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Ford Mustang

Mustang at 50 Published: 3rd Jun 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Mustang
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Iconic marketing marvel of turning a humble saloon into affordable, easy to run lifestyle sports car. Perhaps not as good to drive as the hype suggests but a great classic that’s easier to own than an MGB

Happy Birthday Ford Mustang, the original Pony car, the fastest selling car of all time and the instigator of ‘personalised’ purchases. Across five generations it’s remained true to its original design brief – in fact the new Mk6 is the first to boast a fundamental change now it features independent rear suspension at long last.

Even those who steer clear of Yank classics will make an exception for the Mustang. Its historic significance, not only as a meteoric success within the Blue

Oval stable, but in milestone cars of the era is immeasurable. What made the Mustang so popular – apart from those great looks and the names of course – is that there was a model to suit everybody and they are so easy to own and maintain. Furthermore, unlike many American cars, Mustangs are compact enough to fit a normal garage.

Successive generations of the Mustang never quite mated the original which we’re looking at here, which is still the version to own, the purest in form, the most collectable and sought after, and prices increasingly clearly reflect this. Is it time for you to saddle up?


1964 Launched at New York’s World’s Fair on 17th April, the Mustang (named after an American Prairie wild horse, hence the Pony logo connection) was nothing short of a sensation and an instant hit with motorists. Dealers took 22,000 orders placed on the first day alone.

Although the Mustang was basically a sexier 1960 Ford Falcon, cunning marketing of the type never seen before (the blueprint for user-choosers ever since) meant it appealed to virtually everybody.

Running gear options ranged from the 170ci straight-six engine through to the 289ci V8 with either four-speed manual or automatic transmissions clothed in coupé or convertible body styles in either standard or the more popular deluxe trim. For all its manly looks and male advertising, the first production Mustang was bought by Gail Brown on 15th April (although Captain Stanley Tucker had serial number 1). 

1965 With the fastback fast arriving (although announced in Sep ‘64, the original cars became known as the 1964 ½ ranges), this year alternators became a standard fit, the straight six and V8 engines were up-gunned, seats could be embossed with ponies, and front discs became optional as did GT equipment packs. Biggest news was the introduction of the Shelby cars, first the GT350 which was his favourite.  1966 Minor trim tweaks, more windows for fastbacks, the six-cylinder engine made refined and now ran on 14inch wheels.

1967 Biggest change yet – Mustang grows by two inches and three inches wider as it takes its structure now from the Fairlane. The Cobra range was bolstered by awesome 355bhp 428ci GT500. Shelby suspension also became the recognised Heavy Duty pack on Ford’s own models.

1968 A full fat 390bhp 427ci (seven litres!) tune came on stream with thankfully disc brakes as standard. Steve McQueen drove a 390GT in the Bullitt movie of course but not to be outdone by the factory, Carol Shelby then launches the GT500KR, standing for ‘King of the Road’.

1969 Another hasty restyle sadly saw the Mustang become a tad too bulky and lardy, as it put on weight, while a Grande luxury version saw the car get a little soft in character too with its fake wood vinyl roof etc. Automatic transmission, air conditioning and power steering were becoming popular add ons, too as the car moved upmarket.

A somewhat dismayed Carol Shelby dropped his hot rod range by 1970, apparently disillusioned soon after the GT350 was sanitised by Ford… Thankfully Ford’s own Boss 302 fastback special with its 400bhp compensated. 

1971 Mustang was sadly losing its appeal line up saw the car a lot bigger and more than 500lb heavier than the lithe original while increasing detox equipment hindered performance, despite a fancy Mach1 moniker now tacked on.


If you’re used to today’s Euroboxes and a Brit sports classic, then a Mustang will come as a bit of a culture shock. The car has often been compared to our own Capri (45 this year!) and you have to remember that the Falcon was never the greatest handling car of all time! 

The Mustang Specialist (01753 650909) warns potential buyers that if they drive a bad one it will put them off. “We say, come down and try one,” Marcus Robinson told us, adding a good well set up one drives as well as any GT Capri.

Good Mustangs will handle decently enough. The secret is in the set-up, and fitment of good quality springs, uprated dampers, bushes, front disc brakes, plus radial tyres will pay dividends otherwise it is soft and soggy – but all cars were back then! The Mustang’s worst aspect, and one that really highlights the Ford’s age, is the sloppy steering but this can be sorted with an overhaul or a rack conversion.

