1971-1973 Ford Mustang: End of the Classic (Part 4)



The restyling effort for the 1971 Ford Mustang brought about a bigger Mustang from the previous year in every aspect; width, length, height, and wheelbase were all enlarged, as well as the weight. There was still no Mustang GT (and there would not be one for some ten more years), but there was the fastback Mach 1 offered with both a 302 or 429, as the Boss 302 and Boss 429 were dropped to make room for the Boss 351.  The Mach 1, packed with the 429 producing 375 horsepower, was the most powerful model sold in the US in 1971 due to the lack of a Shelby Mustang for the American market.

There were big changes in 1972, but none of them were very good ones from a performance minded point of view.  There were only 2 V8 engine options, the 302 and the 351, the horsepower range dipping to 140 to 275.  There was actually no real change in power output, rather a government mandate in performance testing accounted for the drop in listed output. Consequently, the Ford Mustang, as well as the rest of the performance car market, suffered a major sales loss. The drop of the big block also caused the drop of the Boss Mustang, and the Mach 1 was once again the premium performance model Mustang.  The luxury minded Mustang Grande stuck around, and in addition to those trim lines, Ford added the Mustang Sprint to commemorate the 1972 Olympics.  These Sprint models were all white, with blue rocker panels, blue hood stripes, blue seat inserts, and a USA logo on the quarter glass.  Even with this special edition, sales dipped to just 125,813, the lowest of any year during the classic Mustang era.

1973 would be the last year of the classic Mustang, as the following year would bring about a redesign like the country had never seen (or wanted) due to the looming fuel crisis and influx of economy cars from Japan.  The 1973 Ford Mustang was offered as a convertible, the last of the sort until the mid 1980's, and there were some minor alterations such as realigned turn signal lights.  The Mustang Mach 1 was packed with the biggest engine for 1973, the 352 Cobra Jet engine building just 266 horsepower, available only as a fastback.  In spite of the "market direction" that brought about the end of the Mustang pony car era, the high performance Mach 1 was the second best selling Mustang in 1973; second only to the base model coupe.

Considering the fabulous introduction and the years of ultra high performance engines, it was a disappointing end to an era; arguably, the federal regulations can be blamed for that. 1973 offered no special edition Mustangs, although the Mach 1 was featured in a 40 minute chase scene in the 1974 release of Gone in 60 seconds.  Even with the public notice of this low budget release, sales were not very good, mostly due to the constant drop in advertised horsepower.  In its last full year as a pony car, the Mustang sold almost as few units as were sold in the inaugural partial model year, 1964.

Classic Ford Mustangs are still heavily sought after by collectors because the years that followed 1973 continued a gradual decline in performance models and horsepower output.  However, in comparison to what was to become of the Mustang in 1974, the last mini-generation of the classic 'Stangs, ranging from 1971-1973, may have been more popular had Ford released more information about the upcoming metamorphosis. Few cars receive more attention at a car show or just driving down the street than a classic Mustang. Whether it is a base model inline six cylinder or a mighty Boss 429, the Ford Mustang is still revered as one of the most popular cars of the pony car era.

-- by Patrick

We covered the car, now you tell us about the driver. Your thoughts on the class



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