Lee Iacocca Unveils the Ford Mustang

In a coup for Ford PR, Lee Iacocca was on the cover of both Time and Newsweek the week of the Mustang unveiling.

The 1965 Ford Mustang was unveiled to hundreds of reporters by Lee Iacocca at the New York World's Fair on April 13, 1964. The Mustang had been championed by Iacocca, an ambitious car salesman who rose through the ranks on smarts and self-assurance to become head of the Ford division.

The World's Fair unveiling was part of a sweeping publicity initiative, and Iacocca, center stage that day, was in his element. His address is serves not only to introduce the world to a new kind of car, but also hints at the power of a new generation.

The nation's mourning over the November 1963 assassination of President Kennedy was just beginning to lift. The Beatles' sensational American TV debut had come in February '64. Into this spirit of youth and renewal stepped the Mustang, itself destined to play a role in defining the 1960s. Here are excerpts from Iacocca's historic speech:

We appreciate your coming here to share this moment with us, one of the most important occasions in Ford Division history. Incidentally, this is Ford's first international press introduction. Here in New York we have newsmen from Canada and Puerto Rico as well as the United States. And while we meet here, the Mustang is being introduced in 11 European capitals to some 2000 reporters, editors, and photographers.

From the beginning, the Mustang has been an exciting venture for all of us. We haven't been able to contain our excitement entirely, with the result, I'm happy to say, that the public has caught some of our fever. We hope it's highly contagious.

We can't think of any [Ford] product... that has generated more advance interest than the Mustang. People in every state and from as far away as England, Malta, and Australia have written to ask for more information about the car. Many were ready to order it sight unseen!...One customer we may have to disappoint. He wants a Mustang [with] a 427 high-performance engine in it. We've forwarded his name to Project Mercury at Cape Kennedy.

Let me put the Mustang into perspective. First, it is a completely new line of cars -- separate from Ford, Fairlane, Falcon, and Thunderbird.... Second, Mustang will be available in two-door hardtop and convertible models with probably the longest list of options and accessories ever offered on a new car.

Third, the Mustang will have an astonishingly low price -- so low we plan to introduce it with an intensive campaign of price advertising. The suggested retail price for a two-door Mustang hardtop with standard equipment, delivered at a Detroit dealership, will be just $2368. Fourth, the Mustang will be built at two assembly plants -- Dearborn, Michigan, and San Jose, California.

Fifth, our introduction program will be one of the most extensive on record. We will run Mustang announcement ads in 2600 newspapers reaching 75 percent of the households in the country, and in 24 top magazines with a combined circulation of 68 million. Beyond that, we have lined up a television introduction unlike any other ever attempted. On Thursday evening we will sponsor three half-hour shows simultaneously on the three major networks from 9:30 to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. We expect to show the Mustang on TV screens in more than half the homes in the country -- an estimated 29 million.

Proud papa Lee Iacocca (left) shows the Mustang to Ford Motor Co. chairman Henry Ford II (center) and design exec Eugene Bordinat at the unveiling.

Finally, we plan to fit the Mustang into our program of performance events. We'll use it in such famous road rallies as the Midnight Sun in Sweden, the Alpine in France, and the Spa-Sofia-Liege between Belgium and Yugoslavia.

We don't claim the Mustang...can be all things to all people. But we do believe it will be more things to more people than any other automobile on the road.

Iacocca went on to explain why the Mustang would become so popular, and made some surprisingly prophetic observations about the market for his new car. Move on to the next page to read how Lee Iacocca saw the future.

For even more on the Ford Mustang of yesterday and today, check out the following articles:

  • 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 thundered onto America's automotive landscape like no car in history. 1965, 1966 Ford Mustang tells how the initial models captivated the nation to capture more than a million sales.
  • 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.
  • The Ford Mustang is central to America's muscle car mania. Learn about some of the quickest Mustangs ever, along with profiles, photos, and specifications of more than 100 muscle cars.

Iacocca Gives Away Mustang's Secret

Mustang's running-horse logo captured the energy of the young Baby Boom generation that Iacocca knew would embrace the car.

Lee Iacocca introduced the 1965 Ford Mustang to a throng of reporters at the New York World's Fair on April 13, 1964. He trumpeted the new car's design and price, and outlined the coming advertising campaign. He then went on to explain just why the Mustang was such a revolutionary vehicle. We rejoin Iacocca's remarks as he describes the changing needs of the car-buying public, and how the Mustang fits in:

The secret lies in its remarkable versatility. For a modest price it can be an economical compact car with traditional Ford quality and all the flair of a high-priced, highly styled European road car. For a little less-modest price, customers can buy high performance to match the flair. The Mustang straddles price brackets in a way that will enable buyers to position it depending on their individual needs, wants, and pocketbooks.

From the outset, compact-car customers have wanted bucket seats, deluxe trim packages, high-performance engines, four-on-the-floor stick shifts, and just about every other option we could devise. [They] wanted basic economical compacts, to be sure. But they also wanted to be able to dress them up to suit their own individual tastes. The compact-car market reflected the flavor of youth -- young Americans out to have a good time.

By next year, 40 percent of the U.S. population will be under 20 years of age, and the 16-24 group is growing faster than any other segment. Not only are there more young people, they are settling down at an earlier age, marrying, and having families.

We designed the Mustang with young America in mind. We like to think that in the process we have achieved a new dimension in American motoring -- perhaps in world motoring. We believe we have succeeded in wrapping up -- in one package -- all the elements of what we call "total performance." Best of all, we offer the package at a modest price.

You know, it's easy to design a car with a spacious interior if you are willing to sacrifice exterior flair. And it's also easy to design a car with a racy, sporty exterior if you're willing to throw out a couple of seats or give up most of your trunk space. The trick is finding the right combination of roominess and high style -- and that's exactly what we think we've accomplished with our new line of cars. Ladies and gentlemen -- the Mustang!

For even more on the Ford Mustang of yesterday and today, check out the following articles:

  • 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 thundered onto America's automotive landscape like no car in history. 1965, 1966 Ford Mustang tells how the initial models captivated the nation to capture more than a million sales.
  • 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.
  • The Ford Mustang is central to America's muscle car mania. Learn about some of the quickest Mustangs ever, along with profiles, photos, and specifications of more than 100 muscle cars.