Jim Smart
April 1, 2004

When the Mustang roared onto showroom floors 40 years ago, it was a rare phenomenon that captured the hearts and minds of people around the world. Forty years later, the Mustang remains a phenomenon because we continue to love it so much.

According to Lee Iacocca, the former Ford Division general manager who conceived the idea of a sporty four-place car, the Mustang's long-hood/short-deck theme came from the Lincoln Mark series from the '40s and '50s. If you were around in 1964, you remember the Mustang madness, with buyers lining up to see the new Mustang in April. The Mustang took the nation by storm, winding up in virtually every neighborhood.

The Mustang began as a rather modest, sporty, four-place car built on the Falcon platform. There was nothing in the marketplace that compared with it, short of Studebaker's Avanti, which was in a much higher price class. Chevrolet's Corvair wasn't even in the same league in terms of styling and performance. The Mustang's base price total got you a six-cylinder hardtop with a three-speed manual transmission, along with carpeting, bucket seats, full wheel covers, and white sidewall tires. For a few hundred more, you could order a V-8, automatic, Limited-Slip differential, console, handling suspension, front disc brakes, power steering and brakes, and more. In 1964, the Mustang was a lot of bang for the buck, a sporty car nearly anyone could afford. There was also nothing else like it for the money at the time. Mustang did something few products ever do: It created a totally new market, one that would become crowded in the years that followed.

'65-'66Through the years, the numbers have consistently proven the '65-'66 Mustang to be the all-time favorite. Some 1.1 million units were built the first two years. Today, parts vendors sell more parts for '65-'66 Mustangs than any other generation. When you say "Mustang," most people visualize the '65-'66 model.

When the Mustang was introduced, two body styles were available: hardtop and convertible, with a modest array of options. The earliest Mustangs are typically called '6411/42 models because they were assembled between February and early August of the '64 model year. All were titled as '65 models. This was a first in the auto industry, as Ford got the jump on everyone with the first '65 model.

The '6411/42 Mustangs assembled between February and early August of 1964 have features that make them decidedly unique. The base engine was a 101hp, 170ci six borrowed from the Falcon. V-8 power included a 260 with two-barrel carburetion or an optional low-compression 289-4V. The 289 High Performance wasn't available until June 1964. Along with this lineup of engines came a generator charging system, which makes the '6411/42 identifiable at a glance.

The '6411/42 Mustang had a stark interior, though it was considered a step up at the time because it was fully carpeted. The instrument panel, with a horizontal-sweep speedometer, came from the Falcon. Door and window handles were a clip-on design, rather than the Allen screw types to come in 1965. These and other features distinguish the '6411/42 Mustang from the '65s.

For 1965, the 170 six was replaced with the more rugged and powerful 200ci six, with 120 hp. The base V-8 became the 289ci two-barrel at 195 hp, while the 289-4V got a boost in compression and 225 hp. The 289 High Performance continued into 1965 without changes. Another improvement was the introduction of an alternator charging system.

On the Mustang's first anniversary, Ford added the Interior Dcor and GT Equipment Group options. Ford interior stylist, the late Damon Woods, penciled out the striking running horses across the seatbacks in the Interior Dcor Group, which has become known as the "Pony" interior. With the Interior Dcor Group was the five-dial instrument cluster, borrowed from the Comet.