The Ford Mustang is the original "pony car." First released in 1964, the Mustang took the world by storm. With its sporty looks and speed, the Mustang became an instant hit that was copied many times. It has gone through five generations (including the Mustang II, which was of marginal importance in the car's history). It has always had a V8 available (except for the Mustang II) and has usually been able to outperform the competition. Because of its success many competitors tried to imitate it: The Chevrolet Camaro which has been a longtime competitor which was canceled in the 1990s much to the dismay of its fans.
The first generation started in 1964 as a 1965 model year (Some people call this 1964 and a half). A hugely innovative concept, the first generation Mustang wrapped components from other Ford models in a beautiful sporty body which shocked the public. Ford originally thought they would sell 100k units in the first year, but after the first three months they had sold 300k. The first generation was offered with a number of engine options including economical I6s and powerful V8s. Three transmissions were available: 3 and 4 speed standards and a 3 speed automatic. The body style was updated in 1967, 1969 and 1971 each time getting a little bit larger.
In 1974 Ford president Lee Iacocca almost killed the Mustang (even though he had helped get it produced), advocating a smaller, lighter pony car which would be called the Mustang II. While not a bad concept, the execution was flawed. Too much attention was paid to competing with compact imports like the Toyota Celica. It was also hamstrung by intrusive government regulations making it heavier even though the final design was much smaller than the original Mustang. They even changed the Mustang logo to be less masculine, turning the galloping steed into a prancing pony. Demand was never very strong for this mediocre version which reflected the malaise of the late 1970s under president Jimmy Carter.
It didn't take Ford long to get back on track with the third generation Mustang. In 1979, just five years after the introduction of the Mustang II, Ford introduced a third generation which was based on the Ford Fox platform, a multi-model design used on the Fairlane and other products. Even though this new model was back to the standards of the original albeit still hampered by government regulation, sales were slow. In response Ford considered the unthinkable and planned a Mustang replacement based on the Japanese Mazda MX-6. This new model would have been a front-wheel drive car with no option for a V8 engine. When people got wind of this plan, they wrote thousands of letters to Ford demanding that they keep the true Mustang alive. As a result, Ford updated the Fox-based third generation and sold the "Mustang replacement" as the Ford Probe. The third generation Mustang had a wide range of engine and transmission options ranging from a 4-cylinder turbo to V8s.
The fourth generation Mustang burst on the scene in 1994. It was based on an updated Fox platform. In 1999 the model received a face lift to bring it in line with Ford's "New Edge" styling scheme. It was available with either a V6 or a V8 with either a standard or an automatic transmission. A wide variety of special models were offered including the SVT Cobra R (Special Vehicle Team) which featured an independent rear suspension, a first for the Mustang.
In 2004 Ford again shocked the world with the introduction of the fifth generation Mustang. This model was a true return to the original pony car's roots. With beautiful retro styling and unmatched production quality, this Mustang stunned. The car was again available with either a powerful V6 that could produce 300 hp or V8. There are a variety of special models including several Shelby versions which are some of the finest Mustangs ever released. The Shelby GT500 is capable of producing 550 hp.