Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the iconic Ford Mustang, we have reached into the archives to present our first drive from the July 1964 issue of Consumer Reports magazine (PDF), augmented with test results from the August 1964 issue of Consumer Reports magazine (PDF).
Looking back, the enthusiasm that Consumer Reports and indeed the marketplace had for the original Mustang is infectious. It is actually no wonder out of this strong start that the pony car became such a fixture on American highways and byways. It is interesting to see how wrapped within the editors were in the smart buying advice, cautioning shoppers against the competition version, later better referred to as ultra-collectible Shelby GT350.
It always remained true to its brand, offering an inexpensive, performance-focused, rear-drive coupe and convertible effective at being equipped from mild to wild, though with the ensuing decades, the Mustang has gone through numerous incarnations. The tradition continues with the all-new Mustang, and we enjoy taking that muscle-bound stallion for a ride.
If you’re interested in Ford’s latest vintage, check out our 2015 Mustang preview.
From the July 1964 issue
CU’s First Look at the Ford Mustang
There isn’t likely to be another Edsel, or ill-conceived Edsel promotion, in the Ford Motor Company’s future. Their latest new car, the Mustang, which CU is currently testing, was much more carefully planned as a car and has been launched by using a promotion campaign that is, if all-out, no more given to superlatives than most new-car launchings. From Ford’s standpoint, this effort could hardly have been better timed. The Mustang emerges as a non-utilitarian vehicle with a fresh, though not inspired, look in a booming niche for cars, especially a “personal” car just like the Mustang. It bears a fillip of prestige, a little of your aura from the Thunderbird and Riviera, and (via many choices) an extremely wide adaptability to people’s varying automotive desires. The combination apparently has broad appeal. As this report has been written, Mustangs are rolling off the line at the rate of nearly 7,000 a week.
Although the Mustang is created up, in large part, of components from other Ford cars, it is actually unique in Ford’s stable in chassis construction, body styling, and general concept. A sporty-looking 2-door hardtop or convertible, very close to the Corvair in size and designed for a similar but wider market-ranging, according to options chosen, from a tame little filly all the way to a hot charger-the second a “competition” machine that CU advises its readers to ignore completely, even though it is not just a sports car.
The Mustang body, either hardtop or convertible (the latter $250 extra), is 182 inches long and 68 inches wide-dimensions similar to the Corvair’s, leaving lots of space in the average garage. The new Ford entry weighs, in CU’s basic-model test car, just under 2,600 pounds. It is the type of car known as a “2 plus 2” coupe. They’ll be much happier back there if they’re small or have retractile legs, even though which is, it has a rear seat for 2 people.
Under Mustang’s longunsafely and sharp-edged) hood and forward of its stubby tail, there might be any of four engines, three clutches, seven transmissions, two driveshafts, three wheel and tire sizes, three suspensions, four steering systems, and four brake options (none of which, CU is disappointed to report, has dual hydraulic systems for safety). The particular car CU is testing was selected with equipment comparable to that of the Corvair Monza Coupe that is certainly also under test. Equipped with an optional 4-speed manual transmission that costs $115 a lot more than the standard 3-speed manual but is, CU feels, the optimum choice with this engine, even though cU’s Mustang coupe is the bottom-of-the-line model-using a 170 cubic-inch unmodified Falcon 6-cylinder engine. The shift lever, as in all Mustangs whether manual or automatic, is on the floor. CU’s car has standard-equipment bucket seats.
All Mustangs are designated by Ford as 1965 models, and they presumably continue throughout the 1965 model year with only running changes. They initiate a breakthrough in automatic transmissions for the Ford Motor Company as ‘65s. Beginning with 1965, you will see no more 2-speed automatics in Ford cars; only 3-speed torque converter units will likely be used. It is also probably that, beginning in the fall, Ford’s 200-cubic-inch Six, which now powers the Fairlane and Comet, will be available, with any transmission, in the Mustang.
Buying a Mustang figures to be something of the adventure in itself. The shopper’s ability to mix and match the wide options-and his power to resist the salesman’s attempts to trade him up-not only may swing the price from a basic $2,345 to over $3,000 (and in many cases higher for that competition model), but can change the whole character of the car. “competition” machine-a very power V8 of 271 horsepower, weighing about 3,000 pounds, using premium fuel, and likely to be rather heavy-handling and noisy, though competent at going from to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds,. That’s at one extreme is a personal car by having an easily accessible power plant, which CU up to now has found being light-handling and docile and expects can give good fuel consumption; at the other.
