mustang convertible

Joe Oros (copyright image)

Joe Oros, chief designer
of the original Ford Mustang

1964.5 Ford Mustang hardtop (copyright image)

1964.5 Ford Mustang hardtop

1965 Ford Mustang GT (copyright image)

1965 Ford Mustang GT convertible

1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 (copyright image)

1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 fastback

1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (copyright image)

1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 fastback

Home > News > Ford

29th March, 2009

A number of so-called "pony cars" have 'galloped' in and out of the North American automotive scene throughout the past four and a half decades, but none have enjoyed the lasting appeal of Mustang. And none have inspired the same degree of passion among car owners.

On Friday, 17th April, 2009, Ford and the Mustang Club of America will commemorate the 45th anniversary of an American icon – the Ford Mustang – with a four-day celebration in Birmingham, Alabama.

The First Generation of the Ford Mustang

On 17th April, 1964, the Ford Mustang, with its long bonnet, short boot lid and sporty features, caused a sensation when it was introduced to the public at the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York (USA).

“When the Mustang was unveiled, the reaction was so positive that there was no doubt it was going to be a success,” recalls Joe Oros (pictured opposite), chief designer of Ford’s original pony car – dubbed the 1964½ because it was launched at an unusual halfway point in the 'model year' cycle.

Don Frey, product planning manager for the original Ford Mustang, says he knew the car was going to be a hit months earlier when the design team gave Ford employees a sneak peek at one of the prototypes.

“We built the first prototype in an experimental garage, and employees flooded the place to see it,” he said. “Their reaction was spectacular, and it was very revealing to us. We knew the car was going to be roaring success from the start.”

And what a success it was.

The 1964½ Mustang debuted at a price of $2,368 (USD) – a bargain even in 1964. Ford expected annual sales of about 100,000 units. But 22,000 Mustang orders were taken on the first day, and sales reached an astounding 417,000 in the car’s first 12 months on the market. Within two years, Mustang sales reached one million.

Frey says he believes the car had such dramatic appeal because the styling was very unusual for its day.

“The design was very European, particularly the front end,” he said. “There was no other car like it in North America at that time.”

Another facet of Mustang’s appeal was that it could be any vehicle the customer wanted it to be. The original Mustangs were available in three body styles – convertible, hardtop or fastback – with the most extensive list of options Detroit had ever offered. The Ford Mustang could be an economical “base” car, a 'macho' high-performance car or a luxury car.

“Mustang was designed to be designed by you,” one of the original print advertisements indicated. And it was true. Everyone who owned a Mustang believed no one else had a vehicle like theirs, and the vehicle had broad appeal.

“We were told to design a car that the ladies would love that the men would love just as much, and that’s exactly what we did,” said Oros.

Marketing studies conducted at the time showed that women bought as many Mustangs as men.

“They loved the styling, and the car was very affordable,” said Frey. “Women bought it by the thousands.”

Frey, now 86, is the proud owner of one of the original Mustangs – built in June of 1964. It’s a red hard top with a white interior, and he keeps it parked in his home garage.

“I have a driver who comes by, and we take it out,” he said. “To this day, people stop us and ask if it’s an original Mustang.”

At age 92, Oros says he’s still as passionate about the Mustang as he was 45 years ago.

“He wants me to stop in the middle of the freeway whenever he sees a Mustang, and I tell him that we can’t do that,” said Oros’ driver and caregiver Violeta Orlanda. “When we do stop somewhere, he searches the parking lot to find the Mustangs, and he insists on checking them all out in detail from front to back.”

Oros says his fascination and fondness for the pony car he helped design will never end.

“It makes me feel proud every time I see one,” explained Oros. “After all of these years, Mustang has never lost its lustre.”

Frey is equally as proud.

“We created an icon,” he said. “And I had a hand in it.”


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