America’s First ‘Pony Ride’ Ford Mustang Represents An Awesome Legacy – And Why It Keeps Going Strong

The Ford Mustang has been battle-tested for 59 years without interruption, but the Mustang has managed to achieve this incredible feat. The key to its longevity lies in its timeless design, which allowed the pony car to adapt and remain relevant throughout the decades.

This iconic vehicle has undergone several updates, each representing a new generation of the Mustang. The latest iteration, known as the seventh generation, was unveiled in 2023 this past summer, showcasing the continued evolution of this legendary sports car.

The early Mustangs were called the pony cars, but in fact, these models were named after a fighter plane used in World War II. The Mustang concept was conceived by Henry Ford, while Henry Ford II came up with alternate names for it, such as the T-Bird II and the Cougar. Understanding the history of the Ford Mustang is important as it played a significant role in shaping the development of muscle cars. It is quite remarkable how the first Ford Mustang came into existence.

In 1962, as the Mustang underwent its development phase, a talented Ford designer named Phil Clark conceived the iconic Mustang logo.

The logo, crafted with meticulous attention to detail showcased vertical bars in a captivating combination of red, white, and blue, serving as a symbolic representation of the car’s distinct Americanness.

Throughout the Mustang’s rich history, this enduring emblem has consistently served as a proud and integral component of its identity, garnering recognition both with and without the recurring vertical bars.

Ford Mustang 1 Concept Designed in 1962

This experimental concept gave birth to the creation of the legendary Mustang. Photo: Sicnag, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
This experimental concept gave birth to the creation of the legendary Mustang. Sicnag, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The initial concept of the Mustang was a far cry from the ultimate production model defined by its legacy. Known as the Mustang 1, this early version boasted a distinctive design featuring a mid-engine layout and a seating capacity for two individuals.

Visually, it resembled the sleek European race cars of its era. The Mustang 1 made its public debut at the esteemed 1962 United States Grand Prix held at Watkins Glen, capturing the attention of enthusiasts and spectators alike.

First Generation: 1965 Ford Mustang

The first release of the Mustang was introduced to the public eye during the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. This debut was accompanied by its appearance in the renowned James Bond film “Goldfinger.”

The Ford Mustang(year model 1965) made its debut in April of 1964, priced at $2,368. Its’ stylish design set customers on fire, causing a surge in demand. Customers’ demand triggered a bidding war at the dealerships making the Mustang one of the most popular cars worldwide.

From the beginning, Ford only expected to sell approximately 100,000 vehicles. However, on the first day, dealerships received orders for over 22,000 of them.

During the first year of release, the Mustang sold an impressive 417, 000 units. Within two years, Ford had sold over one million. it is also believed that the renowned soul singer, Wilson Pickett, played a significant role in further popularizing the car’s reputation through his hit song, “Mustang Sally.”

The First Ford 1965 Mustang. Photo: Kroelleboelle, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The First Ford 1965 Mustang. Photo: Kroelleboelle, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The genesis of this connection can be traced back to an intriguing anecdote involving Della Reese, a gospel singer, who contemplated purchasing a Continental car as a birthday gift for her drummer and band leader, Calvin Shields.

Songwriter Sir Mack Rice and other members of the band playfully taunted Shields about his vehicle preferences. Shields swiftly responded by expressing his desire for a Ford Mustang. Inspired by the verbal exchange, and as his talented juices flowed like rainfall, Rice took it upon himself to pen some lyrics titled “Mustang Mama,” which ultimately underwent a tweak suggested by none other than Aretha Franklin herself. The final rewrite of the song was titled “Mustang Sally.”

The rest is history.

Ford Mustang Mach 1

Mach 1 is a fancy term once utilized to discern when an object travels at the speed of sound. Ford had originally used the Mach 1 symbol on the futuristic Levacar concept first displayed in 1959. Created by Gale Helderman the person who also designed the Mustang, the Levacar Mach 1 resembled a hover car that floated on a cushion of air. Although the Levacar never flourished the Mach 1 name stuck like velcro in the eyes of Ford’s top executives.

Mustang Mach 1 Make History

Ford Mustang Mach 1 made its grand entrance into the MACH 1 family in 1969, alongside the renowned Boss 302 and Boss 429 Mustangs unlike the Boss models, which had limited production. The Mach 1 continued to be manufactured throughout the second generation.

The First Mustang Mach 1 Hit American Streets in 1969. MercurySable99, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The First Mustang Mach 1 Hit American Streets in 1969. Photo: MercurySable99, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Subsequently, the Mach 1 nameplate resurfaced in the fourth and fifth generations. With each new iteration, the Mach 1 evolved while still keeping its signature principle of offering performance on a more accessible budget. While not reaching the same performance levels as the highly esteemed Shelby or Boss models, the Mach 1 unquestionably had a sportier demeanor than the typical Mustang. With the huge success of the Mach 1, Ford temporarily ceased making the GT model due to poor sales of 5,396 versus 72,458 sales for the Mach 1.

