Since I talked about the GTO last week, I figured it would be fitting to take a look at another car that had a major effect on the muscle car from the beginning, the Mustang.
While you could argue that the Mustang isn’t a muscle car since it doesn’t fit into the mid-sized car with a big block class, I think we could consider the pony car a sub genre of the muscle car. And since the Mustang is still with us today with performance versions, in fact ones that are considerably more powerful that what was available in the classic muscle car era I will include it.
What the Mustang did was take image like the GTO did to a whole new level. The GTO had the image of what was at first an option some badges and a bigger engine in a Tempest. The Mustang went further by taking the Falcon and having sporty new sheet metal on it. Since it was its own car, including base models on up, it took a youth/performance image to a new level.
The Mustang was so influential that it started the Pony Car type of car. Hard to figure out how they came up with that one… It allowed people who didn’t care about going fast to have a sporty car. While I have not looked up the numbers, I would not be surprised at all to see that the 6 cylinder models have out sold the V-8s every year.
It also helped the Mustang’s case that it was a successful road race car, especially with some help from Carroll Shelby. The GT 350 gave the Mustang performance on the road and twisty track before there was a factory big block equipped Mustang.
In 1967, the Mustang was re-styled and was large enough to allow a big block and the Mustang also got the performance to compete with the traditional muscle cars in the stop light grand prix.
Another couple of restyles, then it was shrunk down and based off the Pinto. Quite a fall from where it was to the Mustang II, but at least there was still a Mustang. While other muscle cars died off, the Mustang managed to hang on.
At least when the Fox body Mustangs came out in 1979, the Mustang was no longer a shadow of itself. The when the 5.0 V8 got fuel injection it became a legitimate muscle car again.
That was also the last style that was really a traditional muscle car, when the next redesign came in 1994, I feel it moved more into the modern muscle car, but that is a discussion for another day.