Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
August 1, 2003
Photos By: From The Mustang Monthly Archives

Forty years. Next spring, the Mustang will reach that milestone, making it one of only a handful of automotive nameplates that have survived long enough to celebrate a 40th anniversary. Since April 17, 1964, there have been Mustangs in Ford dealer showrooms without interruption. Through fuel crises, emission restraints, safety concerns, union labor disputes, and economy slowdowns, the Mustang has been there to take us onto the highway and away from our troubles.

With the 40th approaching, we thought we'd take a look at 40 things that have established the Mustang as an American icon. By all means, the list is not complete. There are many other things, people, options, models, and components that have contributed to the Mustang's everlasting success and image. Our list incorporates 40 items that are Mustang-specific, not necessarily in order of significance, although somewhat organized from top to bottom in ranking.

All these people and things deserve recognition for the role they played in the Mustang's history-and in its future.

"Mustang Sally" (the song)The original working title was "Mustang Mama," until singer Aretha Franklin told writer Mack Rice it would sound better as "Mustang Sally." He made the switch and the original recording, but it was Wilson Pickett's version-the one we still hear today-that received the most air play. There are plenty of cars that would like to have a hit song written about them. Ride, Sally, ride.

Mustang Clubs Ford recognized the power of the enthusiast when it created the short-lived National Council of Mustang Clubs in 1964. But it wasn't until the mid-'70s, right after the end of the first-generation Mustangs, that enthusiasts themselves began organizing clubs. Both the Mustang Club of America and Shelby American Automobile Club were founded in 1976, and from them sprang regional groups and chapters around the U.S. and the world. Many other clubs not affiliated with a national organization have also formed over the years. Surprisingly, the huge majority of Mustang owners do not belong to a club, yet Mustang club members worldwide are the vocal minority when it comes to promoting fun with Mustangs, both vintage and new.

Team Mustang Team Mustang got its start as skunkworks operation in 1989 to develop a new Mustang to replace the aging Fox-body platform. Basically, after Ford's plans to switch to front-wheel drive were met with cries of protests from Mustang fans, the skunkworks group, led by John Coletti, was put in place to save the Mustang. The result was the '94 SN-95 Mustang, along with a structured Team Mustang division to focus solely on the development and well-being of one of Ford's most treasured nameplates. From 1998 to 2002, Team Mustang was led by energetic Chief Engineer Art Hyde, who, along with Customization Engineer Scott Hoag, spearheaded special models like the '01 Bullitt GT and '03 Mach 1.

Best Features: Independent Rear SuspensionFor years, Mustang aficionados screamed for an independent rear suspension in place of the harsh-riding, ill-handling live axle. They finally got it in 1999, when IRS was made standard equipment in the top-of-the-line Cobra. And it was worth the wait. With each rear wheel acting independently, the new Cobras handled like world-class sports cars and rolled over bumps, potholes, and other road irregularities without the thumping and bumping of a live axle. The IRS is still found in '03 Cobras.