Over half a century on production lines, iconic on the race track, drag strip or drift pad, six generations of design. Only one car. The Ford Mustang.

Every motor enthusiast on the planet knows it by look, name, and reputation. Two doors, small frame, big engine up front and power to the back. Created based on fitting the second generation North American Ford Falcon (before Australians adopted it as our own) with a V6 or V8 engine, coupe body, rear bench seats, this car was a parts bin special that captured the imagination of the public far beyond Ford’s initial expectations.

The popularity of this smaller, nimble, powerful and affordable car carved a new niche in the automotive landscape. Was it a sports car like the Europeans built? No. Was it a muscle car? Not quite (It was nimbler and stylised than the contemporary simple, brute force muscle cars of the time). Or was it something entirely new?

Muscle Cars

Big engines. American to the core. Fast.

This was, and remains, the best descriptions for muscle cars produced by the United States since the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 and the Hudson Hornet.

Defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “Any group of American-made 2-door sports cars with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving.”

Muscle cars were the drag-strip ready vehicle for the every-man. Representing the growing affluence of American working classes, the identity and romance of unfiltered power available at an affordable price.

The general ideal form of pre-Mustang muscle cars was in shoehorning a big block V8 into a rear wheel drive, compact car. The styling was simple, the suspension was soft, unnecessary weight was reduced and most importantly, they were fast for their mid-range price. Blisteringly fast.

Pony Cars

Then came along a new breed.

In April of 1964, the first Ford Mustang was available for the public. The styling was sleek to compete with the Europeans, the car lightweight, small in frame but as fast as possible. The result was something new from the Americans. A car that can go as fast around tight roads as it can in a straight line.

The success of this formula was so market wrenching (318,000 units sold in the first year, 300% of the pre-release projections) that in the coming years other pretenders entered the new ‘Pony car’ market. New players included the Chevrolet Camaro, AMC Javelin, or Dodge Challenger.

The Ford Mustang: Muscle or Pony Car?

The Ford Mustang is definitely a pony car. It was the first car to break a new mould, to carve out a market that no-one knew was coming. Even the name ‘pony car’ reflects the class’s origins in the 1965 Mustang.

However. Does that mean that the Mustang isn’t a muscle car? The Mustang was an attempt to take the appeal and qualities of the American muscle car, and compete with the smaller, faster, more elegant European offerings. Yet over the generations, the Mustang label has returned closer to its roots in muscle car stance and styling.

What is our final determination? We are undecided.

Let us know what you think in the comments. Better yet, come down to one of our Xoticar showrooms and have a look at our collection of muscle, classic and luxury cars and debate the point with the team at Perth’s premier motoring dealership.