For many automobile collectors, the Ford Mustangs of the 1960s were the quintessential American muscle cars. The two seat roadster, launched at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, was such a success, it was widely emulated by rival car makers and has been in continuous production for more than 40 years by Ford itself.
Priced at $2,400, the Mustang was powerful, stylish, and affordable, too. "Car Life" magazine called the vehicle “better than any domestically produced automobile on the basis of handling and roadability and performance, per dollar invested.” The initial hype was so great, some dealers auctioned off their precious allotments of Mustangs to the highest bidders—one nervous buyer spent the night in his new car while waiting for his check to clear. Ford sold more than a million Mustangs within the first two years of its release, making it the world’s fastest selling car at the time.
The Mustang’s design was actually based on Ford’s budget model, the Falcon, but it boasted a sportier look and European-inspired interior elements. The car came in notchback, fastback, and convertible models, with a range of other specifications that buyers could select. Bucket seats, a floor shifter, and a six-cylinder engine were all standard features, though a popular V-8 upgrade was also available.
Beginning in 1965, racecar driver Carroll Shelby sponsored the development of an updated, hot-rod version of the Mustang dubbed the GT350, which was jointly produced by Ford and Shelby American. It was a later version of this revamped Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in the chase scenes of “Bullitt.” Other popular designs with shorter runs include the GT500, the 428 Cobra Jet, the Mach 1, the Boss series, and the King Cobra. Design changes in the 1970s made the Mustang slower and bulkier, and the car lost much of its initial street credibility, with drivers referring to the altered Mustang as a “luxury bus.” However, the vehicle maintained a loyal fan base throughout the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, with updated models released every few years.