First Generation Mach 1 (1969-1973)

The Mach 1 was one of four new Mustangs to roll off the assembly line in 1969. The other three were the Boss 302, Boss 429, and Mustang Grande. While the Boss Mustangs focused on performance, the Grande focused exclusively on comfort. Mach 1 was a perfect in-between point offering performance features aflush with comfort features. Added into the mix was the Grande’s special sound package included with the weave-knitted seats as was the GT’s suspension package.

Ford executives’ goal was to create a sharp, sleek Mustang that was fun and “civilized.” While the Boss Mustangs were race-ready, the Mach 1 wasn’t a performance car for a race track.

The first Mach 1 was only available as a fastback. Thereafter everything else was customizable. The standard exterior accents were a nonfunctional shaker hood scoop, hood pins, a black hood stripe, side scoops, and chrome exhaust tips. The Mach 1 also had a bold stripe located about halfway up on the body that included the Mach 1 name.

While the Boss and Shelby Mustangs had single options for engines, transmissions, and rear axles, the Mach 1 allowed owners to select from a wide range. Similar to the 1969 GTs, Mach 1 was equipped with a V8, ranging from the standard 5.8L Windsor to a 428 CID Cobra Jet.

Many performance Mustangs were only sold in very limited quantities. Fortunately, this isn’t the case for the Mach 1. In 1969, the first year of the Mach 1 sold 72,458 units. This is especially impressive considering the Boss 302, Boss 429, GT350, and GT500 were also available for sale that year.

1970 Mach 1

A year after its release, the 1970 Mach 1 experienced notable changes that caught the attention of car enthusiasts. One of the most notable modifications was the removal of the side scoop, accompanied by a reduction in the size of the black hood stripe.

Furthermore, the fog lights underwent repositioning, while two grille openings were introduced, giving the car a distinct look. A significant alteration took place by replacing the mid-body stripe, which was substituted with a sturdy rocker panel decoration.

1970 Mustang Mach 1. Photo: Classicsworkshop, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
1970 Mustang Mach 1. Photo: Classicsworkshop, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To enhance its unique identity, the “Mach 1” name was even incorporated into the extruding aluminum molding. These updates contributed to the overall appeal and sophistication of the 1970 Mach 1, making it a standout among its competitors.

1971-1973 Mach 1

The 1971-73 Mustang overhaul impacted the Mach 1. The redesign increased body dimensions, resulting in a heavier weight and compromised handling. The new Mustang fastback’s profile created blind spots for drivers. Mach 1 had elongated lines, but it didn’t enhance the appeal.

Watch the Video Below of All Three Mustang Mach 1 from (1971-73):

In the last three years of the initial Mustang generation, the Mach 1 had minimal changes. However, the 1971 and 1972 models had noticeable differences, with a switch from block to script style lettering for “Mustang” and reduced engine options, including the retirement of the 429 CID Cobra Jet.

Second Generation Mach 1

During its introduction in 1974, the second generation Mustang II lineup consisted of four distinct models: a two-door notchback, a three-door hatchback, the Mustang Ghia, and the Mach 1. Positioned as the sole performance-oriented variant, the Mach 1 boasted a V6 engine as standard, setting it apart from the other three models which featured a four-cylinder engine.

Ford Mustang II Flickr Alexandre Prévot
Ford Mustang II Flickr Alexandre Prévot. Photo: Alexandre Prévot from Nancy, France, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In line with the prevailing trend at the time, the Mustang II underscored fuel efficiency rather than sheer performance, even though it managed to incorporate some sporty elements into its design. Standard features for all models included exterior stripes, a chin spoiler, and wide oval tires, aiming to evoke a sense of athleticism. Although, Mach 1 customers were offered the option to enhance their vehicle further by adding the Rallye Package to their purchase.

The Rallye Package carried a range of supplementary features and enhancements:

  • Traction-lok limited-slip differential
  • Steel belted white letter tires
  • Extra cooling equipment
  • A sport exhaust system
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel

The second-generation Mach 1 also consisted of stiffer springs, a rear stabilizer bar, and adjustable shocks were added as well.

Despite the Rallye Package, the Mach 1 disappointed car enthusiasts with its 105-hp engine and 2,800-pound weight. In 1975, Ford introduced a symbolic 302 CID V8 engine, generating 122 horsepower. The Mustang II, although not as popular as the 1971-73 Mach 1 kept the brand intact selling 380,000 units in 1974, with 44,046 of the total sales being Mach 1s.

However, as the years went by, the popularity of the Mach 1 began to wane. The year 1975 marked a significant decline, with only 21,000 units sold, reflecting a decrease of over 50% from the previous year. Adding to the Mach 1’s challenges, Ford introduced the Cobra II in 1976, diverting attention and sales away from the Mach 1.

