Six generations of the Ford Mustang (pictures)

Few car models survive 50 years of production without a break, but the Ford Mustang's design gives it that longevity. Over the decades, the Mustang has had six major updates, marking new generations of the vehicle, with the all-new sixth generation shown off on December 6, 2012.

Wayne Cunningham
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Early Ford Mustang logo sketch

Ford designer Phil Clark came up with the Mustang logo in 1962 during the development phase for the new model. The vertical bars are red, white, and blue to show the car's American design. The galloping Mustang badge finds its way, with and without the vertical bars, throughout the model's history.

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1962 Ford Mustang 1 concept

The first concept for the Mustang looked nothing like the eventual production car. The Mustang 1 was a mid-engine two-seater, which looked like a European race car of the time. It was first unveiled at the 1962 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen.

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Ford Mustang Avanti fastback concept

This fastback Avanti was one of a number of concepts leading up to the first production Mustang. It shows a strong European influence in its design and does not look at all like the first production vehicle. However, the coupe format was a feature of this early Mustang design work.

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1965 Ford Mustang: First generation

The first production Mustang received its public unveiling at the 1964 World's Fair in New York, and that same year made an appearance in the James Bond film "Goldfinger." Although officially designated a 1965 model, aficionados refer to the early production versions as a 1964 1/2 model due to the early launch.

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1966 Ford Mustang GT Fastback

The fastback design came out early in the Mustang's production, even before this 1966 example.

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1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

Mustang received an early boost as a performance car with Carroll Shelby's involvement. Shelby took the Mustang Fastback and tuned up its 289 V-8 to 306 horsepower, and included other performance mods, such as a fiberglass hood for weight reduction.

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1966 Ford Mustang Mach 1 concept

This Mustang Mach 1 concept serves as a good early indicator of the Mustang's late '60s/early '70s styling, although some cues, such as the centered quad exhaust pipes, are coming into vogue now.

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1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302

This Mustang Boss 302 shows the styling refresh Ford gave the model for 1969, and indicates another performance-oriented variant.

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1974 Ford Mustang II: Second generation

The early '70s, with its attendant oil crisis, was not a happy time for American car design, and the Mustang was not immune to the environment. Coming out as the Mustang II, it shared a platform with the infamous Ford Pinto. Although the base version came with a four-cylinder engine, buyers could still opt for a 2.8-liter V-6.

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1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II

Despite the economical-oriented atmosphere of the times, there was still room for performance-oriented Mustangs, as evidenced by this Cobra II.

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1979 Ford Mustang: Third generation

For 1979, Ford updated the Mustang's platform and evolved the design, but kept the idea of a small coupe. A four-cylinder engine remained the base model choice, but Ford would later add a turbo four-cylinder engine choice.

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1987 Ford Mustang

This 1987 Mustang represents a style refresh over the previous model year, but the platform remains the same. Ford also maintained fastback and coupe versions over the years.

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Ford Mustang California Highway Patrol car

When the California Highway Patrol announced it would use the Mustang to patrol the state's lengthy freeways, this model's 5-liter V-8 put fear into the hearts of drivers used to pushing the limits.

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1996 Ford Mustang GT Coupe: Fourth generation

For the Mustang's 1994, fourth-generation update, it had moved far beyond the early '70s Mustang II era, using a 3.8-liter V-6 in its base version. This photo of a 1996 model shows the curvy design, a large departure from the previous generation's angular body.

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2000 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra

Ford was still producing performance variants of the Mustang, as evidence by this SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Cobra. Its 4.6-liter V-8 was good for 320 horsepower.

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2005 Ford Mustang GT: Fifth generation

The 2005 Mustang, the fifth generation, kicked off the retro-style theme, bringing back round headlights, and hearkening back to the 1960s fastback design. This model's popularity lead to the reemergence of the Chevy Camaro and the Dodge Challenger.

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2011 Ford Mustang GT

The fifth-generation Mustang saw numerous performance variants, such as this GT with its 5-liter V-8, good for 412 horsepower.

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2015 Ford Mustang: Sixth generation

For its sixth generation, Ford drops the retro style from the Mustang, modernizing the looks. Gone are the round headlights in favor of casings molded into the fenders. This headlight change opens the way for potential LED headlights.

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2015 Ford Mustang: Sixth generation

The fastback drops at a more extreme angle than in the previous generation, incorporating a bit of 1990s Mustang style.

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2015 Ford Mustang: Sixth generation

The rear of the 2015 Mustang looks tidier than the previous model, with less vertical space from diffuser to taillights. However, Ford retains the three-bar taillights with their sequential turn signals.

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