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Mustang: The Ultimate Pony Car

By Jarah Weinreich

The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania's latest theme display, Mustang: The Ultimate Pony Car, pays tribute to one of the most iconic cars of the twentieth century.

When the Ford Motor Company's President Lee Iacocca outlined plans for a new 'small car', nobody could have anticipated the impact it would have. Iacocca was perhaps the first to recognize the potential of the emerging youth market. His brief to the design team was simple: a compact four-seater with bucket seats, floor-mounted gearshift, and multiple power and luxury options.

A competitive price tag was also essential to the car's success, and to that end the design team utilized the underpinnings of the existing Falcon model. A low-slung two-door body with a long bonnet and short tail was designed, drawing on European influences. Upon its unveiling at the April 1964 World's Fair, the Mustang caused a sensation. Immediately, it became the fastest-selling car in history, a record previously held by the Model A Ford. The following day, favorable articles appeared in no fewer than 2,600 national newspapers, and reports abounded of buyers sleeping in showrooms until their cheques cleared. Mustangs benefited from exposure in television and film throughout the 1960s, and quickly became synonymous with the American ideal of carefree youth culture.

With a choice of 6 and 8 cylinder engines, the Mustang spawned the 'pony car' genre, and remains the only example of the class still produced today, albeit far removed from the original concept. Although it was named for the WWII fighter aircraft, Ford adopted the car's equine counterpart for the distinctive grille motifs. A stunning 1965 convertible is displayed alongside a 1968 coupe, which was sold new in Tasmania.

In 1965, Ford entered into a partnership with Carroll Shelby's Shelby American Company to produce high-performance models in limited numbers, and one of the most revered performance cars of all time was born.

One such example is the 1965 Shelby GT350 'Superhorse'. 526 Shelby Mustangs were built in 1965, and just 33 of these were 'R-Model' competition cars. The car on display was a designated drag car. In the hands of Mike Gray, the 'Superhorse' set records at six venues across North America.

Shelby Mustangs typically featured various performance and styling enhancements. They were initially assembled at the Shelby works, and subsequently by Ford alongside standard Mustangs. Carroll Shelby terminated the partnership in 1969, ensuring the exclusivity of the cars. With the launch of the fifth generation Mustang, the Shelby name was readopted for high performance variants. A 2012 Super Snake, along with a quartet of classic Shelby Mustangs, complete the display.

The Boss 429 Mustang remains one of the most collectable and revered muscle cars of all time. Designed to blitz the NASCAR circuit, the Boss 429 was a homologation special with a modified body to accommodate Ford's hemi engine. An immaculate example is featured in the display.

The Mach 1 Mustang was a high performance model offered from 1969. Incorporating a number of performance and styling upgrades, the Mach 1 transformed the pony car into an out-and-out muscle car. A beautifully presented 1973 Mach 1 Fastback is also featured.

The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania's Mustang: The Ultimate Pony Car runs until Monday 27th June.