When it becomes available, the 200-cubic-inch Six, weighing nothing more than the engine in CU’s test car, will be CU’s preferred engine for the Mustang, particularly if an automatic transmission is chosen. If it carried a heavier engine, with this combination, the Mustang should retain its handling qualities much better than it would. Of your better V8 engine selections for the Mustang, however, the first is particularly interesting from the standpoint of price. A Mustang with the 260-cubic-inch V8 and standard-equipment 3-speed automatic transmission, synchronized in most forward gears, costs approximately the same as CU’s test car; though its engine adds about 160 pounds to the weight in the front wheels, it should provide powerful performance, flexibility, and quiet running, within $116 in the Mustang’s basic cost. It drives using a 3.00 to 1 rear end, which should allow moderately good gas mileage.
In CU’s Mustang, the 170-cubic-inch engine gave sprightly rather than powerful-feeling performance. But it was quite satisfactory for normal driving use, particularly with the 4-speed transmission (which was not very smooth shifting at the start, but promises improvement when run in). The steering was rather slow, fairly precise, and very easy. No power steering is required on this model.
In the driving CU’s test staff did so far, four characteristics be noticeable: The riding qualities of CU’s Mustang are good. The system structure is extremely solid over rough roads (though the convertible model figures to be less so). The inside noise level is very low-obviously the results of careful insulation. And wind noise, using the windows partly opened, is unusually low.
The brakes were well-behaved in normal driving, though their size, in relation to the extra weight of the car, is no better than average, though none of CU’s standard brake tests have yet been made on the test car.
The Mustang coupe is very low-a bit over 51 inches high-hence the seats also are low. The front bucket seats are well designed, but it is questionable whether they will be comfortable for day-long occupancy, due to their lowness. The passenger’s seat is fixed permanently in just one position. The two-passenger rear seat is a semi-bucket type, narrow front to back and hard at the center. There is tolerable headroom for adults, but so little legroom how the seat is comfortable simply for moderate distances. The back of this seat, unlike that from the Monza Coupe, does not fold to facilitate luggage accommodation. The Mustang carries its luggage in a conventional, yet not large, trunk having a capacity for two 2-suiters and three weekend cases. The trunk of the average compact sedan manages three 2-suiters and five weekend cases.
Because of its long hood, the Mustang is not going to give the driver and visual impression he is handling a small car, and he will gain few impressions through the mechanism that it must be a cheap one. Driver vision is very good.
Probably the most impressive highlights of CU’s Mustang is an almost complete absence of poor fit and sloppy workmanship in a vehicle being built at a hell-for-leather pace.
Despite a contrary impression conveyed by Mustang advertising, some items of equipment will be missed. The glove box has no lock. The wipers have only one particular speed. And, no windshield washer is supplied for, except as part of a package including two-speed wipers (at $20). Also the touted “sports steering wheel” consists of a regular wheel sporting faked “lightening holes”-depressions touched up with black paint-in the spokes by which the horn is blown. Also, though Ford stresses the “building block” or “design-it-yourself” aspect of the many basic and accessory options for the Mustang, one item (which could be particularly desirable on the 8-cylinder models) is at present missing from your list: a restricted-slip differential.
On the whole, however, CU finds the Mustang, on short acquaintance, an agreeable car-one in which an individual appearance is achieved in a compact package with minimum handicaps (except perhaps for the low seating) and without the over-elaboration of detail and “luxury” items that often make this type of car expensive rather than efficient and useful.
But two points should be made. Faults may seem that will render it less desirable than it now seems, before CU is thru with its testing of the Mustang. Secondly, the Mustang will not offer the optimum bread-and-butter uses at their lowest prices. A good-performance compact, with full, high seats, front and rear, and a big trunk, can be bought at a discount-the Valiant or Dodge Dart, for example, as well as Ford’s own Comet or Falcon. You will get the genuine article in the Mustang at very nearly the lowest price around if it’s individuality or flair you are looking for in a American-made vehicle.
From the August 1964 issue
The Mustang displayed at the 1964 World’s Fair.
Photo: Ford Motor Company
The Mustang appears to be a sports car, or Gran Turismo sports touring car, but-at least from the version tested here, along with the larger Six… it’s actually a sporty car, or runabout, of compact size and appearance, appealing because of its lowness, easy handling, and the fresh lines that are its chief stock in trade. The greater powerful V8 versions from the Mustang, culminating in a strictly competitive version, are progressively much more able (and are, CU understands, away and far the best-selling Mustangs), but even these are likely to offer sports car speed and acceleration, rather than handling.
1965 Mustang 6
(through the August 1964 issue)
2015 Mustang V6
MSRP $2,461 N/A
Wheelbase (in.) 108 107.1
Length 182 188.3
Width 68 75.4
Height 51 55.4
Curb weight (lbs.) 2,585 N/A
Engine 2.8L I6 3.7L V6
Horsepower 101 300*
Torque (lb.-ft.) 156 270*
Transmission 4-spd manual 6-spd manual
-60 mph (sec.) 16.8 N/A
Overall fuel economy (mpg) 20.8 N/A