A red and white 1957 Ford Thunderbird is shown parked on a neighborhood street.

The 5 Most Iconic Ford Models and Where They Are Today

Few automakers have the history and legacy of Ford. Dating back well over a century, the Blue Oval has built some of the most iconic consumer vehicles the world has ever seen, from sports cars to pickup trucks and SUVs. However, this almost didn’t happen! Henry Ford was unsuccessful in his first two attempts to start a car company—but, as the cliché goes, the third time was the charm. Nevertheless, he almost sold his company to General Motors until a financial crisis stopped the funding for the deal. So, Henry Ford had nowhere else to go but up.

Another cliché is that necessity is the mother of invention, and so Ford decided to do something that no other automaker was doing at the time: design a car that every working family in America could afford. The result was the Model T, introduced in 1908. As the saying goes, you could have it any color you wanted so long as it was ‘black.’ Leveraging technology to keep costs down, the Ford Model T was the first automobile built using the moving assembly line. It also was the best-selling vehicle, with over 15 million sold by the time it was discontinued in 1927. When you stop into your local Ford dealer, you’ll see this legacy at work, as four of the five on our list of Ford’s most iconic models are still being sold today.

#1) Ford Mustang

Immortalized in song by the great Wilson Pickett, the Mustang ushered in an era of fastback sport coupes in the mid-1960s. However, unlike so many copycat vehicles, the Mustang is still in production. In fact, the Mustang is about to start its seventh generation, with the 2024 model getting ready to start rolling into dealerships across the country.

The first Mustangs arrived in time for the 1965 model year. These featured a choice of hardtop, convertible, or fastback top, with a sleek design that set it apart from other cars. Ford gave it an iconic horse logo set into its grille, and unlike many other sport coupes, included a useful backseat. Drivers also had a choice of V8 or V6 gas engines, as well as an automatic or manual transmission; fans showed their love for speed by choosing the V8 over the V6 by a 2:1 margin.

Today, the 2024 Mustang continues its legacy with a choice of convertible or fastback and three different engines, including two V8s. Priced at a starting MSRP of $30,920, the 2024 Mustang remains one of the most affordable sports cars on the market. Ford has also looked into the future with the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric compact SUV that continues the legacy of the original pony car by giving drivers incredible acceleration with room for up to five passengers.

A close-up of a person pointing their keys at the face of a red 2024 Ford Mustang.

#2) Ford F-Series

When most folks think of pickup trucks, the first thing that comes to mind is the Ford F-Series. The first of these pickups debuted in 1947, designed to capitalize on the growing needs of workers and farmers. However, its roots were further back in the Model TT. The difference is that Ford took the technology it had learned by designing and building trucks for the military and applied it to a model for consumer and commercial use. The F-Series was an instant success, which is why it’s remained the best-selling truck in America for the past half-century.

The current F-Series encompasses four different models; the most popular is the F-150, a full-size pickup that comes in so many different configurations that you can find the right one for work, family, or a little of both. You can even find models that are purpose-built for off-roading, like the Tremor and Raptor. Ford also makes three Super Duty models, the heavy-duty F-250, F-350, and F-450, perfect for the most demanding jobs.

Like the Mustang, Ford is using the F-Series to build for the future. The F-150 Lightning is an EV version of this famous full-size truck that is fast, capable, and just as powerful.

#3) Ford Bronco

One of Ford’s first SUVs was the Bronco. In fact, Ford coined the term “sports utility vehicle,” which is now a class of vehicles all by itself. The name came from Ford’s love of horses, shown by the Mustang sports car. The goal was to design a vehicle that was equally at home on or off the road; this positioned Ford to capture the growing market for “capable carpool cars” among suburban families that had begun in the 1980s.

These drivers were tired of the minivans and station wagons that traded drivability for space. Sure, you could fit the kids and all their school stuff inside one of those vehicles, but was it fun to drive? These family drivers soon discovered the Bronco, and Ford reciprocated their love by improving its on-road performance.

Nevertheless, the last of the original Broncos rolled off the assembly line in 1996. That looked like the end for this icon. However, almost 25 years later, a new legend would be born; the 2020 Ford Bronco—and its smaller version, the Bronco Sport—offer a standard 4X4 drivetrain, a rugged appearance, all-terrain tires, and the ability to go off-road right out of the dealer’s lot. What’s more, you get a choice of a fabric or hardtop roof with removable doors and roof panels that let you bring the outdoors inside your vehicle.

A red and black 2020 Ford Bronco R is shown racing down a desert road.

#4) Ford Explorer

Ford has always shown an ability to leverage innovation from one model and apply it to another. This was definitely the case with the Ford Explorer, which took Ford’s know-how in building SUVs—developed through the Bronco—and applied it to a brand-new model. The result was the Explorer, which first appeared in 1991 just as the SUV boom kicked off. Interestingly, Ford offered the first generation Explorer with a two-door option, but that didn’t last past the second generation, as it was discontinued after the Explorer Sport proved to be less popular than the four-door model.

This didn’t stop Ford from taking risks with the Explorer. Ford offered an Explorer Pickup from 2001 to 2005; this also didn’t prove too popular, but an available third row did. This increased the utility of the Explorer, allowing families to seat up to seven passengers in this sturdy SUV.

We’re now in the sixth generation of the Explorer, with the 2023 model having three rows and a choice of three different powertrains, including a hybrid. This shows Ford’s commitment to a greener, cleaner future by offering an alternative energy engine on one of its leading models. Ford also shows its continuing commitment to building cars that are affordable for most families—something that began with the Model T; for example, the 2023 Explorer has a base MSRP of $36,760, well within the price range for most family drivers who need a three-row SUV.

#5) Ford Thunderbird

This is the only Ford icon on our list that is no longer in production. The Thunderbird took off in 1955 as Ford’s first sports car. With its crisp lines and powerful V8 engine, the T-Bird—as it came to be known—became part of the imagery of the 1950s. Ford initially offered the Thunderbird as a two-seat convertible, but later models offered a hardtop as well as a rear-seat option that could accommodate two additional passengers.

The Beach Boys’ hit song “Fun, Fun, Fun” showcased why so many drivers loved the T-Bird; it was really fun to drive, and it had one of the coolest designs, which is why its production lasted until 1997. An effort was made to bring the Thunderbird back for its 50th anniversary, but this was short-lived, lasting only from 2002 to 2005 before Ford took the T-Bird away.

Nevertheless, fans of the T-Bird have been clamoring for Ford to bring it back. With its iconic name, there is always the chance that the Thunderbird may come back someday as a sporty EV. After all, look what happened with the Bronco, which was completely re-imagined after a 25-year break in production!