The Pony That Turned Into a Stallion – The History of the Ford Mustang

Once dubbed a “secretary’s car” (by one of its makers) the original ‘pony car’, the Ford Mustang, turns 50 years old next year and the team at Cherished Vehicle Insurance want to share its history with you! The Ford Mustang has now gone through five generations of design but the original classic (well almost the original) remains as seminal today as it was when it first growled its engine.


In a factory in Dearborn, Michigan is where the story of the Mustang began. Originally commissioned by Ford to appease a purported niche in the market, it was always destined for greatness when named after a World War II P-51 Mustang fighter plane.

However, the first designed – adoringly nicknamed the 1964½ – lacked clout, lacked the snarl, lacked the power befitting of such a dangerous, daring name. In stepped a Texas chicken farmer Carroll Shelby at the behest of Mustang creator, Lee Iacocca. It is he who is rumoured to have called the model a “secretary’s car”.

The same rumours would go on to say he also told Iacocca to rip out the rear seats, uprate the suspension, completely rebuild the brakes and replace the engine with the then-new Windsor V8, tuned up to about 350 horsepower (260kW). To which Iacocca simply replied with “okay”.

The result changed the face of the sports car market and the first ‘muscle car’ was created in 1965 with its snarling grill, streamlined design and white wall tires (which are so iconic of the era).

Trying to Tame a Beast

Look back at sepia tinged pictures today and you can still sense the swagger and assured brilliance of this ‘affordable’ sports car. It looked rugged, it looked adventurous, and it had personality.

Its reputation has benefitted from scene stealing appearances in films like Steve McQueen’s Bullitt and as Eleanor in Gone in Sixty Seconds – which parked it firmly in the conscience of a whole new generation in 2000.


After the initial success, new models struggled. An increasingly competitive automotive market saw the Mustang lose market share. The second generation ushered in the much maligned 1974 model. It was 19 inches shorter and 500 pounds lighter despite the requests of Iacocca – now president of Ford.

However, despite bowing to industry trends and demands, this model kept the mustang name out there. Lessons were learned from that though – they were trying to tame a beast that blazed its own trail, they were trying too hard. With a move into the 1980s and a greater emphasis on futuristic design, the Mustang adapted well.

Models like the 1985-1986 Ford Mustang GT look like it has rolled straight off the set of Back to the Future. This adaptability has been a feature of the fourth and fifth generation designs too.

A Car to be Taken Seriously

Although, now firmly in the fifth generation, they carry some serious muscle and serious weight to give them an edge – they have really bulked up over the years.

But it is the first generation models that resonate so loudly with classic car enthusiasts. They had soul, they were edgy, gritty and they growled passionately. Despite a slender frame, they still carried some serious muscle, they were cars to be taken seriously.

Restoring them to former glories is a rewarding challenge that so many classic car enthusiasts simply cannot ignore. With next year the 50th anniversary, there is sure to be some classic reminders of the Mustang!

We cannot wait!

About Will Wynn