Six or Eight? Entry models relied upon a 2.8-litre and these naturally are the least loved – to the point specialists such as The Mustang Specialist and Bill Shepherd Mustang won’t even touch them! But this does ensure a bargain if you aren’t particularly performance mad, being as brisk as a Zodiac and okay for cruising, especially the 120bhp unit and they’re reasonably economical at the same time.

All V8s will hit 60mph in under nine seconds and sound great, of course. On the other hand economy with 390ci and 428ci engines can just scrape into double figures and less if you drive hard.

Less than 10 per cent were ‘four on the floor’, the bulk being three-speed autos with the remainder the wide-ratio three-speed manual. Like owning a ‘six’, the three-speeder is sneered at, but not at Mustang Maniacs who says with the wide-ratios second gear is like having an auto when you need it. And if all you want to do is cruise at 70mph does it matter how you got here? the outfit told us.

Marcus Robinson is big fan of the V8 and says even if owners don’t want the performance, they certainly do the distinctive noise.

Not many UK mags tested this Ford when new and you get the feeling that on skinny 700 x14 cross plies and drum brakes they weren’t keen but Motor tested the top 4.7-litre 271bhp V8 back in November 1964, clocking 60 in 7.6 seconds,  125mph and said that, thanks to absurdly low gearing, first gear need never be used. It loved the performance but reckoned the handling and the drum brakes weren’t up to it, the latter fading “on a twisty country road using full power between the corners.” Costing around £2400 back then – some £300 more than the 4.2 E-type, Motor concluded that, “In the face of domestic competition it will probably need some refinements to justify its import-loaded price.” But it was “great fun to drive with a surplus of power always available…”

Across the pond, road tests were at odds. “The Mustang is definitely a sports car on par in most respects with types like the MGB, TR4 or Sunbeam Alpine.” More than one criticised the wooly feeling of the standard car. “The GT350 is all that most of us wanted the original Mustang to be in the first place,” said Car Life. Despite becoming a bit middle-aged the Mustang could still hold its own. A 1969 test of the Boss 302 had Car and Driver raving that it was the “best handling Ford ever to come out of Dearborn”. Ironically, the Mustang was losing sales not because of the way it now drove but due to the gaudy heavy-handed styling that signified the 1972-73 line ups.


Just checking the websites associated with Mustangs will give you a much better idea of what can be done. Rack and pinion steering is becoming the done thing as it improves the ship at sea feel although spoils the once good turning circle and some specialists feel spoils the car’s character as well.

More modern brakes are available while the simple suspension can be uprated while a thicker front anti-roll bar (of which there were several types offered over the years) is a worthy fit as are electronic ignition and an uprated radiator to better cope with hot days and idling in heavy traffic. Although the car looks made for big boots, it’s accepted that there’s little to gain going wider or lower than normal 195 x 14. If you want, later five-speed Tremec gearboxes and more modern autos can be substituted.


The days of cheap Mustangs are over and £15,000 is now the bare minimum for a decent car and you rarely see cars for under £10,000 worth having unless, if it’s a ‘six’ where values can be as much as 25 per cent lower.

A superb matching numbers ‘K’ code fastback GT will be £30,000 – £40,000 depending on originality, condition and options, a good convertible now jumps the £20,000 barrier, a superb ‘66 Shelby will be £100,000 plus with ease, and a 1965 Shelby GT350R will be Aston DB money!

There’s an army of Mustang specialists and dealers in the UK, most will be able to source cars from the States although once shipping and import costs are dialled in then they will be as dear as those in the UK but perhaps in better condition.

Watch out for ‘brand new’ Mustangs originating from Asia where they were being built. But they can be indifferent warns Bill Shepherd Mustang. One benefit is that you can get them in right hand drive form – talking of which, South Coast Mustangs (023 924 779710) offers a good value conversion for £10-12,000 using rack and pinion.


Yearn for Ford’s icon but can’t afford the original thoroughbred? Don’t worry, there has been a mass of money saving Mustangs since its 1964 launch and many also celebrating their own personal milestones this year…


Following an all time great is always a hard job but Ford didn’t exactly make it easy for itself with the Mustang II. Introduced for 1974, it couldn’t have been more different to the original being smaller, more eco-friendly and rather lukewarm in the performance and image departments.

