Mustang History Home Contents

Pre-Mustang 1965 - 1970 1971 - 1973 1974 - 1978 1979 - 1986 1987 - 1993 1994 - 1998 1999 & Beyond



The history of the Mustang dates back to 1955 with the "Horsepower Wars" between the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet's Corvette. 

1955 Thunderbird

1955 Corvette

From 1955 to 1957, the Thunderbird was designed as a two-seater with a steel body, roll-up windows and a easier to lower/raise convertible top. Early Corvette's were seen as a novelty since the body was made of fiberglass, side plastic curtains and a hard to lower/raise convertible top. In the inaugural year of the Thunderbird, it out sold the Corvette - 16155 to 700. 

In 1958, Ford strayed from it original 2 seat design to incorporate a backseat. This was done to capture a larger untapped market and created the "personal luxury" car. This design was dubbed the "Square Bird". 

1958 Thunderbird (Square Bird)

Although it deviated from the 2 seat design, units for this vehicle doubled year after year, but it left Ford without a legitimate performance car. The Corvette was redesigned in 1956 which helped shed its' "Novelty" image and started a Legend of its' own that continues to grow today. This gap in Fords product line lost the youth market to Corvette's and Impalas. 

In 1960, the compact car market was growing mainly due to the success of the Volkswagen Beetle. Ford introduced the Falcon while Chrysler and GM introduced compact cars of their own, Dodge Lancer, Plymouth Valiant and the Chevrolet Corvair, though the Falcon sold better than the competition. On the other hand, the Corvair seemed to appeal to the youth market with its bucket seats and floor-mounted shifter. The Corvair Monza was subsequently introduced which sparked Chevrolet's sales. This shift in the market was noticed by Ford, particularly, Lee Iacocca.

1960 Corvair

Lee Iacocca saw that the departure of the two-seat Thunderbird left a gap in Fords product line, but knew that this market was limited. His idea was to develop a vehicle with a back seat that appeared to be a "Sporty Two Seater". His challenge was to sell his idea to the upper management. His problem was the bad experience Ford encountered with the Edsel. Ford spent hundreds of millions of dollars in market research to bring the Edsel to market and failed. 

1959 Edsel

The last thing Ford wanted was to invest $300 to $400 millions more in market research in another car that would fail. To circumvent this capital investment, Iacocca developed his idea based upon the Falcon platform. 

1961 Falcon 4 Door


63 Falcon Sprint Hardtop


1964 Falcon Sprint Convertible

1965 Falcon Futura 2 Door

This would result in development and market research costs of only $75 million. Ford bought the idea and the MUSTANG was born.

The 1962 Mustang II Concept Car.

The Mustang II had a V4 with 109 horsepower at 6,400 rpm's and weighed 1,148 pounds. Two radiators. one in each of the rear fenders, cooled the engine. This vehicle is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.



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Last modified: November 14, 2001