Coolness Personified: How the Ford Mustang Began

What a difference 50 years makes! In 2013 the Baby Boomer generation is all about making sure that Medicare stays intact. But, in the early and mid-60s retirement was the furthest thing from their minds. Most of the boomers were in their late teens, and looking forward to that quintessential American rite of passage: getting their first car. The suits at Ford were well aware of this, and set out to build a car that would appeal to the tastes of this up-and-coming generation. They laid down five specific requirements for the new vehicle: It had to seat four. It had to have a floor-mounted shifter and bucket seats. It could weigh no more than 2500 lbs., with a maximum length of 180 inches. It had to sell for under $2500 ($18,573.00 in 2013 dollars). It had to have plenty of options for comfort, luxury, and, of course, power. PHOTOS: See more of the 1964 Ford Mustang But, to succeed, it would have to embody something more ephemeral, something which couldn’t quite be defined. It would need the same stuff embodied by blue jeans, leather jackets, and James Dean movies, the thing that makes girls weak in the knees and causes guys to stare in wide-eyed wonder. In short, it would have to be cool.! With those six goals in mind, the design team, led by Ford engineer Donald Frey, set out to create the vehicle. They only had 18 months in which to work, an insanely short length of time. So they borrowed parts from the existing Ford Falcon and worked around the clock. But they met the deadline. And the new car, christened “Mustang,” was unveiled to the public. Ford’s sales department predicted the Mustang would sell approximately 100,000 units in its first year of release. It sold that many in its first 90 days. Within its first 18 months over 1 million Mustangs were sold, shattering all expectations. America’s love affair with the car was confirmed. And here in 2013 it remains very, very cool.