Ford is hoping to take our minds off the impending demise of local Falcon production by introducing the new Ford Mustang, the first factory right-hand drive model ever. Paul Murrell attended the launch in Sydney.

For the first time in its near-50 year history, the Mustang will be produced at the factory in both left- and right-hand drive formats, and become Ford’s hero car in some existing markets and a couple of new ones (notably Europe and Asia) as a result.

It goes on sale in 2014 in the US, and will arrive in local Ford showrooms in late 2015 or 2016.

The first-ever release of the Ford Mustang took place in April 1964, when the first baby boomers were becoming young adults, and their long-suffering parents were about to become empty-nesters (a term that didn’t come into use until many decades later).

Young adults loved it because here was a sporty-looking (although not really sporty at all) car that was affordable and their parents because they could finally get out of their dowdy station wagons and dumpy practical sedans.

It started a rush of similar cars, known as “pony cars”, such as the Plymouth Barracuda, Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, AMC Javelin, Dodge Challenger and Mercury Cougar, all featuring long bonnets and short rear decks. The Mustang was an immediate and huge success, becoming the biggest selling Ford since the Model A. It was originally planned to sell 100,000 Mustangs in the first year. Ford dealers took 22,000 orders on the first day! An amazing 418,000 were sold in the model year and within 18 months, more than a million were in driveways all over America.

The new Mustang was launched simultaneously at five locations around the world

How Ford would love to recreate the success of the original Mustang. To give them their due, they tried very hard at the launch of the latest generation Mustang, held simultaneously in five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Shanghai and Sydney). It was more stage show extravaganza than car launch, with a collection of earlier Mustangs, Will Power’s not-so-famous stand-up comedian brother, Shane (“Dunny man Kenny”) Jacobsen and bands that got their start on shows like The Voice, The X Factor and Australia’s Got Talent (explaining why I didn’t recognise any of them).

Band Stonefield at the Mustang Reveal in Sydney

When the Mustang goes on sale in Australia (tellingly, a couple of months before local Ford Falcon production ends), it will be the first time the model has been officially sold here since the late 1960s, although in 2001 and 2002, Tickford Vehicle Engineering converted a number of left-hand drive cars for Blue Oval fans who wouldn’t be seen dead in a Holden Monaro (they cost an eye-watering $90,000 and maybe 400 were sold). The new car will be the first Mustang factory-built in right-hand drive rather than requiring conversion post-production. It borrows heavily from the design elements of previous Mustangs, with a long bonnet behind a chunky grille, a falling roofline leading the eye to a short bootlid above a modern take on Mustang’s traditional three-piece tail lights. There will be both coupe and convertible variants.

Of course, the hero car will be powered by a big V8 engine, but in something of a surprise, there will also be a 2.3-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. The V8 is closely related to the engine currently powering Ford Performance Vehicles’ GS and GT. While some will sneer at the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, it actually manages to produce more power and torque than the US-spec 3.7-litre V6 that Ford won’t be bringing down under. The same EcoBoost engine is rumoured to be under the bonnet of the next version of the Ford Focus RS hot hatch. With both engines, Mustang buyers can choose a six-speed manual transmission or opt for the six-speed automatic with steering-wheel mounted paddles.

Ford no doubt hopes that the new four-cylinder Mustang will fare better than its predecessor, sold between 1978 and 1993. There was a forgettable 2.3-litre turbo model from 1984 to 1986 and Ford’s plans to sell 10,000 a year in the US proved ridiculously optimistic – it took them two and a half years to sell that many and it was quietly discontinued.

The entry-level 1964 Mustang was, by any measure, a real poverty-pack, stripped-out base model; the sixth-generation Mustang gets all the creature comforts modern buyers expect, including radar cruise control, blind-spot warning, sensor key, premium sound system and an interior that will, hopefully, lay to rest memories of American hard plastics and poor fit and finish.

The new Ford Mustang features a beautiful interior

Ford Australia is being understandably coy about revealing the price of a car that won’t arrive here for 12 months, but most observers are estimating a starting price of around $45,000 for the four-cylinder model and perhaps $75,000 for the V8.

Local Ford president, Bob Graziano declares the Mustang to be “the beginning of the next 100 years of Ford in Australia”. That may be so, but despite the new Mustang carrying a famous name, everything else has changed forever.


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