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History of the Ford Mustang

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The Ford Mustang is one of the most iconic and recognizable cars in the United States. Its original platform in 1963 was based on the second generation of Ford Falcon. Since then, this two-seater, compact concept car has evolved and spans a whole "pony car" class of cars that is still a dominate force in America today. Pony cars are characterized by long, sloping hoods and rear decks that are shortened, giving them a compact yet powerful look.

First Generation: 1964-1973

The first generation of Ford Mustang was introduced at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964. This T-5 prototype was developed in just 18 months. It was a two-seater model that featured a Ford Taurus V4 engine that was mounted toward the midway point of the body. The car's name is said to have originated due to the appreciation that John Najjar, an executive stylist, had with the World War II fighter plane, the P-51 Mustang. A four seater model, the Fastback 2+2, was introduced in August of the same year amid a great deal of publicity. Later in 1964, James Bond drove a Mustang in his movie, Goldfinger.

While projections put sales of the new Ford Mustang at less than 100,000 units, that figure was surpassed in fewer than three months. Instead, a record 318,000 of the cars were sold during that first year with over a million built within the first 18 months after its introduction. In spite of these phenomenal successes, change was coming to the Mustang via its designers, which would not bode well for its sales.

While the original design of the Mustang emphasized both power and speed, its models from 1971 until 1973 leaned more heavily toward a larger and heavier vehicle. In fact, its body grew in every facet with the exception of its height. It also gained an additional 800 pounds. As the performance outputs of the Mustang continued to decrease, its sales plummeted as well.

Second Generation: 1974-1978

With Lee Iacocca now at the helm of the Ford Motor Company, the man who was a driving force behind the original Mustang sought to steer its development back to its heyday. The 1974 model Ford Mustang recaptured much of the looks, styling and shape of the original. To meet the emissions and safety requirements enacted by the United States, however, that year's version was also heavier. A choice of engines was made available to consumers including the Cologne 2.8L V6 and the I-4 2.3L. In 1975, a Windsor 4.9L, 302 cubic inch V8 engine was introduced. Both hatchback and coupe versions of this generation of Mustang featured frameless door glass.

Third Generation: 1979-1993

For its third generation, the Ford Mustang went through another major facelift. The 1979 model was based on the Fox platform which was longer than those previously used. Even though the rear seating portion was smaller, the Mustang's interior was designed to be able to accommodate four people comfortably. Four primary body styles emerged from this generation including the convertible, coupe, notchback and hatchback. The front end of the Mustang was available in two different front end styles and numerous trim levels. Some trim levels available during this time period include the GLX, Cobra R, Turbo GT and the Ghia.

Fourth Generation: 1994-2004

The fourth generation Ford Mustang underwent a significant facelift and redesign. Again, the building of this version began with the rear wheel drive Fox platform though this was an updated version. Base models of this generation started out with a fivespeed manual transmission and V6 3.8 OVH engine. An optional four-speed automatic transmission was also available. The 1999 model experienced the effects of a new skin that was dubbed "New Edge." It featured bigger wheel arches, sharper contours and bodywork creases. Though its interior, chassis and basic proportions remained the same, the Mustang's power train included a split-port induction system that boosted output.

Fifth Generation: 2005-2014

For its 2005 model, Ford once again redesigned the Mustang. Based on a brand-new platform, the D2C, the fifth generation Ford Mustang debuted at the North American International Automobile Show in 2004. The base model was powered by a 4L SOHC cast iron V6 while the GT version featured a three-valve modular V8 that was made of aluminum. Both models featured a fivespeed Tremec manual transmission as its basic feature with an available automatic transmission.

In 2010, exterior redesigns for the Ford Mustang included sequential taillights and a drag coefficient reduction. Base models saw a four percent reduction while GTs enjoyed a seven percent reduction. 2011 saw a revamp of the engine options including a newcomer on the scene -- a 3.7 liter engine that was equipped with dual exhaust. Gas mileage for this engine soared to 19 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway. A supercharged V8 engine available on the Shelby GT was made of aluminum, reducing the weight of the car by 102 pounds and providing it with a rating of 550 horsepower.

Sixth Generation: 2015 to the present

Introduced on December 5, 2013 in Sydney, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Dearborn, New York and Shanghai, this sixth generation of the iconic Ford Mustang included a widened body that was also lowered by about one-and-one-half inches. New colors and an increase in the passenger volume of its interior were other major changes of this version. Three engine options attempted to provide appeal to everyone -- 2.3L EcoBoost four cylinder, 3.7 L V6 and a 5.0 L 435 horsepower V8. This version also featured a brand new independent rear suspension (IRS) -- a system designed specifically for this model year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognized the 2015 Ford Mustang for its rollover, front and side crash protection by issuing the vehicle a 5-star rating in February 2015.