As a result, the Mustang II is a completely different animal, boasting Pinto power (yes, Cortina-related!) and a European (105bhp) 2.8 V6. A 5-litre V8 with all of 131bhp didn’t surface until 1975. A Ghia trim spelt luxury while a King Cobra, with its Rallye handling package (the II’s chassis was similar to the original) at least gave the car some credibility. You don’t see many IIs around; most are fixed roof hatchbacks although a T-top was available and their prices are comfortably under £6000.


The third stab at the Mustang in 1979 was based upon what’s known as the Fox platform which spawned many other desirables from the likes of Lincoln and Mercury, the latter even marketing a ‘Capri’. The Fox-bodied Mustang was based upon a 100.4in wheelbase and the availability of a 140bhp 2.3 turbo (again Pinto derived) engine. To cater for the new TRX Michelin radials specified, Ford devised a TRX suspension package to suit and for 1980, a 302 Cobra GT with a 165bhp V6 was offered. The range ran up to 1993 by which time the wick had been turned up to over 225bhp. A vastly better car than the II, you can pick them up for £5000.


This was an upmarket model that ran from 1984-86 to compete in the US against the likes of Porsche 944s. The Pinto engine kicked out between 175-205bhp and the car was retuned all round with a five-speed gearbox, all round discs and Koni damping – an impressive spec sheet but less than 10,000 were sold due to the high prices asked as a result.


A move to front-wheel drive was shelved meaning Ford had to vastly uprate a 15 year old chassis for the 1994 SN95 generation range which consisted of coupés, cabriolets, Cobra, Cobra R, Bullitt and Mach1 to keep Mustang fans happy. The car was given a major facelift 15 years ago to give it a more classic look to take it into the New Millennium. You see a fair number of these in the UK and they make good bets and by far the best of the Fox family while you can get an average one for a few grand.


Ford went almost full circle when it launched the fifth family of Mustangs a decade ago, going back to its roots for that classic style although the mechanical layout was mostly new, featuring V6 or V8 engines plus a Tremec gearbox for the sportier models The iconic Shelby name made welcome return in 2006, too. The Mk5 could be your ideal Mustang as it combines those great retro looks with modern day performance and conveniences. Given the original’s cult status Ford got it spot on with this car and it’s the fastest and best handling Mustang yet. You can pick one up from less than ten grand now, but Roush tuned ones are double this and the rare Shelby GT500s are advertised at over £50,000!


The Mustang is fighting fit at 50 as this pic of the 2015 car shows. While it thankfully doesn’t look significantly different than before, the major changes lurk under that classic shape. Chief change is the ditching of the old cart sprung rear in favour of independent suspension at last. With an engine range that’s going to feature four, V6 and V8 engines, it’s also going to be made in right-hand drive form and sold over here! Is it also ‘our’ new Capri???

What To Look For


#bull; Gearboxes enjoy longevity, but a full rebuild will cost around £1000. T1-10 manual parts harder and costlier to find but the ‘Toploaders’ are no problem.

#bull; Mustangs built 1964-1967 will use the robust C4 autobox, the least desirable is the three-speed manual that has poor gear ratios, and a ‘high’ first gear which can lead to clutch judder. The gear change can feel vague if the bushes are shot.

#bull; The rear axles are strong. V8s used a larger ‘9inch’ unit but all prone to noise and lube weeps. Some cars boasted a limited slip diff; again it’s quite reliable but can be noisy in operation. If one is fitted, power through a bend and if there’s a bang, it’s the locker locking up but this can be fixed easily enough.


#bull; The general standard of Mustangs in the UK is considered pretty good, the problems being that until 10 years ago, they weren’t seen as blue chip classics and so were ‘smoked’ around like an MGB.

#bull; Biggest issue is to establish just exactly what you’re getting for your money, is the car original and if not, how much has it been modified? Who exactly completed the work and to what standard? Originality will nearly always be the preference of purists.

#bull; Pseudo Shelby? Get expert advice! The chassis number is stamped on the LHD inner front wing while other data is fitted by the driver’s door lock.


