Today in History – March 9, 1964 – First Ford Mustang rolls off assembly line. Ford sold 22,000 of the sporty car on the first day of sales in April 1965. The Mustang was one of the most successful product launches in automotive history with over one million units sold in its first 18 months. The craze continues today as new models capture America’s youthful spirit.
The very first Mustang – the 1962 Mustang I Concept – made its debut in October 1962, and its name was a tribute to the legendary North American P51 Mustang fighter plane from World War II. The first regular production Mustang that rolled off the assembly line on March 9, 1964 was a Wimbledon White convertible with a 260-cubic inch V-8. Mustang is currently at its fifth generation since 2005.
The birth of Mustang
The ford company was experiencing a downswing in 1964. Chevrolet Corvair Monza had pulled ahead in sales even though Ford Falcon had had good sales in years past. Lee Iacocca, Ford Division general manager at that time, came up with the idea of creating a car that could be designed by the people. Though initially rejected, he eventually talked management into going along with this plan. In order to keep the development costs down, the new vehicle used as many parts from existing Ford car models as possible. The chassis, suspension and drivetrain components were inherited from the Ford Falcon and Fairlane. The car had a unitized platform-type frame, which was taken from the 1964 Falcon, and welded box-section side rails, including welded crossmembers. The durability problems with the new frame led to the unusual step of engineering the convertible first. The resulting new Ford automobile is a two-seater convertible – known as Mustang.
Some fun facts and stories:
- While the first Mustang was on a promotional tour of Canada, a Ford dealer in St. Johns, Newfoundland ‘mistakenl’ sold the car to Caption Stanley Tucker, a pilot with Eastern Provincial Airlines. Ford reacquired the car from Capt. Tucker in 1966 in exchange for Mustang number 1,000,001, and the original car is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
- Mustang sales reached the one million-mark in 1966. To-date, more than eight million have been sold, and it has been the best-selling sports car for 17 years straight years.
- Mustang was the first, and perhaps only, car to park on the 86th floor observation deck of New York’s Empire State Building. In October 1965, Ford engineers disassembled a 1966 Mustang convertible and took it up in four sections using the building’s passenger elevators.
- The Ford Mustang SSP (Special Service Package) was a lightweight police car package based on the Ford Mustang produced between 1982-1993, and was meant to provide a speedier option for police departments. The SSP was a special Foxbody Mustang trim made exclusively for law enforcement use.
- Mustangs have figured prominently in the movies, including the James Bond films “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds are Forever” staring Sean Connery, “Bullitt” starring Steve McQueen, and “Gone in 60 Seconds” (both the original 1974 film and the 2000 remake starring Nicholas Cage).
- Mustang recently made its appearance as new avatar of KITT, a car with the most advanced artificial intelligence technologies, in the short TV movie “Knight Rider” premiered on 17 February, 2008 on NBC. This moive was a story continued from the popular TV series “Knight Rider” from 1982 staring David Hasselhoff. The car used in the 1982 series was a Pontiac Firebird.