In 1964, the Ford Mustang Debuted as a ‘Working Man’s Thunderbird’

1966 Mustang in Teenage Girl: First Wheels 2020
Mutt Productions/Everett Collection

60 years later, the Ford Mustang is still one of the most famous and beloved cars on the market. On April 17, 1964, the car was officially unveiled at the World’s Fair in New York by Henry Ford II. On the same day, the Mustang debuted in Ford showrooms across the country. Named after a World War II fighter plane, the Mustang exceeded sales expectations. 22,000 were purchased on its debut day and Ford sold over 400,000 in the first year with a starting price tag of around $2,300.

Ford wanted to create the car as a way to market a “working man’s Thunderbird,” cashing in on the popularity of the Thunderbird, which debuted in 1954. The famous Lee Iacocca was Ford’s general manager at the time and became president in October 1964. He had his hand in the development and marketing which made the car so popular. He later revived Chrysler in the ’80s.

Ford Mustang, Cabriolet, Convertible classic car at Berlin.

Getty Images

Before the Mustang was unveiled at the World’s Fair, it had plenty of time to reach consumer’s eyes. It was featured on the covers of Newsweek and Time magazines and in commercials on all three of the major television networks. It drummed up so much interest that one buyer reportedly slept in the Ford showroom until his check cleared and he could drive his brand-new Mustang home!

Goldfinger James Bond film Tania Mallet, 1964

Everett Collection

The same year, even more people just had to have the Mustang after seeing it in the James Bond film Goldfinger. A few years later, a green 1968 Mustang 390 GT was featured in the movie Bullitt with Steve McQueen. Within just a few years of its debut, over 500 Mustang fan clubs began. In the last 60 years, hundreds of Mustangs have appeared in films all over the world.

A logo is attached to the grill of a Ford Mustang sitting on the lot at Joyce Ford June 6, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. The Mustang helped Ford edge out Toyota as the leader in the J.D. Powers and Associates? vehicle quality ranking. Other Ford vehicles that ranked high were the Lincoln Mark LT and MKZ, the Mercury Milan, and the Mazda MX-5 Miata

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The car has gone through many changes over the years but still remains one of the most sought-after vehicles for classic car enthusiasts and “working men” alike. What is your favorite version and color of the Mustang?

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Stars & Cars

April 2018

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