The First Mustang

Birth of a legend

Born from the imagination of Lee Iacocca, vice president and general manager of the Ford Division, the first Ford Mustang debuted on April 17, 1964, at the World’s Fair in New York. This Mustang, which was available as a coupe or convertible, featured chrome wrap-around bumpers, a lengthened hood, and a shortened rear deck. The grille was honeycomb patterned, with a centered running horse in corral logo and horizontal and vertical bars extending from the corral.

While the Mustang was heavily advertised in its early days, Ford still only expected an annual sale of around 100,000 units. They were quickly blown away, however, when 22,000 Mustang orders were taken on the first day alone! By the end of that year, a total of 418,812 Mustangs were sold.

Did You Know: The original Mustang sold for a price of $2,368.

There were several engine sizes available for the Mustang right off the bat, ranging from a 170 cid (2.8 liter) OHV straight-six to a 271 horsepower generating hi-po “K-code” 289 cid V8. In 1966, the 170 cubic inch was changed to a 200 cid, 6-cylinder, the 260 cid engine changed to a 289-2V 200-horsepower V8, and the 289-4V upgraded its horsepower to reach 225.

In April of 1965, the first Mustang GT (Grand Touring) option became available. With the GT, you could choose one of two optional V8 engines, with either 225 or 271 hp, along with a pick of a three- or four-speed manual, or Cruise-O-Matic transmission. With this upgrade, you also got a special dashboard instrument cluster (which later became standard in ‘66), stripes on the lower body sides, fog lamps on the grille, and unique GT badges. The Mustang GT option was only available for 1965-1969 Mustangs, taking a hiatus after that and only returning in 1982.

With a car of this look and caliber, it’s easy to see why the first anniversary of the Mustang brought sales to a staggering 418,812 units sold. The '641/2  and ’65 Mustangs were more than just appealing to adults, as children clamored for their own “version.” During the 1964 Christmas season, around 93,000 pedal-powered children’s Mustangs were purchased for Christmas, 1964. The Mustang also debuted in its first movie only months after it rolled off the assembly line, appearing in the James Bond movie Goldfinger. The Mustang’s big-screen stardom has only amplified since.

With such a hit, Ford wanted to take the Mustang one step further in its first year of production, approaching racing legend Carroll Shelby to design a unique racing variant of the Mustang. 

On January 27th of 1965, the first Shelby Mustang was created: a Wimbledon White Shelby GT350. In that year, a total of 562 GT350’s were created, along with a race version: the Shelby GT350R.