Pony Car History

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64' Ford Mustang


64' Plymouth Barracuda


67' Chevrolet Camaro


67' Pontiac Firebird


67' Mercury Cougar


68' AMC Javelin


69' Ford Capri


70' Dodge Challenger


70' Toyota Celica


74' Ford Mustang II


74' Chevrolet Camaro


79' Ford Mustang


79' Chevrolet Camaro


89' Ford Probe FWD
NOT A PONY CAR


GM-80 FWD
NOT A PONY CAR
Was going to replace the Camaro/ Firebird


02' Chevy Camaro SS
RIP


03' Ford Mustang Mach I


04' Pontiac GTO


95' Grand AM GT
 Not a Pony Car      The obvious un-inspiration for the "New GTO"
(Shame on you GM)

05' Ford Mustang


06' Dodge Charger


09' Chevy Camaro


09' Dodge Challenger


20?? Pontiac Firebird


09' Mustang Concept



Origin of the Breed:

On April 17,
1964 Ford Motor Company unleashed the first Mustang on American Roads. Although the Legendary Plymouth Barracuda was released two weeks earlier; many believe this was a proactive attempt to cut Ford off at the pass with a radical new design. Other competitors would soon join the fray as Chevrolet released the Camaro in 1967. That same year the Pontiac Firebird and Mercury Cougar threw their names in the hat. 1968 saw the introduction of the AMC Javelin; and it wasn't until 1970 that Dodge finally joined the fray with the Dodge Challenger.

Pony cars were primarily an American phenomenon but Ford did release the Capri (European Mustang) in 1969, which was highly successful over seas.

The Pony Car market was claimed and arguably dominated by American automobile manufacturers, Toyota successfully introduced the Celica in 1970 which was aimed directly at the Pony Car market. It could be argued that although the Celica was a success it did not detract from the Pony Car base at all.

(de)
Evolution of the Breed:
Auto Manufacturers realized that while product loyalty was low; (people rarely bought a second Pony Car) Pony cars accounted for the majority of first time new car buyers purchases and established a brand loyalty that would hopefully last a lifetime.

The next few years saw Pony Car manufacturers attempting to:
a. hang on to their maturing, original buyers 
b. try and expand their base by adding size, weight, and comfort to the original Pony Car formula.
This tweaking of the original formula was mostly successful up to 1973.
 
1973 was the year of the Oil Embargo and the first time that the practicality of the Pony Car was considered. The Challenger, Barracuda, and Javelin were cancelled after 1974. The Camaro and Firebird nearly died at the same time, but received last-minute stays of execution. The Mercury Cougar (de)evolved into a luxury coupe and the Mustang hung to life as a re-badged and re-skinned Ford Pinto know as the Mustang II.

1979 saw a major overhaul of the Mustang while Mercury released a rebadged version taking the European namesake of Capri . With the oil embargo well behind in Pony Car history, the implementation of emissions controls was the next adversary to the continued life of the Pony Car genre.

Attempted Suicide:
Camaro, Firebird and Mustang sales remained high throughout the 80's. Ford considered switching out the Fox body platform for a front wheel drive platform in the mid 80's. This attempt at suicide was later released as the Ford Probe/ Mazda MX6 and was successful in it's own right.
GM loyalists often chuckle when remembering the fact that the Ford Probe ALMOST replaced the Mustang. They can be thankful that GM never released the GM-80 as a replacement for the Camaro/ Firebird at almost the same time. Ford and GM fans could have laughed away as they passed by each other.

Death:
The rabid taste for the SUVs and Light Trucks are credited for finally killing the Camaro/ Firebird in 2002. This left the Mustang as the sole Pony Car in a market that was once dominated by several V8 coupes. Instead of declaring victory, Ford released the 2003 Mach I Mustang. Ford's goal was to obviously attract the now orphaned GM fans and show them that Ford will not rest on it's laurels.

The Living Dead: "Braaainss, Braaainss, GM NEEDS Braaainssss!"
2004 saw the "new and improved, now with Aloe" Pontiac GTO.
The "new" GTO was heavy, overpriced, and used outdated styling directly from the Pontiac Grand AM. (This in my opinion, was an extremely poor attempt to give GM muscle fans something to drive. They took Holden Monaro's V platform threw some Grand Am body panels on it and called it good. Not bad for a car that technically started life as a Cadillac Catera, not good for a car trying to hang on to a more educated buyer. Pontiac dealers created false shortages and therefore created a very short lived "need" for the GTO in GM's eyes. This quickly backfired and by the end of the first year GTO's were being sold at enormous discounts). The GTO died a very well deserved death in 2006.           Unfortunately, this was not a public execution.

Evolution:
Like the GTO the new Dodge Charger, released in 2005 was also very heavy, and while winning the bragging rights on the Dyno, it's heavy weight, luxury accommodations, and steep price tag have kept it out of the hands of many. (Personally, I love the look of the new Charger... But I would have to get an SRT-8, and at that price point I'd be in the territory of some much more serious street contenders.

Blasphemy:
Youth and the young at heart, left desperate for affordable performance; have turned to the import market. Many have argued that cars such as the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cobalt, Subaru WRX and the Dodge Neon Srt-4 have filled the giant void created by the lack of available Pony Cars. Heresy, I say!

Everything Old is New Again:
2005 saw the release of a completely new Ford Mustang. Since 1994, the Mustang had only received cosmetic upgrades, chassis stiffening, and a few motor changes.  The 05' Mustang recaptured the styling that made it a household name to begin with. A anything but "modern" front end, a rear end that looks like it's bearing itself to anyone who approaches, and a tastefully redone retro interior made it the biggest overnight success for Ford since it's original release in 64'.

Ford had finally accomplished what it had set out to do some 41 years earlier. Not only was the Ford Mustang the apple of every 16 year olds eye, the original Pony Car customers finally had an affordable way to "relive the good ole' days" of their youth as well.

General Motors and Dodge took quick note of the New Mustangs success. Both, have once again decided to (re)enter the fray. The Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger are slated for release in 2009. The Mustang is slated for a slight cosmetic change around that time as well.
Better late than never I guess.
 


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More good reading can be found at Wikipedia.com.
For even more awesome photos, check out SeriousWheels.com.
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