Ford Mustang Review: 1965 -2022 Model Year Differences, Improvements and Features

ford mustang model year and differences

Ford Mustang…what a beautiful combination of names, a man and a powerful horse. This car came into the market when engine power was not measured in CC but in horsepower, when horsepower was basically meant to portray the number of ponies (in this case wild mustangs) that would literally be used to power the car.

But what exactly is it about this car model that has made it become the only original pony car that has seen uninterrupted production for five decades straight?

1965 – 1973: 1st generation

From March 1964 until 1973 the 1st generation Ford Mustang was manufactured by Ford. The coming of the Mustang in the market created a new class of automobiles known as the pony car. The Mustang’s styling, with its short deck and long hood, proved passionately inspired and popular a host of competition.

Four months since it was unveiled before the normal start of the 1965 production year and produced alongside 1964 Ford Falcons and 1964 Mercury Comets, the earliest Mustangs are widely referred to as the 1964 model by fans.

At the time of production all “1964½” cars were given 1965 U.S. standard VINs and – with limited exception to the earliest of promotional materials were marketed by Ford as 1965 models. The low-end model hardtop used a “U-code” equipped with a 2.8L straight-6 engine taken from the Falcon, as well as a 3-speed manual transmission. 

Mustang 1964–1966 come fitted with several engines such as 170 cu in (2.8 L) Thriftpower I6, 200 cu in (3.3 L) Thriftpower I6, 260 cu in (4.3 L) small-block V8, 289 cu in (4.7 L) small-block V8, and 289 cu in (4.7 L) small-block HiPo V8. These engines are linked to either a 3-speed manual, 4-speed manual, or 3-speed automatic.

At the start of the “normal”, 1965 model year in August 1964 numerous changes to the Mustang occurred about 4 months after its launch. These cars are identified as “late 65’s”. The engine was changed, with a T-code 200 cu in (3.3 L) engine that produced 122 PS (89 kW; 120 hp). 

The 1967 model year Mustang received the first significant redesign of the original model. Starting from 1967 model year installed a big-block of the V8 engine and the overall size, cargo, and interior space were increased. 

Exterior trim changes included side scoop (1967 model), chrome (1968 model) side ornamentation, square rear-view mirrors, usual yearly wheel, gas cap changes, and concave taillights. 

Mustang 1967–1968 comes fitted with several engines capacities such as 200 cu in (3.3 L) Thriftpower I6, 289 cu in (4.7 L) small-block V8, 302 cu in (4.9 L) small-block V8, 390 cu in (6.4 L) FE V8, 427 cu in (7.0 L) FE HiPo V8 and 428 cu in (7.0 L) Cobra Jet V8. These engines transfer power to the wheel via either a 3-speed manual, 4-speed manual, or 3-speed automatic.

Mustang 1967–1968 increased safety with a 2-spoke energy-absorbing steering wheel, along with newly introduced shoulder belts. Other changes included “FORD” lettering removed from the hood, front and rear side markers, rearview mirror moved from frame to windshield, C-Stripe graphics were added, and a 4.9L V8 (302 cu in) engine was now available.

Mustang 1969–1970 fitted with more engine size including 3.3 L (200 cu in) Thriftpower I6, 4.1L (250 cu in) Thriftpower I6, 4.9L (302 cu in) small-block V8, 4.9L (302 cu in) Boss V8, 5.8L (351 cu in) Windsor V8, 5.8L (351 cu in) Cleveland V8, 6.4L (390 cu in) FE V8, 7.0L (428 cu in) Cobra Jet & Super Cobra Jet V8, and 7.0L (429 cu in) Boss V8. These engines are attached to either a 3-speed manual, 4-speed manual, or 3-speed automatic.

1971 – 1973: Facelift

Mustang 1971–1973 are the revised model grew in size, received 3 inches in width in order to accommodate Ford’s big block 429 cu in (7.0 L) V8 without need for an extensive suspension redesign and before there were 3 body styles offered: SportsRoof (available in base or Mach 1 trim), convertible (no specific trim packages available), and Hardtop (available in base or Grande trim) Hardtop (available in base or Grande trim).

