The raw numbers behind the Ford Mustang are distracting, to say the least. Keeping the same iconic nameplate for the last 54 years has meant that sales have naturally stacked up, but to reach 10 million is a huge, huge achievement for any car, let alone a pony car – or sports car, depending on which side of the Atlantic you get your press releases.
By contrast the European sports car icon, Porsche’s 911, emerged one year before the first Mustang and in the same count of years managed one million sales. Mind you, the Porsche is quite a bit more expensive, but Porsche was ecstatic about its achievement so Ford has every right to lose its mind over what the Mustang has done.
It takes so many stars to align to make a car last as long as the Mustang. The fact that after five and a half decades we’re only on the sixth generation seems to tell a story about how long-lived each model has been… but that’s not quite the case. The second iteration lasted just five years after being hamstrung by a series of oil crises, while the third stab at the formula had to last some 15 years. Ouch.
And yet the American public stood by it. They carried on buying it, even when the weight ballooned, the styling turned so bland it could cure insomnia and the engines dropped from ‘muscle’ to more like ‘mollusc’.
Why? Because the Mustang had already made its mark. It inked its identity deep into the US consciousness. The mere memory of the superb first generation kept the model afloat through lean times. The Mustang was – and is – the Mustang.
Even though it does engage in them from time to time, in truth it’s above power wars. It’s above perceived technical flaws. Most importantly it’s above petty criticism. Say what you like; it doesn’t matter. The Mustang is uniquely cool and always will be. Even the divisive third- and fourth-generation cars have their fans.
The thing about the Mustang is that legions of people want to love it. That name helps. It feels so good when it rolls off your tongue. I’m just going out in my Mustang. Feels good, right? People also love it because it’s a car that says something about them; something positive.
Choosing a Mustang says that you value freedom, fun and character over boring everyday concerns like having five doors and averaging 50mpg. It says that you’re an interesting human, willing to make interesting choices in the face of a hundred more sensible options.
In 1964 the Mustang captured the imaginations of tens of thousands of people who were so, so ready for that car to exist. 10 million Mustangs have kept the faith all this time. Fast-forward to 2018 and today’s Mustang is the car 10 million more people need – but most of them probably don’t know it yet.