Changes to the 1972 Ford Mustang mainly involved revisions to trim and features. Examples include fixed rear-quarter windows on fastbacks without optional power windows, unique wheel covers for the Mustang Grande model, restyled nameplates, and standard bright wheel-lip and rocker moldings.
Prices came down a bit after Congress repealed the federal excise tax, hoping to boost car sales amidst "stagflation." Ford reduced its dealer discount at about the same time. Together, these moves saved consumers an average of $200.
In February, Ford again hauled out the Sprint name for another cosmetic package -- two, actually. The basic $156 "A" option sported white paint set off by broad blue hood and decklid accents edged in red, plus star-spangled "U.S.A." shield decals on the rear fenders and a color-keyed Mach-style nose. Also included were matching two-tone cloth/vinyl upholstery, color-keyed hubcaps with bright trim rings, whitewall tires, and racing mirrors.
A more functional $347 "B" version added "mag-type" wheels, F60-15 white-letter tires, and the comp suspension. Either way, a Sprint was hard to miss. But author Gary Witzenburg deemed it just one more marketing ploy dealing "another heavy blow to what remained of the macho Mustang's ego" because a similar treatment was also available for "limp-wristed Pintos and Mavericks."
Ostensibly, the Mustang Sprint package was available only for base hardtops and SportsRoofs. However, Ford ran off about 50 convertibles for a parade in Washington, D.C., and it's possible that a few more were built for customers who were able to sweet-talk their local dealer into placing a special order.
By now, Ford's San Jose, California, and Metuchen, New Jersey, plants had switched to building the popular Pintos and Mavericks, leaving the company's big Dearborn complex as the sole home for Mustangs. It was more evidence of the pony car's declining fortunes -- which dipped again for '72, model-year sales falling another 20 percent to just over 125,000. Only the slow-selling convertible maintained its previous level.
A Welcome Award
On March 6, 1972, Popular Hot Rodding magazine announced that it had chosen Mustang as "Car of the Decade." Though the award did nothing for sales and seemed rather odd on its face (who defines "the decade" as 1962-1972?), Ford appreciated the thought.
Yet the praise was not totally unalloyed, as the magazine's press release spoke mostly in the past tense. To wit: "The Mustang was one of the finest cars (for its price) ever to roll off a Detroit assembly line.... No single car model ever captured the public fancy as did the Mustang.... It was Mustang that broke the ice (in the pony car field) and its tremendous and continued popularity is one of the reasons [it is] 'Car of the Decade.'" Perhaps the enthusiast editors were trying to send a message.
Author Witzenburg found one much later: "How ironic to have such a performance-oriented magazine heap praise on car in the very year the last vestige of real performance was taken out of it." Then again, the award "did serve to point out just how strong the Mustang image remained even during the worst years of its history." You can bet Lee Iacocca knew that already.
The public noticed, too, as sales rebounded somewhat in 1973. Learn about the final model year of the fourth generation on the next page.
For even more on the Ford Mustang, check out the following links.
- Saddle up for the complete story of America's best-loved sporty car. How the Ford Mustang Works chronicles the legend from its inception in the early 1960s to today's all-new Mustang.
- Mustang had it all for 1969 -- except buyers. Sales were lower still in 1970. In 1969-1970 Ford Mustang, you'll find out how a new president infused the brand with more performance.
- With Lee Iacocca back in the saddle, Ford's ponycar revsited its roots. 1974-1978 Ford Mustang tells the story of the Mustang II with its smaller, lighter design and return to rationality.
- The 1971 Ford Mustang Boss 351 was Ford's final high-performance Mustang of the classic muscle car era. Here's a profile, photos, and specifications.