The Mustang: A Visual Archive Of Ford’s Iconic Pony Car

By Cameron Eittreim [meta_gallery_slider id="30050" thumbnail_id="29948"]

With the introduction of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the Mustang brand. The Mach-E is the evolution of an already well-known brand name. Ford has expressed interest in getting into the electric car business for some time now. Although Tesla has dominated the marketplace. Other automakers are looking to get in on the action. Jaguar has already launched the all-electric I-Pace, and Ford is now following with the Mach-E. Take one look at the Mach-E and you know you’re in for something special. The cultivated lines and the overall demeanor scream Mustang.

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But Ford has added a twist and the vehicle now appeals to a whole new demographic. You’d be hard-pressed to find another SUV that is as the purposefully-built as the Mach-E. The electric drivetrain was designed by a special team known as “Edison”. The Mustang brand, in general, has been a historic part of the automotive industry. Owning the distinction of being the first “Pony” can don’t come easy and there have been bumps along the way. The 70s were an especially tough time to be a Mustang owner. But the brand has prevailed and it remains one of the most recognized brands in the world.

We’re going to be taking a look back through history at the Mustangs of yesteryear and where the brand plans to go in the future via Car And Driver. You can also look through our full visual retelling of the Mustang’s storied history by clicking in any image in this post.

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Started As The Special Falcon:

Things were on the brink for Ford during the 60s. The sedan lineup was doing alright, but consumer tastes were beginning to shift toward lighter-weight vehicles. Ford had created the Falcon line in the hopes of invigorating the sales. The special Falcon was a sporty car by the standards at the time, but it was no Mustang. Lee Iacocca had a special plan for the Mustang. 1964 was the birth of a classic, offering the lightweight and aerodynamic styling that we’ve become accustomed to. The original Mustang came with a plethora of different options for a V8 motor.

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This was the highest-selling generation of the Mustang at this time. The consumer public went crazy for the intrinsic value that the Mustang had to offer. It was lightweight and fun-to-drive and the executives at GM felt the same way. The Mustang ended up springing the birth of the Camaro later on in the decade. The Camaro and Mustang rivalry started decades ago and has remained to this day. Ford eventually cut the Falcon from the lineup completely and the Mustang took over as the lightweight pony car of choice.

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1970 Was A Breakout Year

As the 70s rolled in, so did a new design them for the Mustang line. The 1970 Mustang was a departure from the lightweight original design and more of a larger-bodied vehicle. You’ll notice that 1970 features a completely different grill. The grill redesign is just part of the Mustang redesign that Ford took part in. Around this period, EPA regulations were getting tougher on domestic automakers. Foreign automakers were also hot on the heels of the domestic companies and that’s why the redesign was a crucial one for the Ford Motor Company.

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Toward the end of the decade, the Mustang had shrunk considerably. This is known as the “Pinto” Mustang and it is one of the most universally panned incarnations of the famous muscle car. Still, the 1970s were a formative time for the Mustang. The brand was still competing against the Camaro but all domestic vehicles were hurt by the new EPA regulations. The Mustang was in the same ballpark as the Camaro when it came to the V8 engine being penalized. Surprisingly enough the “Pinto” based Mustang has been creeping up in value recently.

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The Fox Body:

If you were born in the 80s or right after, there’s no doubt that you could have missed the fox body Mustang. This generation of the Mustang brought back the true V8 power that was lost in the prior decade. The fox body Mustang incorporated one of the lightest bodies to ever be featured on a Mustang. Available in a hatchback or a Notchback configuration the Fox body was a strong choice for law enforcement agencies as well as backyard racers. The fox body also introduced the world to the Cobra, which is one of the most well-known Mustangs on the market today.

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The fox body was widely used by law enforcement agencies because of the reliable drivetrain and easy to modify the design. The Mustang, in general, has always been a good ride that you can build on with relative ease. Design elements of the fox body Mustang were copied by GM and other automakers but the secret sauce was in the lightweight design. But the fox body, in particular, has lived on quite well even to this current day. If you’re lucky enough to come across the Cobra you’ll have a pony car that will leave a smile on your face.