Mustang 1971–1973 comes fitted with few engines size such as 250 cu in (4.1 L) Thriftpower I6, 302 cu in (4.9 L) small-block V8, 351 cu in (5.8 L) Cleveland V8, and 429 cu in (7.0 L) Cobra Jet & Super Cobra Jet V8. These engines are coupled with either a 3-speed manual, 4-speed manual, or 3-speed automatic.

1974 – 1978: 2nd generation

The 2nd generation Ford Mustang, marketed as the Ford Mustang II, is a 2 or 3 doors (I am not very sure about this 3-door Mustang and couldn’t find verification), 4 passengers, and front-engine/rear-drive pony car produced and marketed by Ford. The Mustang II arrived roughly parallel with the oil embargo of 1973 and subsequent fuel shortages while the steering was improved from the previous generation by using a pinion and rack design.

The 2nd generation Mustang II comes fitted with few engine choices such as 140 cu in (2.3 L) Lima I4, 171 cu in (2.8 L) Cologne V6, and 302 cu in (4.9 L) Windsor V8. These engines transfer power to the wheel via either a 4-speed manual or 3-speed C3 automatic

2 body styles were available; a sportier 3-door “2+2” hatchback (also referred to as a “liftback”) and a 2-door notchback coupe. On the notchback coupe, a folding rear seat was optional and was standard on all hatchback models. The Mustang II was also the 1st American car to have power-assisted rack and pinion steering.

1979 – 1993: 3rd generation

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The third generation from 1979 to 1993 saw the betterment of the Mustang, making it longer and the interior was also modified to comfortably seat four passengers. This generation had the “4 eyes” (four headlights) as well as both the triangle-shaped front clip and more rounded front clip later on. The EFI engine replaced carburetors in 1986 and shock absorbers were upgraded to four. The turbo GT, SVO, GT, Cobra R are just a few of this generation’s models.

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1994 – 2004: 4th generation

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From 1994 to 2004 fourth generation era, the Mustang saw a major overhaul – the first in 15 years and the exclusion of the hatchback coupe model. The previous small-block V8 was replaced by the 4.6 L V8 rated at 168 kW. The car got sharper contours, creases in its bodywork, and even larger wheel arches on models such as the Bullitt and Mach 1.

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2005 – 2014: 5th generation

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For the styling of the fifth generation from 2005 to 2014, Mustangs reverted back to its style of the late 60s; and this was in a stance referred to by the Ford group as “retro-futurism”. This generation has the base models, GTs, and has new wheel sizes, new spring rates, and dampers. One sure thing about the generational changes is that the power of the mustang has increased, with the interior design not seeing that much of a change.

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2015 – present: 6th generation

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The 6th generation Ford Mustang (S550) is the current generation of the Mustang pony car produced by Ford. The 6th generation Mustang comes powered by a fully independent back suspension on all models, as well as an optional 2.3L EcoBoost turbocharged and direct-injected 4-cylinder engine. 

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The 6th generation is also the first Ford Mustang to be marketed and sold globally and represented the first time that factory right-hand-drive Mustangs were manufactured in addition to the left-hand drive models. 

Special Edition Ford Mustangs

There was the 1984 GT-350 that marked Mustang’s 20th anniversary, the 1999 35th anniversary edition, the 2004 40th anniversary edition, the 2009 45th anniversary edition and the 2003 centennial edition. The Warrior Mustang is also a limited-edition model sold exclusively to members of the military who are serving overseas. Only 50 of these special edition models were manufactured.

Final Verdict

The Mustang is best respected with its booming V8 5.0L, which needs either the Mach 1 model or the GT. The latter has 480 horsepower versus the standard GT models, and it has performance equipment pulled from the Shelby GT500 that makes it more attractive to drive. Stabbing with the standard manual transmission, we will choose the GT performance package that adds an upgraded limited-slip differential, Brembo front brakes, unique chassis tuning, and stickier summer tires. Please visit our BE FORWARD official store to choose one.

Originally published Aug 18, 2014, updated Mar 23, 2022

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Written by: Josephat Lukaza