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The iconic Ford Mustang
by Canvas • December 7, 2018

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In 2015, over 126,000 Mustangs rolled off the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan and were shipped all over the planet, making it the world’s most popular sports coupe three years in a row. It was among the most popular monthly car rental vehicles in the U.S.

According to Ford’s lead sales analyst, Erich Merkle, “The world is falling in love with Ford Mustang.”

Someone needs to tell Merkle that the love affair never went away — not since 1964 when Gail Wise “accidentally” purchased the very first Mustang ever made at the age of 22. Wise’s skylight blue Ford Mustang cost a mere $3,447.50. Fifty-eight years and 68,000 miles later, one of the most historic vehicles in the auto industry is worth upwards of $450,000. Top speed? Road tests found the 271-horsepower 1964 Mustang did 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds — excellent for its price.

Ford has come a long way. The 2015 Mustang 2.3-liter EcoBoost® Inline 4 provides up to 310 horsepower and can rip from zero to 60 mph in only 4.7 seconds, with a top speed that approaches 165 mph. It’s the perfect option for someone interested in a car subscription service.

The Early Days

In the early days, Ford commissioned its engineers to build a car that appealed to both women and men. Striking that balance would prove to be difficult in an age when curvy cars adorned with fins and wings were directly marketed to a specific gender. Rather than follow suit, however, engineers produced a muscle car that was boxy and understated. No wings. No fins. No curves.

The gamble paid off. So did the name.

Mustang developer-turned-executive Lee Iacocca stated, “The name is often the toughest part of the car to get right. It’s easier to design doors and roofs.” Ford developer John Conley, who had researched previous Ford nameplates including Thunderbird and Falcon, was dispatched to the Detroit Public Library to compile a list of possible animal names. From his list, the choices were narrowed to Bronco, Puma, Cheetah, Colt, Cougar, and Mustang.

Drawing from a wide range of inspirations – such as the P-51 World War II fighter plane, the wild horse of the American plains, marketing surveys, and a Southern Methodist University football victory – Ford landed on the name Mustang, replacing Iacocca’s choice of Cougar.

Ford’s new roadster became an instant hit and established itself as the premier muscle car on the road. Starting at just $2,368, Ford sold 22,000 Mustangs in the first day alone. It went on to sell a record-breaking 417,000 models in the first year and more than 1 million within two years. Some 94,000 replicas went under the Christmas tree that same year.

America had found its definitive sports car.

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The First Mustang vs. the C2 Corvette Stingray

From an engineering standpoint, the first Mustang was not all that impressive under the hood or the chassis. A driver could choose the 101-horsepower straight six or a 4.7-liter V8 that output 271 horsepower. Enthusiast, critics, and engineered complained about its clumsy dynamics and lackluster performance in the initial reviews of the original model.

That same year, Chevrolet released the C2 Corvette Stingray, packed with 375 horsepower and a sprint of zero to 60 in 6.3 seconds. The Mustang did zero to 60 in 9 seconds — a three-second loss across the line. Yet, considering that the Corvette was the Mustang’s only real rival for the most powerful car in America (a heated relationship between the two vehicles that would continue over the next half-century), it still boasted a performance the average driver could get behind.

In hindsight, it doesn’t matter. What made the Mustang stand out in those early days was that it looked incredible and captured the imagination of the American people as few other cars could.

The Shelby Mustang GT-350

By 1965, Ford had already capitalized on the Mustang’s first run by building a far superior model known as the Shelby Mustang GT-350. It surpassed the inaugural Mustang in almost every aspect. Modifications were made everywhere. First, all 1965 GT350s were painted Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue rocker stripes. The Shelby also featured over-rider traction bars, relocated A-arms, a 4-speed Borg-Warner T10 manual transmission, a side-exit dual exhaust with glasspack mufflers, cast-magnesium center Cragar Shelby 15-inch rims, and 130 mph-rated Goodyear “Blue Dot” tires.

The best modification, however, lay under the hood; the designer Carroll Shelby claimed they made a racehorse out of a mule. He and his crew set up a small shop in Venice, California to develop the GT. There, engineers further tuned, fettled, and developed the coupe into a high-production car with a 289 cubic-inch V-8 engine that was hopped up as much as the rulebook would allow. The GT gave Ford the car it needed to prove that the company could build a muscle car that could perform as good as it looked.

Back in May 2013, a 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake sold for $1.3 million. The car is considered to be rare because only one test model was built. There’s one other Mustang that’s considered to be more expensive, and that’s the 1968 Shelby EXP 500 Green Hornet.

A Period of Lackluster

The Mustang has not always fared well, however, in light of its enduring popularity. From the 1970s through the ’90s, the car lost its charm, gained a considerable amount of weight, and was overburdened with so-called innovative ideas and ongoing modifications. While Ford was busy trying new ways to package the Mustang and boost its performance, there was nothing on the agenda to improve the car’s efficiency — or its appearance.

Today’s Mustang

The Mustang has come a long way since those days. The 2005 model ushered in the overhauled retro-futuristic styling, drastically improved performance, and impressive efficiency that made America — and the world — fall in love with the Mustang all over again.

In recent models, Ford has continued to make modifications to the Mustang that are catching the attention of muscle car enthusiasts, critics, and drivers all over the world. The latest 2018 Mustang 5.2-liter V-8 revs to 7400 rpm and explodes with 435 to 460 horsepower. There’s enough under the hood to please even the staunchest of critics — and a body that still appeals to both men and women alike.

Canvas offers the Ford Mustang for you to test drive with a car subscription service. Better than a car rental, a car subscription gives you the option to swap your Mustang out each month for a new one while taking advantage of recent models.