1964 was the banner year that Ford Motors unveiled a new breed of car at the World’s Fair in New York. With the belief that a small sports car would be the next hot ticket, Ford made strides to make it one of their automobiles. Understanding that true success would come with volume sales, a two-seat design was dropped and Ford introduced the 1965 Mustang based on the Falcon with numerous options to give buyers the opportunity to customize their purchase. At the base price of $2,320, the Mustang racked up over 22,000 in sales its first day, 417,000 in the first year and surpassed the one million mark in March of 1966. The attention was now on the pony car, and is the only class of muscle car that still exists today. The Ford Mustang is the only original pony car to remain in uninterrupted production.
The first Mustang model, the early 65 or 64½, available as a coupe or convertible, featured a base 170 cubic inch six-cylinder engine with a three-speed floor shift transmission. Optionally a 260 cubic inch V-8 engine in addition to a four-speed manual transmission or three-speed automatic Cruise-O-Matic transmission was available. 1965 was also the debut of the Shelby GT350 Street, a high-performance Fastback 2×2 Mustang, featuring a modified K-code 289cid V8 engine with 306 hp. Engine replacements were made and are often referred to as late 1965 models, switching out the 170 cubic inch with a 200 cubic inch version with increased horsepower. The 260 cubic inch was replaced with a 289 cubic inch with 200 hp, with an optional four-barrel solid-lifter which produced 225 hp, or the “Hi-Po” which generated 271 hp.
Identifying an Early 1965 Mustang
An Early 1965 Mustang, or 1964½ to enthusiasts, was built between March 9th and July 31st 1964. Identifying features are a factory-equipped generator starting system and a generator charge light (later 65 models used ‘Alt’ light), a 170 ci V6 (U-code), a 260 V8 (F-code), or a 289 V8 (D-code) engine, large horns mounted on the frame behind the radiator, a brake light pressure switch on the master cylinder, a two-speed heater with center ‘off’ switch, and the front hood features angled edges that are not folded which were modified in the later 1965 models to a rolled front edge. Another difference is that the passenger seat in the early 1965 models was in a fixed position.
Slight moderate changes to the 1966 Mustang were to the grille and wheel covers, along with a new instrument cluster and revised side scoops featuring chrome trim and three wind-splits. 1966 was also the year that the millionth Mustang was sold. Changes to the 1967 Mustang were major going for a more muscular and aggressive look and feel. Changes include a full Fastback roofline, longer nose, triple tail lamps, a wider chassis and bigger grille. The release of the Shelby GT500 with a 428 cubic inch V-8 with 355 hp was also in 1967. 1967 was also the last year the Ford block letting appeared across the front edge of first generation Mustangs (The lettering was re-added in 1974). 1968 saw the release of the 302 cubic inch V-8 engine to replace the older “Hi-Po”, with a mid-year release of the 427 cubic inch engine, along with the 428 Cobra Jet engine aimed at racing enthusiasts. Front and back side markers and shoulder belts were also added to the 1968 model in accordance with Federal regulations, and this was the first year that the rear view mirror attached to the windshield instead of the frame.
Body style changes in 1969 included a longer body for a more aggressive muscle car appearance. The title Fastback was dropped and Sportsroof was adopted. A new 302 cubic inch engine with more than 220 hp was released, and a 351 cubic inch Windsor generating 250 hp with a two-barrel carburetor or 290 hp with a four-barrel. Special-Edition Mustangs available in 1969 were the Boss 302, 429, Shelby GT350, GT500 and the Mach 1, all with performance engines.
Changes to the 1970 Mustang were minimal with only the addition of a ram air Shaker hood scoop. The 1971 model was a foot longer than earlier Mustangs making this the biggest Mustang and heaviest by 600 pounds. The Mach 1 was the only special edition Mustang to make the cut and remain in the line-up. 1972 saw no changes to the body style, while the Sprint model, featuring red, white, and blue exterior paint and tape styling was released. In 1973, the fuel shortage and newly introduced emissions standards brought an end to the muscle car era, designers moved away from the Falcon platform and discontinued the convertible.
This is seen as the end of the first generation Mustangs and what are now referred to as Classic Mustangs.