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The Nineties Rebirth:

The next-generation Mustang was still based on the Fox-body design but it incorporated an entirely new design. Ford was working with a lot of oval design cues on their vehicles during the 90s. If you look at the Contour or the Taurus from this period you’ll know what I am talking about. Still, this body of the Mustang was perhaps one of the most stylish incarnations yet. The main element that made this body style a winner was the fact that it incorporated a big, roomy interior. Leather was an option and you could even get heated power seats. A power top was added to the options list down the road.

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The Cobra was also reintroduced for this body style of the Mustang. It offered the same fire-breathing design in a new, more modern package. Customers appreciate how much larger this incarnation of the Mustang was. The previous body style performed well but it simply looked lackluster when compared to the Camaro’s much larger styling. The Firebird was also a tough competitor for this new generation of Mustang but it held its own on the track. The 90s Mustang will perhaps be most remembered for the bright yellow convertible version. This was the NASCAR official pace car in more than one instance.

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The “New Edge” Rings In The New Millennium:

For the 1999 model year, the Mustang was yet again revamped, but this time it got an entirely new interior and exterior. Ford was heavily pushing the “New Edge” design philosophy and the Mustang and Focus were the first two to get the treatment. The New Edge design theme was similar in a lot of ways to the outgoing Mustang model. It incorporated a lot of curves which gave the Mustang a much more modern design. A lot of the design elements were similar to the Camaro at the time. The New Edge Mustang introduced a lot of new models such as the Bullet and the Mach 1. Both of which were limited-production models that gained notoriety.

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Another Mustang that gained a lot of notoriety was the SVT. The SVT Cobra was designed for the track. Only a portion of the Mustang GTs that left the factory came in a Cobra configuration. We think that the New Edge design was instrumental in bringing the Mustang into the 21st century. When you think of a Mustang that an entire generation remembers, the New Edge Mustang is probably the most memorable model. There were so many different faces of this generation of the Mustang that it left a lasting impression. The New Edge Mustang is still one of the most desirable body styles to date.

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2005 – Rebirth Of A Legend:

Let’s get the facts straight, the Camaro wasn’t the car that started the retro-inspired craze. The 2005 Mustang introduced us to the first retro-inspired muscle car on the market. This generation of the Mustang was undoubtedly the most popular generation to date. There are several reasons for this, but the cool retro-themed styling is the main reason. 2005 was revolutionary in a lot of ways because retro-themed cars such as the Prowler had failed. But Ford blazed its trail and introduced the new Mustang into a marketplace that was ready for something new.

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Around this time, GM had completely exited from the sports car market. Thus, the 2005 Mustang was the lone competitor if you wanted a V8-powered pony car. There was competition from the Asian carmakers with choices the RX-8 and Tiburon. But the Mustang was the sole muscle car that you could choose from until the Challenger and the Camaro were reintroduced to the market later on. The 2005 Mustang was responsible for igniting the retro-themed pony cars that you see on the market today.

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The Future Is Bright For The Mustang Brand:

The Mustang brand is one of the longest continuously-running nameplates in the world. With that kind of brand loyalty, there’s no question that the Mustang is important to Ford. With the recent release of the Mach-E, we have a taste in the future of the Ford design language. The Mach-E has everything you’d come to expect out of a Tesla but wrapped up in a stylish SUV. With this kind of promise behind the Mustang, we can see that the brand will last long after the sports car market goes away. But as long as people continue to enjoy the art of driving, there will be Mustangs on the road.

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We’ve all been in a Mustang at some point in our lives. Many of us have had the privilege of owning a Mustang. The car connects you to the road like nothing else around. Even with other pony cars vying for new shoppers, the Mustang is the quintessential legend that started it all. Without the Mustang we wouldn’t have a Camaro or Challenger. The lightweight, V8-powered sports car has left an impression on the automotive industry like nothing before it.