The Mustang at 50 Inside the Evolution of an American Icon Autopia WIRED — Volkswagen Fox 302

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Volkswagen Fox 302

The Mustang at 50: Inside the Evolution of an Icon

The 2015 Ford under the lights at the Shanghai Show. The new car is a nice mix of classic and modern styling.

The 2015 represents the biggest step in the model’s 50-year history, a car not at the Chevrolet Camaro but rather the BMW M3. aims to make the Mustang a global car.

Click screen for the grand experience.

years ago today, Ford the Mustang. It was a sleek and sporty named for a fighter plane and European in flavor. Company hoped it might be something of a hit and to sell 100,000 of them in the year.

They sold on the first day.

Everyone, people who hate cars, the rest of the story. Yet it would be to overstate the impact the Mustang had on on the auto industry and on popular It was more than a car. It was a Few cars are so instantly recognizable, or as adored, as the first-generation Mustang.

The car created the most American of the pony car relatively small, light and often absurdly coupes with names Camaro and Challenger. By 1967, in Detroit offered one. of them have come and and come back again, but the has endured.

Oh sure, it’s had its ups and downs let us not too closely at the Mustang II yet it remains an classic and a pop cultural icon, and not because Steve McQueen driving one look like so fun.

Work on the Mustang in 1960, when Ford’s Mad Man Lee Iacocca realized the company to attract young buyers. He something new, something something to tap into the era’s of national optimism. Most he wanted “something that be sporty but not a sports car,” Bob Casey, an automotive historian and curator of the The Henry Ford

Iacocca and Ford product Donald Frey saw the country overrun by Alfa Romeos and Healys and other small sports cars. They they’d have a moderately car if they simply combined the sex of a sports car with the practicalityand of a small coupe.

The car, for the legendary P-51 Mustang plane of World War II, was unveiled on 17, 1964 at the New York World’s It sold for just $2,368 18 grand today), which you a hardtop with a straight six and a manual. But with the longest of options Detroit had ever (beyond creating the pony car that was the car’s other big you could get yours pretty any way you wanted.

And people definitely wanted Ford sold 1 million within 18 months, making it the best-selling model since the T.

“Like the Beatles, it was this storm,” said Colin an automotive historian who has written about Ford. “People ready for a change and all of a sudden comes out with this obtainable car. It was an aspirational car people could afford. few times in history has there a car with so much buzz and that you could actually

It helped that the car was, a stunner, with a long a short rear end and muscular It looked great in any guise: fastback or convertible.

“It had on its wheels,” said Franz von the lead designer at Tesla and a guy who knows a thing or two about cars. “The front end lived above the bumper not it. The body turned under the The rear haunches it just had projectile feel. “Those generations really appeal to me

Steve McQueen in Bullitt . Image: Warner Bros

Shelby gave the car some cred with the GT350 first of many performance-oriented that would include the 1, the Boss 302 and others over the and McQueen cemented its place in pop when he hooned a 1968 GT through the streets of San Francisco in .

“You have a vehicle already a hit and it gets used in and gets even cooler,” said. “You too can be like McQueen! They picked it it was a car that Steve McQueen drive.”

The Mustang has been in of films, including Goldfinger and in 60 Seconds both the 1974 and versions and was Farrah Fawcett’s in Charlie’s Angels . Only a of cars have had a similar on pop culture. The Volkswagen Beetle, to mind, as does the original

Like those cars, the was something unexpected, something anything else available at the And it could be easily customized to be what you wanted, be it a totally reasonably luxurious coupe to a weekend racer.

And then, the dark ages. An oil rising insurance costs and emissions controls prompted to radically remake the car in 1974. It was a in name only, a car based on the of all things. It was slow, it was ugly and it was assembled, but that didn’t Motor Trend from it the car of the year. Time, not to mention fanatics, have not been to the car, even if Ford did 1.1 million of them between and 1978.

Things improved in with the Fox body Mustang, for the platform it shared with illustrious machines as the Ford and Mercury Marquis. It was bigger, yet and looked sportier, even if it really act the part until the GT in 1982. That car packed the 5.0-liter V8 putting out a reasonably (for the time) 157 horsepower. You argue it was the car that made the relevant again and reignited the vs. Camaro rivalry.

“It was and cheap and Ford played it up in the Comer said. “It was a Mustang again.”

The third car introduced the Mustang to a new generation and a pop cultural icon of its own, if Vanilla Ice (who rapped his “five-point-oh”) can’t hold a to McQueen.

The 5.0 had a hell of a run 15 years in all before replaced in 1994. The SN-95, as the car is within Ford and among the drew styling cues the best Mustangs of yore and was a performer. Ford couldn’t them fast enough. went even further to the future in 2005 with the car S-197. It cribbed from all the styling elements of the 1960s in a J Mays, Ford’s senior VP of called “retro-futurism.” It was, for the prettiest of the retro-fabulous cars built in the last decade.

To the Mustang’s 50th anniversary, is offering a limited run of 1,964 Anniversary” edition models. Ford

The pony car finally the 21st century on December 5, when Ford unveiled the Mustang. It is a radical step not least of all because it finally the solid rear axle for suspension. The car features a handsome of classic styling and Ford’s design language in a package to broaden the car’s appeal to a audiencewhich explains why the BMW M3 was among its benchmarks.

“It picks up on the for the old car but modernizes it in a more muscular von Holzhausen said.

In some ways, it’s to know the Mustang is still along. The Camaro and Challenger it a few years back, and they a lot like the classics of the 60s. You can probably will) argue which of them truly was the But the Mustang gets credit for longevity, and for the passion it incites. has sold more than 9 Mustangs since 1964, and in time the car has become as quintessentially as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

“They’ve so many,” Comer said, everybody has a Mustang story.”

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