A red 1965 Ford Mustang is shown parked near a Ford dealer.

Traveling Through the Generations of the Ford Mustang

The iconic Ford Mustang enters its seventh generation in 2024, 60 years after its initial debut on roadways nationwide. It’s only fitting that we pay homage to its influence in the industry, especially since it ushered in so many fantastic muscle cars that we appreciate to this day.

Passing by a Ford dealer near you, your gaze may linger as you try to catch a glimpse of this revolutionary performance car. After all, the Mustang has always been a trendsetter, and its newest generation is no exception. So, let’s take a walk down—or, should we say, “drive” down—memory lane and revisit the Mustang’s climb to greatness.

1st Generation: The Birth of an Icon

Launched just before the 1965 model year, the very first Mustang blasted onto the scene with a long, prominent stance and muscle car vibes emanating throughout. Making its debut at the 1964 World’s Fair, the first-generation Mustang showcased Ford Falcon design elements and featured a hardtop and convertible configuration. It didn’t take long for the Mustang to create a scene in the industry, landing a spot on the silver screen in the famous movie Bullitt—and the rest was history.

As the years passed, the Mustang was granted more powerful engines, allowing its performance to improve and its excitement on the road to increase substantially. As the Mustang crept into the ’70s, it began to offer even more options to drivers to heighten the feel of the ride—including performance packages and trim levels—making the models of the early ’70s some of the most highly sought-after models bearing the Mustang name.

2nd Generation: Smaller & Sportier

As the Mustang entered its second generation in 1974, vehicles began to showcase smaller stances as the long designs of the ’50s and ’60s began to wane and the oil crisis bore its sinister influence. The Mustang followed suit, built on the Ford Pinto platform, which was smaller than the original Falcon design that the Mustang exuded; it was also more economical on the streets, allowing drivers to save money at the pump.

Many powertrains were available in the second-generation Mustang, ranging from four-cylinder and V6 options to a more powerful and exciting V8. As the years went on, even more Mustang models came out of the woodwork. The Cobra variants featured more racing-inspired performance elements, including compact independent front suspension systems, to further enhance the Mustang’s capabilities on the track.

A blue and white 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is shown parked near a house.

3rd Generation: Boxy Style

The 1979 Mustang ushered in the third generation of the Ford pony car—and just like many vehicles of that era, it began to exhibit a boxier styling than its predecessors. The Mustang quickly stood out from the crowd, with its long hood and short backside, adding ’80s-inspired elements, like rectangular headlights and a squared-off body design from front to back. It was also offered as a hatchback version, showing the masses that this sports car could easily be utilized by an everyday traveler.

New grille designs made their way into the lineup, alongside amplified performance variants, including the return of the beloved GT model and the all-new SVO. Pushing forward with even more power than before while showing off a sparkling new Blue Oval emblem, the Mustang proved that it could effortlessly transform to meet the evolving needs of drivers throughout the decades.

4th Generation: 30th Anniversary

In 1994, the Mustang had already been on the scene for 30 years—and to celebrate, Ford debuted a brand-new lineup of Mustangs reminiscent of its humble beginnings. A new V8 engine crept into the lineup to offer even more unbeatable performance to this legendary roadster, while larger wheel arches and chiseled bodywork gave it a more modern feel than before.

The fourth-generation Mustang ironed out the boxy design of the past, favoring a curved appeal, yet it continued to keep the long hood that drivers had come to know and love about this model.

5th Generation: Back to Its Roots

The Mustang coasted into the new millennium, as popular as ever—and in 2005, Ford launched the fifth generation of this influential performance car. There were many similarities between its newest offering and the original, most notable being the platform on which it was built.

Its supercharged V8 engine—designed with the compliments of the legendary Carroll Shelby—propelled the Mustang forward with 500 hp, further enhancing its performance to unbelievable heights… but this level of power didn’t end there. The Shelby GT500 made its way into the lineup several years later, pumping out over 600 hp, making this Mustang the most exhilarating we had ever seen at that time.

A blue and white 2022 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is shown parked in a garage.

6th Generation: Performance Enhanced

As the sixth-generation Mustang debuted in 2015, it became even more incredible than drivers had ever imagined. It sported a wider build, intimidating grille, and a more spacious cabin—a perfect fit for the daily drive, especially when you wanted to have a little fun during your morning commute.

For those who yearned for unmatched acceleration and a performance like no other, the 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 delivered big-time with 760 hp pushing it forward. It remains one of the fastest Mustangs ever made.

7th Generation: The Ultimate Sports Car

The 2024 Mustang welcomes the pony car’s latest generation, and it’s been revitalized in every possible way, from its performance to its design, tech, and more. Plenty of performance enhancements were given to this icon, including the option to add Brembo brakes, a Torsen limited-slip differential, plus larger tires to add better handling and control to the ride.

Its first-ever available Drift Brake allows drivers to let loose on the track, drifting to perfection with a user-friendly system. Multiple powertrains are at-the-ready to thrill anyone brave enough to step inside, with its 5.0L Coyote V8—found in the new Dark Horse model—urging it forward with 500 hp at the helm.

Inside, its flat-bottom steering wheel, bold styling themes, and ambient lighting set the tone of the drive, while plenty of the industry’s latest innovations are displayed prominently throughout. From a curved, configurable dual-display featuring a 13.2-inch infotainment touchscreen to smartphone integration, wireless charging capabilities, Amazon Alexa, and more available tech features, the all-new Mustang is loaded with only the best features the industry has to offer.

Masterful handling, a sleek appearance, and must-have features designed for both the highway and the track make the seventh-generation Mustang one of the best iterations yet.

A dark blue and black 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse is shown parked from an aerial view.

The Legendary Mustang

When you think of a sports car, chances are the Mustang enters your mind. It’s stood the test of time, emerging onto the scene as one of the original muscle cars, transforming into a smaller sports car, and gliding perfectly into the new millennium as a sleek and inspired performance vehicle that not only looks the part of a seasoned track star but performs like one, too.

There’s perhaps no other vehicle in the industry that’s as respected as the Mustang. As we welcome a new generation of this icon onto the scene, we can imagine that the ride is only about to get better…

So, the next time you see a Mustang passing you on the street or you’re driving by a Ford dealer with a Mustang proudly displayed out front, think about how much has changed with this legendary vehicle, as well as how much has stayed the same. It continues to deliver top-of-the-line power and a distinct design—and even though we’ve seen many versions of this particular sports car, it never ceases to amaze us.