Americans have had ponies in their garages for nearly fifty years. Ford Motor introduced its Mustang – the original "pony car" – 50 years ago this week at the New York World's Fair. The car was so popular that within its first full year of production (1965) the automaker sold more than a half-million Mustangs; the company's most successful model launch since the 1928 Model A.
Blanket advertising and lots of publicity accompanied the Mustang's introduction, but aside from the hoopla, people genuinely loved the car, and when it first appeared on the road it turned a lot of heads. I remember when one of my grammar school teachers rolled onto the lot in his brand-new dark green metallic hardtop. It was a 1964½ model – really a 1965 model year, but Ford started selling them in '64. A bunch of us surrounded the car to get a good look. We'd all heard about the Mustang but hadn't seen one up close. It didn't seem that special to me, but the paint was shiny and I thought the galloping horse insignia on the grill was neat.
Soon two of my college-age cousins had Mustangs, and one was a convertible. By then it was considered a hip American sports car, so you can imagine my excitement when my dad came home from work one night and told us he had bought one for his company. My excitement turned to disappointment when I saw the car. It wasn't a convertible, or even a V-8 with the little horse logo on the side panels. No, my father bought the cheapest base model he could find. I think it was the last one on the lot. It had an anemic six cylinder engine that could barely pull it up the Hollywood Freeway. The only two options that came with the car were an AM radio and an automatic transmission. That was one lame little pony.
As homely as that car was, my dad was happy with it. He drove it for ten years and then gave it to his secretary, who kept it for another ten. I always thought that old car was a dog, but now I wish I had the pink slip.
Check out the accompanying videos from the Ford Motor Company showing the Mustang's debut and its first two production years.