The Ford Mustang, the most popular two-door sports car in the world, has been in continuous production since it was first introduced 54 years ago. Ford recently raised more than a few eyebrows when it said it was going to stop making most sedans and compact cars. But it's holding on tight to the Mustang.
This is in no small part because Mustang is practically a brand unto its own. It reliably delivers. It can be bought for little more than $20,000, or more than $50,000. It can be sold to rental car agencies or to racing enthusiasts. It remains one of the most easily modifiable cars — there is a vast ecosystem of aftermarket parts suppliers and shops that will work on the car.
The car debuted at the World's Fair in 1964, the same day it rolled into showrooms. It was a unique vehicle — a fast two-door car that was meant to be affordable. That's essentially the same formula Ford has followed with every generation of Mustang that followed.
Over the years, Ford has introduced special edition vehicles, including the Boss Mustang and the Mach1 Mustang. The limited editions give engineers and designers a chance to experiment.
The classic Mustang formula has left room for many shapes. One of the most famous is the so-called Fox Body Mustang that Ford used from 1979 to 1993. This design deviated in many ways from the classic Mustangs of previous generations.
In the 1990's, Ford updated the Fox-body design for the car's fourth generation.
In 2005, Ford decided to return to roots, and designed the new Mustang to look more like the classic Mustangs of the 1960s.
Ford has kept up the tradition of Carroll Shelby, who was a racer, designer and entrepreneur after whom Ford named the Shelby Mustang. All Shelby Mustangs now are known by the cobra snake logo found on the front grill of the car, a nod to the original Ford-powered AC Cobra cars Carroll Shelby first developed.
In 2015 Ford changed the design again to incorporate elements of the car's heritage with a newfound focus on making the car competitive on the track.
It was the sixth generation of the vehicle and the first year in more than five decades Ford started selling the car outside the U.S. Its move into the international market spurred many of the changes to the vehicle that made it more competitive with track-ready sports cars, such as an independent rear suspension.
One of the most famous limited edition versions of the car is the Bullitt Mustang, shown above. The car is named after the movie Bullitt, where the actor Steve McQueen drives a green Mustang. The film features a legendary chase scene involving the Mustang and a Dodge Charger.
Ford said it also plans to release the Shelby GT500 Mustang in 2019, which is intended to compete with other high-powered American sports cars, such as the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the Dodge Challenger Hellcat.
Earlier this year, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said the company will eventually phase out sedans and compact cars. Ford Mustang was one of only two conventional cars the company will continue to sell once the transition is complete. That's because the Mustang has such a strong following and is so deeply intertwined with Ford's identity, said Ford marketing manager Jason Mase.
"It's kind of the soul of the company," he said.