1964 Ford Mustang Mk1

1964 Ford Mustang Mk1

A true sales bolter. Mustang was a smash hit straight out of the gates.


Legendary motown mover Lee Iacocca quipped in his 1984 autobiography: “So many people have claimed to be the father of the Mustang that I wouldn’t want to be seen in public with the mother.” While we’re not up with the woke rulebook on slut-shaming cars, Iacocca succinctly described how everyone wanted to claim credit for the affordable, sporty two-door that became an automotive industry staple. In the late-1950s and early-60s, Iacocca’s employer Ford identified “a market looking for a car.” An ever-increasing number of baby-boomers were attaining college degrees, putting them in a demographic that accounted for 46 percent of new-car purchases in 1962.


1964 Ford Mustang Mk1

The two-car family was also in full swing, with that demographic rocketing from one million families in 1959 to 13 million in 1963. A prime player in this was Ford’s new, compact-class Falcon, launched in 1960; its wieldy platform, drivetrains and volume production economies would underpin the stylish, sporty offshoot envisioned by Iacocca in 1961. Thus, Ford had the framework for a car that would appeal to young, educated, style-seeking but cost-conscious buyers, male and female. A wild and unlikely mid-engined two-seater concept car, named Mustang 1 (after the P-51 Mustang fighter plane), was launched on motor show and US college tours. In 1963, Ford gave three of its internal styling studios (Ford, Lincoln-Mercury and Corporate Projects) just two weeks to each produce clay models for a production Mustang on the Falcon platform. The Ford Studio’s design emerged as the clear favourite, earning praise internally as being “demure enough for church-going, racy enough for the dragstrip, modish enough for the country club.”

The production Mustang’s April 1964 launch at the New York World’s Fair is the stuff of industry fable, led by blanket television advertising the previous night. More than four million people visited Ford showrooms on the first weekend, placing more than 22,000 orders. Ford’s projected 100,000 annual sales target was surpassed in less than four months. The first 120,000-odd production cars, later dubbed 1964. models, were available only in coupe and convertible, with the choice of 2.8-litre six-cylinder, 4.3-litre V8, or 4.7-litre V8, the latter in two states of tune. After August 1964, the ‘1965’ model year brought enlarged base six-cylinder and V8 donks and a handsome fastback body, as seen here.


1964 Ford Mustang Mk1

Almost 560,000 of the 1965 models were built and 608,000 of the minimally tweaked 1966 cars. The Mustang had bolted.


MAKE IT YOUR OWN

Ford advertised the Mustang as “the car to be designed by you”, pointing to a customer’s ability to specify anything from a skinny-tyred six-cylinder to a luxed-up convertible cruiser to (for 1965) a genuinely racy Shelby GT350 Fastback. The standard interior copped front buckets or optional bench seat and floor shift (whether manual or T-bar auto).

CRACKING THE K-CODE

In terms of chassis, suspension and running gear, the first-gen Mustangs vary almost not at all from the 1964-’65 Falcons. The 1965 model year saw the 4.7-litre V8 offered with either two-barrel carb (145kW/386Nm) or K-code’ with 10.5:1 compression, hotter cam, a four-barrel Autolite carb and trick exhaust manifolds, adding up to 202kW/423Nm.


IN DETAIL
  • MUSTANG MAKES A CAMEO IN JAMES BOND GOLDFINGER 1964
  • 41 PERCENT OF 1964-’66 MUSTANG BUYERS WERE FEMALE
  • 1M MILLIONTH MUSTANG BUILT IN MARCH, 1966
  • 35 % OF 1964-’66 MUSTANG BUYERS WERE SINGLE (VS FORD AVERAGE 9%)
  • 2 to 1 V8 VS SIX-CYLINDER SALES
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