#bull; Interiors are easy to restore thanks to a brilliant aftermarket in the US. New seat covers cost as little as £250 but a full retrim can run into thousands, especially if you hanker for those ‘Pony’ interiors.

#bull; Details like exterior brightwork are easy to obtain but watch for Taiwan repros which, while cheap, lack durability claim Mustang specialists.

#bull; The electrics, with all but the earliest cars using DC power, are super simple but according to one expert it’s worth investing in a rewire (perhaps up to £3000 for a proper job) as Mustang looms are known to be fire risks, especially if it’s been butchered about over the decades.


#bull; The good news is that virtually everything you could want to repair or restore a car is available including reproduction shells for around £13,000.

#bull; The main rot spot is caused by failed windscreen rubbers leading to floor and scuttle rot and, thanks to blocked drain holes and air vents, decay on the front inner and outer wings. Bank on £3000 to put right.

#bull; If the owner agrees, try a bucket of water test to see if water is getting in from these areas.

#bull; Another structural worry are the chassis rails at the front. Other common areas to be attacked by the tin worm include the tail light panel, wheel arches, and lower sills. Inner rear wheel arches difficult to repair.

#bull; Check the rear chassis rails where the leaf springs are mounted to ensure there’s no rot or bodges.

#bull; Just behind the pedals on the driver’s side there’s a torque box which is susceptible to rot. Front floor pans corrode we know but don’t forget to look under the rear passenger seats, while you are about it.


#bull; All are bullet-proof but clatter and smoke when shot – so easy to verify although six can be dearer than the more popular V8s to repair due to parts supply; a full rebuild can cost around £3000.

#bull; Has a ‘six’ been converted to a V8? Apart from homespun conversions, many dealers in the US also did this to satisfy demand. However, even if done well, they’ll never be like the real thing and should be worth less as a result, sp watch the prices.

#bull; Ensure that the original radiator shroud is in place; owners remove them for ease of access for changing V-belts, but they are vital to maintain cooling efficiency.

#bull; The radiator has always been on the small size. An uprated core isn’t a bad move. Head gaskets on all engines can blow so look for the usual clues (rusty stains, oil residue in the coolant, and so on.


#bull; The brakes are either all drum or disc/drum. If in good order shod with quality linings, the former set up works acceptably well and adequate for gentle driving although a servo is always good mod. Early models had an integrated drum/hub assembly but this can be changed to the later separate designs if desired.

#bull; Early cars equipped with front disc brakes were not power assisted and strangely it was an option for drum braked models only! However, a power servo is available for retro fitting as the factory drum brake servo won’t fit. A swap to discs generally costs £1000.

#bull; The suspension is as conventional as they come and checks are mainly for the usual wear and decay. Biggest watch has to be the steering to determine what is wear or just normal slop in the system. Attention here will pay dividends in driving quality and the sign of a caring owner.

Three Of A Kind

One of GM’s several answers to the Mustang, the Chevrolet Camero is the more refined alternative, especially the ride which is much more restful. It goes and handles better than the Mustang many say although lacks the Ford’s classic status and ultimate performance potential. Parts and specialist help lags the Blue Oval but the Chevvy is still a relatively easy car to own and a good choice.
This car was actually launched weeks before the Mustang although the Ford’s style meant that it grabbed all the glory. In concept the cars were pretty similar and this included engine choice. The car’s biggest change came in 1970 when it gained a new stylish body also shared by the Dodge Challenger and a real powerhouse of a V8 engine. Lacks Mustang’s support in the UK and is an acquired taste.
This car was actually launched weeks before the Mustang although the Ford’s style meant that it grabbed all the glory. In concept the cars were pretty similar and this included engine choice. The car’s biggest change came in 1970 when it gained a new stylish body also shared by the Dodge Challenger and a real powerhouse of a V8 engine. Lacks Mustang’s support in the UK and is an acquired taste.


The Mustang appeals just as much to us this side of the pond as it does in the States. A good one is no harder or dearer to keep than say our own Capri, or an MGB, but is just a heck of a lot more expensive to purchase!  If you’ve ever yearned to own a Yank Tank but don’t want the flash image that comes with all that metal, the lithe and lean thoroughbred Mustang has to be the nailed on favourite.

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