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March 14, 2016

Long Hood, Short Rear: This Is How The Mustang Redefined Muscle Cars From the 1960s

On April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang was released. Originally conceived as a two-door compact car, the design was modified to include four doors. The long hood and short rear deck of the sport-car-like coupe became wildly popular, and gave Ford its most successful launch since the Model A in 1927. The Mustang would go on to define a new class of muscle car, and become an iconic part of American automotive culture. Here, how the Mustang redefined muscle cars from the 1960s...

Photo: The Enthusiast Network/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

1. Concept Car

The first concept for the Mustang was originally based on the platform of the second generation North American Ford Falcon, a compact car. Designed by John Najjar and Philip T. Clark, it featured two seats and a V4 engine, and debuted in 1962. The car proved itself on the racetrack that year, and Ford moved forward with a consumer production model.

Photo: The Enthusiast Network/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

2. Mustang Branding

The name for the car reportedly came from Najjar, who was a fan of the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter plane, and is credited by Ford as having suggested the Mustang name.

Photo: The Enthusiast Network/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

3. First Generation Mustang

For the production model of the Mustang, Ford made a decision to abandon the two-seat design in favor of one with four seats, in part due to the low sales experienced with the 2-seat 1955 Thunderbird. A "Fastback 2+2" model was designed with a straight-6 engine, and exterior lines similar to those of the second series of the Corvette Stingray and European sports cars such as the Jaguar E-Type, and was was first manufactured on April 17, 1964.

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4. Simple Design

To cut down on costs to reach a consumer friendly-price of $2,368, the Mustang was based heavily on familiar yet simple components that were already in production in other Ford models, such as interior, chassis, suspension, and drivetrain components that were used on Ford's Falcon and Fairlane. This also shortened the learning curve for assembly and repair workers, and allowed dealers to easily support the new car line.

Photo: The Enthusiast Network/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

5. Record Sales

Original forecasts for the Mustang predicted sales of 100,000 in its first model year, but it sold that much in the first three months of production, going on to sell another 318,000 within a year, a record for the company. After 18 months since its roll-out, over a million Mustangs were built. The Mustang’s styling, with its long hood and short deck, proved wildly popular, creating a new class of "pony cars" and inspiring a number of imitators like the Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro.

Photo: The Enthusiast Network/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

6. Muscle Car

Some subsequent models of the Mustang were built to include powerful V8 engines, with the GT version becoming renowned as a formidable muscle car. The Mustang saw considerable competition in drag racing, and racing versions saw success in touring and stock races.

Photo: The Enthusiast Network/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

7. Larger Redesigns

Further into the 60s, Ford began drawing up larger versions of the Mustang even as the original was achieving sales success, with more powerful engines added to support the extra weight. By 1969, however, some felt the styling was becoming too aggressive and hurting sales.

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8. Second Generation

With the onset of the 1973 oil crisis, Ford ordered a smaller, more fuel-efficient Mustang for 1974. The compact "Mustang II" was able to compete against imported sports coupés such as the Japanese Toyota Celica and sold 385,993 cars in its first year. Subsequent coupé and hatchback versions were released and characterized the Mustang for the rest of the 70s.

Photo: AlfvanBeem/Wikimedia Commons

9. Mustang in the 80s

The third generation mustang was based on the longer Fox platform, and for part of the 80s the car had a triangle shaped front clip and four headlights, a feature enthusiasts called "4 Eyes." Sales continued to slump however, and Ford began looking at further redesigns.

Photo: Bob Olsen/Toronto Star/Getty Images

10. Enthusiasts

The Mustang remains one of the most iconic American cars in history, with enthusiasts maintaining vintage models. Original models from the early 60s tend to be the most popular, with the Shelby GT350 competition version being one of the most sought-after collectibles.

Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

11. Modern Iterations

Ford has continued to produce new models of the Mustang, with the 2015 version marking the sixth generation of the car. Newer models pay homage to the original grille and hood design of the first generation, while incorporating a number of engine types specialized for fuel efficiency, or performance.

Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

(This original article was written by Shea Huffman and published on AllDay)


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