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Motoring: Ford Mustang - 1964

First conceived by Ford product manager Donald N. Frey and championed by Ford Division general manager Lee Iacocca, the Mustang prototype was a two-seat, mid-engine roadster. This would later be remodeled as a four-seat car penned by David Ash and John Oros in Ford's Lincoln-Mercury Division design studios, which produced the winning design in an intramural design contest called by Iacocca. To cut down the development cost and achieve a suggested retail price of US$2,368, the Mustang was based heavily on familiar, yet simple components. Much of the chassis, suspension, and drivetrain components were derived 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.

Although hardtop Mustangs were the majority of the sales, durability problems with the new frame led to the unusual step of engineering the (necessarily less rigid) convertible first, which featured the industry's first "torque box" structural system. Overall length of the Mustang and Falcon was identical, although the Mustang's wheelbase was slightly shorter. With an overall width of 68.2 inches (1,732 mm), it was 2.4 in (61 mm) narrower, yet the wheel track was nearly identical. The Mustang featured a lower seating position and overall height. Shipping weight, about 2,570 pounds (1,166 kg) with the Falcon's 170 cu in (2.8 L) inline-six-cylinder 101 horsepower (75 kW) engine with three-speed manual, was also similar.

The GT model could be equipped with the US$443 optional "Hi-Performance" (HP) 289 cu in (4.7 L) V8 rated at 271 hp (202 kW) and weighed about 3,000 pounds (1,361 kg) with its "mandatory optional" four-speed. Despite its runaway success, some automotive experts could muster only qualified enthusiasm for the Mustang as most of the mechanical parts were taken directly from the Falcon, but the new car ushered in an era of automotive personalisation that was key to its success and the numerous options contributed to the gross profits for Ford Motor Company.

While the original concept for the Mustang did not foresee its evolution into a performance car, Ford has always catered to individuals looking for more performance. Early variants available direct from the factory included the Boss 302 Mustang and Mach 1.

Though high performance vehicles fell out of favor during the fuel crisis of the 1970s, the tradition was carried forward in later years with the Ford Mustang SVO and Ford Mustang SVT Cobra. Over the years, third party vendors and independent car designers have utilized the Mustang as a starting point for their own designs. Designers such as Carroll Shelby and companies such as Roush Performance and Saleen have made a name for themselves by specializing in producing Mustang performance parts and building custom cars.

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

The Significant Seven
The Pony Car class of American cars was launched and inspired by the Ford Mustang in 1964. The class takes its name from the Mustang, it being named after a wild pony. The term describes an affordable, compact, highly styled 2-door car with a sporty or performance-oriented image. While the Mustang was introduced in 1964, there was no competition for Ford s first pony car. Plymouth had released the Barracuda two weeks before Ford on April 1, 1964, however, it was a Valiant with a fastback, not truly in the Mustang s pony car genre. By 1967, all the major US players had entered the pony car field with the exception of American Motors, who would come to market with the Javelin and AMX in 1968. The pony car market had quickly matured and each manufacturer had built their cars on the long hood/short deck template that Ford had first stamped out in 1964.

Further evolution of the collective breed could be found in peripheral influences that helped accelerate pony car sales. For the first time, large displacement engines were offered in pony cars, allowing them to enter and compete in the super hot muscle car market. The up and coming Sports Car Club of America s Trans-Am series was just the ticket for Ford and Chevrolet to wrestle for dominance. By 1970 every pony car manufacturer had smacked fenders in the Trans-Am, which had in three short years passed Formula 1 in popularity in America. Race on Sunday and sell on Monday never had more meaning than it did for pony cars in 1970.

Within the context of their time, there were seven cars that helped shape the destiny of the American pony car.

Chevrolet Camaro: When Chevrolet introduced the Camaro on September 29, 1966, Ford s monopoly on the pony car market was over. The Camaro measured almost inch for inch to the Mustang, and matched its option list line for line. Its fluid shape highly contrasted to the Mustang s more chiseled looks.

1967 Ford Mustang GT: By 1967, the car that started the pony car phenomenon just three years earlier was growing long in the tooth. Ford gave the Mustang its first facelift in 1967 in anticipation of Chevrolet s new Camaro. More important than the cosmetic redo, however, were the engineering changes made under the hood.

1969 Pontiac Trans Am: From the time he was Chief Engineer until he was appointed Pontiac s General Manager in 1965, John Z. DeLorean wanted to build a two-seat sports car. Not to compete against the up-scale Corvette, but to take on the Mustang.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda: Even if Plymouth hadn t chosen to go racing in the Trans Am series, the AAR Cuda would still have been one of the most memorable muscle/pony cars of 1970. Inspired by the All American Racing team of Dan Gurney, the AAR Cuda was a preponderance of strobe stripes, matte black hood, side pipes and a 340 engine that boasted a trio of Holley two barrel carburetors parked on an Edelbrock intake manifold, right from the factory.

1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator: When Ford chose to give a pony car to the Lincoln/Mercury division, it was a foregone conclusion that it would be accorded a posh interior, soft ride, and luxury looks. The resulting 1967 Cougar was all that and more. It featured disappearing headlamps, a 200-horsepower 289 cubic inch engine and sequential lighting rear tail lamps. The XR-7 option included a 390 cubic inch engine, four speed transmission and upgraded interior.

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T: After watching from the sidelines since 1965, Dodge was finally in the pony car fracas with their new 1970 Challenger. They had chosen to take a pass on Chrysler s offer for a Barracuda version in 1966, instead introducing the mid-sized Charger. And while the Charger hit its stride beginning with the beautifully redesigned 1968 model, Dodge still chomped at the bit for a pony car. The Challenger may have been the last pony car nameplate in the marketplace, and it couldn t match the Camaro or Mustang in sales volume, but it still managed to outsell its Barracuda sibling by almost 50 percent.

1967 Rambler Javelin: All through the 1960s and early 1970s, American Motors Corporation had to fight for a very small slice of the American automotive market. To capture their small share, AMC had to develop alternative choices for the consumer. When AMC discovered performance and pony cars in 1968, they shed their old staid image. When the Javelin was released on September 26, 1967, AMC had done their homework well and built a car that met all the standard pony car criteria  long hood/short deck, 2+2 cockpit and plenty of options.

In its first year, the Javelin won the praises of road testers and outsold the Barracuda. It was a credible entry into the market, however, AMC had a trump card. That ace in the hole was called the AMX, and it was the alternative card that AMC played not against the Mustang or the Camaro, but the Corvette. Was it a sports car or was it a two-seat sporty car? Or was it a long hood/short deck pony car that was honest enough to admit what all the others wouldn t, and that was the idea of a real rear seat in a pony car was a wicked canard?

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