By 1977, a mere 6,719 units of the Mach 1 were sold, highlighting its diminishing presence in the market. Consequently, it came as no surprise when Ford transitioned into the Fox Body generation, leaving the Mach 1 behind. This marked the end of the fourth-generation Mach 1’s journey.

Mach 1 2003 Comeback

The 2003 Mach 1 brought back the style of the 1969 model, with features like the matte black hood stripe, shaker hood scoop, rear spoiler, and chin spoiler. Inside, it had a classic Mustang-like instrument cluster and a machined aluminum shift ball. Unlike the original Mach 1s, the fourth generation had a 4.6L OHC V8 engine that made 305 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. This made it a middle ground between the 2003 Mustangs (260 hp) and 2003 SVT Cobras (390 hp).

Mustang 2003. <a href="">fordmustanggenerations</a>
Mustang 2003. Photo: fordmustanggenerations

The Mach 1’s price in 2003 was $28,705, while the GT cost $23,705 and the Cobra cost $33,460. It was a great deal for $5,000 more if a buyer purchased the Cobra, offering impressive exterior mods and 45 additional horsepower.

In contrast to the Cobra style, the Mach 1 offered an optional automatic transmission. This feature appealed to those drivers who desired a more spirited driving experience while still valuing moments of relaxation behind the wheel. The Mach 1 proved to be a popular choice, with 9,652 units sold in 2003 and an additional 7,182 units sold in 2004.

S550 Mach 1

2019 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 facelift. Photo: Vauxford, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
2019 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 facelift. Photo: Vauxford, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 2021, the iconic Mach 1 returned to its generational family marking the end of the S550 era for Mustang lovers. Once again, Mach 1 solidifies its status as the vehicle to fill the gap within the GT and Shelby Mustang models. Keeping true to its new edge of the Mach 1 family the 2021 Mach 1 version offers customers the choice of an automatic or manual transmission. The dimensions and full body makeup for the 2022-2023 Mustangs were the same except the Shelby GT500 was eliminated from the lineup.

Ford Mustang is a mainstay among America’s legendary automobiles. It is fast, pretty, and sturdy, with enough power under the hood to outrun its namesake: the real-life Nevada Mustang ponies.

Meanwhile, the 2024 Mustang GT has been unveiled and is now available at Ford Dealerships. Designed to appeal to younger buyers the slight changes don’t deliver a kiss of death to the original characteristics of the Mustang models.

To end on a humorous note it goes like this – “Mustang Sally … Guess You Better Slow Your Mustang Down.”

But Ford Mustangs keep moving faster, pushing on and beyond the millennium.

Editor’s Note: When NewsBlaze Senior Reporter CJ Walker Bought His First Car As a Teenager in Houston, Texas During the Late 1970s It Was a 1973 Blue-Striped Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fox Body Style. The Little Pony Had a 351 V8 Cleveland Motor Capped Off with Pretty Shining Rims. This Feature Article Showcases the illustrious History of the Ford Mustang and Its Mach 1 Series – A Dedication to the Mustang Mach 1 Previously Owned by Mr.Walker. Walker Enjoys Writing About the History of Older Popular American Cars, Particularly Fords and Chevrolet.

NewsBlaze Senior Reporter, Car Enthusiast, and News Editor Clarence Walker can be reached at [email protected]

Clarence Walker

As an analyst and researcher for the PI industry and a business consultant, Clarence Walker is a veteran writer, crime reporter and investigative journalist. He began his writing career with New York-based True Crime Magazines in Houston Texas in 1983, publishing more than 300 feature stories. He wrote for the Houston Chronicle (This Week Neighborhood News and Op-Eds) including freelancing for Houston Forward Times.

Working as a paralegal for a reputable law firm, he wrote for National Law Journal, a publication devoted to legal issues and major court decisions. As a journalist writing for internet publishers, Walker’s work can be found at American, Gangster Inc., Drug War Chronicle, Drug War101 and Alternet.

His latest expansion is to News Break.

Six of Walker’s crime articles were re-published into a paperback series published by Pinnacle Books. One book titled: Crimes Of The Rich And Famous, edited by Rose Mandelsburg, garnered considerable favorable ratings. Gale Publisher also re-published a story into its paperback series that he wrote about the Mob: Is the Mafia Still a Force in America?

Meanwhile this dedicated journalist wrote criminal justice issues and crime pieces for John Walsh’s America’s Most Wanted Crime Magazine, a companion to Walsh blockbuster AMW show. If not working PI cases and providing business intelligence to business owners, Walker operates a writing service for clients, then serves as a crime historian guest for the Houston-based Channel 11TV show called the “Cold Case Murder Series” hosted by reporter Jeff McShan.

At NewsBlaze, Clarence Walker expands his writing abilities to include politics, human interest and world events.

Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]