The First Mustang?
When was the first Mustang built? No, we are not counting the Troutman-Barnes Mustang I mid-engine concept. It’s not a trick question. Most sources place the first production-bodied Mustangs, of the “1964½” variety, beginning in March of 1964. However, there were two—a hardtop and convertible—running on the Ford test track in late January of that year. Sports Car Graphic editor and race car driver Jerry Titus was behind the wheel. Jim Wright, from MotorTrend, was also present and driving. In the February issue of MotorTrend, the copyrighted conceptual drawings by Charles Pelly depicted the possible lines of Ford’s new sports car. It was designated as the Torino. The drawings touched on some of the new Mustang’s styling highlights, but they portrayed a much more European aesthetic, and the actual production version was arguably more appealing.
While they were un-optioned overall, the two proto cars weren’t stripped-down base models either, each sporting the largest displacement engine available for that model—a 289 4V V-8, although not the FoMoCo performance-tuned version. The reviews in both SCG and MT were complimentary and gently optimistic. Titus suggested that Ford would definitely sell “a lot” of them, and he hoped option packages would be forthcoming. He also mentioned that Carroll Shelby would receive three units for his motorsports team (of which Titus was a member). The allusions in his story to a factory IRS version were, sadly, only wishful thinking.
Did Ford fully realize what it had in its midst and the threshold the company was about to cross? If it did, it’s hard to imagine that there was zero Mustang production between January and March. It’s all moot at this point, given that the millionth Mustang built was in the second year of production.
Photography Courtesy of MotorTrend Group Archives