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      Car History: Car History Year 1964
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 00:31:46 UTC by Cars
      Cars The first Ford Mustang is an automotive phenomenon that it would seem impossible ever to repeat. Just imagine suggesting that a new, but completely conventionally-engineered automobile based on an existing compact, economy model would sell nearly half a million in the first year and go on to set a trend affecting manufacturers for the next thirty years or more. Yet that's exactly what happened in 1964.

    Ford certainly pressed all the right g buttons with the Mustang, but had the good fortune to get some unintentional help from rivals Chevrolet and Plymouth. The Ford Falcon - introduced as a 1960 model following the success of the Rambler American and the demand for a cheap compact car - proved an immediate winner, taking up most of the spare production facilities left over from the Edsel debacle. The Chevy Corvair and Plymouth Valiant also entered this marketJ sector, but a combination of radical rear-engined configuration (Corvair) and quirky styling (Valiant) gave the Falcon a distinct advantage. Ford were also able to utilize the compact's underpinnings in a way that was impossible for Chevrolet to do with the Corvair, and although Plymouth had a similar idea with the Valiant-based Barracuda their offering lacked the Mustang's glamor. As the US economy started to improve in the early Sixties, customers began to ask for better performance from the smaller models and the auto makers were happy to oblige - after all, luxury and extra horsepower options meant more dollars! But though the uprated Falcon Futura Sprint and Corvair Monza models were acceptable, they didn't really satisfy the younger generation of affluent car buyers' demands for a true sporty compact that was just that little bit different from the usual run-of-the-mill Detroit products. Whenever the history of how the Mustang came into being is discussed, one name always gets top billing - Lee lacocca. Described as "The Father of the Mustang," lacocca had the energy and foresight to get the project underway and the determination to see it through, even when Ford's top management kept refusing to approve the construction of such a car. Several Ford concept cars came under consideration for inspiration when the design parameters were being set, but the most logical choice seemed to be for a snappy little four-seater based on the Falcon platform. Before this, Ford stylists John Najjar and Jim Sipple came up with a sleek two-seater roadster body that was dubbed Mustang and, powered by mid-mounted V4 engine, was demonstrated by Dan Gurney at the 1962 US Grand Prix. Although an interesting vehicle which contained several styling cues that would find their way onto the production version, Mustang I didn't really fulfil the requirement that lacocca and his committee had laid down. Further design development work was needed and this culminated in an internal competition between the Ford Studio, Corporate Advance studio and Lincoln-Mercury. The proposal presented by the Ford Studio team, headed by Joe Oros, Gail Halderman and David Ash, was unanimously chosen as the winning design, and this was eventually turned into a running prototype in 1963 called Mustang II, which is generally acknowledged as being the forerunner of the production Mustang. lacocca set the launch date for the Mustang as April 17 1964 at the New York World's Fair but, just over a month before that, the Motor City press were allowed an "accidental" sneak preview when Walter Ford (Henry Ford l!'s nephew) drove a pre-production Mustang convertible to a lunchtime meeting in downtown Detroit. The photos were quickly circulated to other magazines and newspapers and the corporate publicity machine swung into action to keep interest at a fever pitch until the official debut. Pandemonium broke out wherever the Mustang went on sale and there are many stories of the chaos caused by Ford's new car - some of which had little foundation in fact, but it all added to the hype. Not that the Mustang needed much hyping -dealers couldn't write up the orders quick enough and it took only four months to reach 100,000 sales - a total which had been earlier forecast for the first twelve months! Demand was at such a pitch that the Ford assembly plants at Dearborn, Michigan and San Jose, California were working flat out to keep pace. Early in the summer, a third plant at Metuchen, New Jersey was brought on-stream and ran around the clock pumping out Mustangs. While it was clear that the Ford designers had created a car totally in tune with the times, a major contribution to the Mustang's popularity was the extraordinarily low base price of $2,368 f.o.b. Detroit for the coupe model. This was the price that Ford pushed in its advertisements, but it only bought the standard straight six engine with three-speed manual transmission - the big news was the lightweight V8 available at extra cost. And it was the extensive options list that provided the opportunity for each owner to transform a docile, if stylish, standard specification automobile into anything from a grand tourer in the classic mold to a tire-shredding hot rod. This incredible variety of choice was even more surprising when you remember that, underneath the bodywork, most of the mechanical components came directly from the old Falcon. It also meant that although the Mustang was aimed at younger drivers, ownership was opened up to anyone -there was no such thing as a typical Mustang buyer. They ranged from eighteen to eighty, and the car was equally welcome at the country club, fashionable restaurant and church, as at the local drive-in or drag strip. That remains true today. What achieved such a broad spectrum of appeal? There's no doubt that the classic sports car "long-hood, short-deck" proportions set the right image, and the Mustang name evoked connotations of everything positive about the American way of life - but most of all it was about timing. The Mustang was simply the right car at the right time. Arriving at the precise moment when speed and performance were becoming major selling points as the "muscle car" era took off, even parked by the side of the road, a Mustang had the look of motion that Lee lacocca had appreciated when he first saw the clay mock-up presented by Joe Oros. The term "pony car" came to represent a new class of automobile, which Ford called "the family man's sports car" in its adverts, and one that remains in use even today. And although the Mustang is still in production, the "Mustang generation" (a description first used by a California real estate developer in a sales brochure promoting apartments for young singles) belongs to the Sixties. The Beatles brought pandemonium to the streets of New York when they arrived in February, and Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory to retain the presidency over Barry Goldwater in November was seen as a vote to unify the nation but, in 1964, the one thing that all generations of Americans were united about was their love of the Mustang. And the streets and highways were filled with them. Specification FORD MUSTANG (PRE SEPT '64) Engine Cast iron - 6 Cylinders in line Displacement 170 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.5x2.94 ins. Horsepower 101 Body styles Hardtop coupe; Fastback coupe; Convertible coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 2,583 Ibs-2,789 Ibs Price $2,372-$2,614 Produced 121,500     Specification FORD MUSTANG CONCEPT CAR Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 289 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.00 x 2.87 ins. Horsepower 270 Body styles Sports roadster No. of seats 2 Weight (lbs) - Price - Produced 2     Specification IMPERIAL CROWN SEDAN Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 413 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.18x3.75 ins. Horsepower 340 Body styles Hardtop sedan No. of seats 6 Weight (lbs) 4,970 Ibs Price $5,581 Produced 14,181     Specification CHEVROLET CORVAIR MONZA CONVERTIBLE Engine 6 Cylinders horizontally opposed Displacement 164 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.44x2.94 ins. Horsepower 95 Body styles Convertible coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 2,555 Ibs Price $2,492 Produced 31,000  
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