The covers came off the Ford Mustang at the World’s Fair in New York 57 years ago today, and a legend was born.
(Welcome to Today in History, the series where we dive into important historical events that have had a significant impact on the automotive or racing world. If you have something you’d like to see that falls on an upcoming weekend, let me know at eblackstock [at] jalopnik [dot] com.)
The Mustang was designed to be “the working man’s Thunderbird, and it came with a price tag of $2,300, which would be under $20,000 today. Ford did such a damn good job with the marketing on this bad boy that it exceeded sales expectations in its first year when it sold 400,000 units. Seriously. Ford was expecting 100,000 sales its first year. It sold almost a quarter of those on its first day.
But what more would you expect from a car that graced magazine covers and whose commercials aired simultaneously on all three television networks just before its debut? As History notes, “One buyer in Texas reportedly slept at a Ford showroom until his check cleared and he could drive his new Mustang home.”
In a phrase: it was Ford’s most successful launch since the Model A.
But part of what made it so great was the fact that it came with some decent specs and a ton of options. The entry-level model had:
- Bucket seats
- Floor-mounted shifter
- 170-cubic-inch “Special Six” inline-six engine
- Three-speed manual with an optional four-speed or automativc
- Optional V8 in the small-block or two versions of Ford’s acclaimed 289-cubic-incher that made 271 horsepower
- Performance options like front disc brakes, a limited-slip differential, and a special handling package
Despite the fact that it’s been mocked as a “secretary’s car” due to its affordability, the potential of the Mustang was obvious from the start. It’s been featured on the big screen in movies like Goldfinger and Bullitt, and Carroll Shelby transformed it into a high-powered racer. And anyone who wanted to have a little fun could nab a few of the performance options and have one hell of a good time.