The Ford Mustang is one of the most enduringly popular and successful cars ever brought to market. It is manufactured in the US, with significant numbers imported into Australia over the course of its lengthy reign. The Mustang was introduced to the market in 1965, with a sporty design that has long been associated with the era that features a long, low roof line and compact rear boot, although a hatchback version is also available.
As a US 'pony car', it is the only car of its class still in manufacture not to have had a break in its development and production since launch. The Mustang has earned itself a number of accolades, including the Tiffany Gold Medal for excellence, Canadian Car of the Year, North American Car of the Year runner up, and Motor Trend Car of the Year.
The Mustang has a long history as an amateur and pro racing vehicle, making its debut back in the 1960s as a drag racer and achieving many major wins over the subsequent five decades in races all over the world.
As you would expect from a car that has seen five decades of production, there is huge variation between different Mustang models and specs. Buyers in the market for a used Mustang will be looking for anything from a classic 1960s original to a fifth-generation model complete with all the associated modern design, performance, and safety features you would expect. As the Mustang is imported, many have not been converted from left- to right-hand drive, so if this is an important consideration, your choices will be limited.
Much as its styling has evolved over the past 50 years, so has what's beneath the bonnet, delivering more power with each generation. Third-generation models from 1986 onwards saw the introduction of electronic fuel injection to the engines, and by the fourth-generation (production years 1994 to 2004), it was delivering some serious performance compared to the competition.
Engines range from a 108kW-producing 3.8L V6 engine in an early '90s base model to a 4.6L V8 by the fourth generation that produces 240kW of torque and revs to nearly 7000rpm. This kind of power really moves the Mustang on the flat, especially between 2000 and 6000 revs. This model gives a decent throaty roar as you work your way up through the levels of the 5-speed manual gearbox. Quiet it is not, but if you're going to drive a Mustang, you might as well let the world know you're coming.
The Mustang ride can only be described as sporty, with a bit of a hard edge. But the payoff is excellent handling, tight cornering, and great hold, with responsive steering and a nice feeling of overall balance.
The 2005 to 2010 models (fifth generation) include a base model with 4.0L engine giving 157kW, rising to a 4.6L 3-valve modular V8 with VCT (variable camshaft timing), giving 224kW. A 5-speed manual transmission comes as standard on these models, with 5-speed automatic as an option. From the 2011 models onwards, all feature revised engines, with a 3.7L V6 engine in the base model, rising to a 32-valve 5.0L 'Coyote' engine, that puts out a whopping 307kW of power and 530Nm of torque.
Fifty years of Mustang production have seen a huge evolution in the standard equipment and options available, so if you are looking to buy one on the used car market, bear in mind that you should consider each available car on its own merits. The Mustang is not about long-distance cruising, and this is reflected in its design and spec. It is all about sporty performance. That's not to say that the Mustang is lacking in grace and charm by any means, nor is it lacking the required gadgetry to get the enthusiast's heart pumping.
The standard interior finish features plenty of leather and suede, and a typical fourth-generation model will offer a stackable 6-disc CD player integrated in the dashboard, electric windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, and remote central locking, as well as an electrically-operated roof on the convertible models.
Safety features in more recent Mustangs include two airbags, traction control, and ABS brakes as standard. The driver's seat is power adjustable.
The Mustang has spawned generations of sympathetic competitors, such as the Toyota Celica and Ford Capri. Both are worth serious consideration as alternatives, not least because they come explicitly designed and ready for the right-hand-drive Australian market.
Competition from Ford itself comes from the trusty Falcon, while the Commodore and Monaro from Holden give the Mustang a run for its money. The Monaro in particular is a better car for significantly less money, but a Mustang it is not, and therein lies the quandary.