All About the ‘Honda Guy’ – The Mustang’s History

Can it compete? Ford certainly took a gamble. But the Mustang’s success has helped make America more daring, not less so. And history shows it’s possible.

The Mustang by the Numbers

According to Ford, around 250,000 Mustangs have been built since the original debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair in June 1964. More than 90,000 of those were sold in the United States that first year, although not all are in “good” working order. For the most recent model year, 4.5 million Mustangs were sold around the world, making it the top-selling domestic car of 2018.

Side the Car Up and it’s hard to look at a Mustang and not see a design inspired by another.

That Mustang was built from a stripped-down chassis—with no luxury options, no gasoline-powered engines, no fancy hairdos. Instead, it wore its muscle-car glory in a performance-focused body style that followed the gut instincts of the late design legend, Harley Earl.

Side the Car Up and it’s hard to look at a Mustang and not see a design inspired by another.

Still, those short quarters kept the Mustang from going mainstream—the styling wasn’t as high-tech as, say, the Corvette or F-150, and the chassis was underpowered. It almost helped Ford stay out of the bankruptcy that plagued General Motors, but after a few years the pony car struggled to convince everyday Americans that it’s worth their money.

For the Mustang, a combination of clever engineering, savvy marketing, and greater availability in the used-car market was everything. By 1973, in fact, Ford could stop breeding Mustangs and those first to hunt them were no longer babies.

More Than Just a Mustang

All this Mustang can do now is be a car, a fun little convertible built to take on anything that could challenge it: a commercial airplane, a bicycle, a baby stroller. Even a trailer hitch.

Without its ingenious and sympathetic American driver, the Mustang could not have been defined.

For all its roaring confidence, its adventurous allure, and its proudly open-ended engine options, the Mustang couldn’t have been defined. This is where innovation comes in: Analyzing the Mustang’s design, with its blunt and robust grille, lifted headlights, exposed rear fenders, and curved windshield fin, meant thinking about aerodynamics, road position, and the presence of the car, rather than just other vehicles.

These considerations are normal to any car’s culture, but they’re particularly interesting when the Mustang did it better than anyone.

A Hot Rod Before Its Time is a podcast from the BBC. Find it at, or iTunes.

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