Ford's legendary pony car has five decades of history in Australia too
Ford will notch up 10 million Mustang sales next year, when the sixth-generation pony car enters production ahead of its arrival in Australia in 2015.
Of course, the Blue Oval’s famous pony car is much more exclusive Down Under, where there are only about 4000 official and privately-imported Mustangs on our roads.
Of those, however, just 538 Mustangs were officially converted to right-hand drive by Ford in Australia – including 161 original Mustangs in the 1960s and 377 Mk4 Mustangs between 2001 and 2002.
The original Mustang was only sold in Australia during 1964 and 1965, soon after the global debut of the famous pony car, and was campaigned by some of our greatest racing drivers.
It arrived here thanks to Ford Australia’s then managing director, Bill Bourke, who was looking for a new marketing campaign to help launch the 1966 XR Falcon.
Bourke’s idea was to ship 400 new Mustangs from the US and convert them to right-hand-drive. The plan was to put one into every dealership and use the slogan ‘The Mustang-Bred Falcon’.
This was despite the fact that Australia’s Falcon, which was born in 1960 and based on the North American Falcon (on which the Mustang was also based), predated the first Mustang.
The first Mustang imported into Australia was a 1964 convertible, converted in Sydney at a cost of 424 pounds ($850).
In July 1965 Ford then imported 48 1965 Mustang Hardtop Coupes that were converted to RHD by a private contractor at Ford’s Sydney plant, using some Australian Falcon components such as steering boxes.
These Mustangs were fitted with a 289ci V8, automatic transmission, front disc brakes, wheel trims, low-profile 6.95×14-inch tyres, two-speed windscreen wipers, heavy-duty suspension, reversing lights, a radio, heater, bucket seats, padded instrument panel, padded sun visors, carpet and full-length centre consoles.
At the time they retailed for $2895 — $755 more than a standard six-cylinder XM Falcon sedan of the day ($2140).
Ford used these Mustangs to help raise interest and demand for a sporty performance Ford as the new XR Falcon was due for launch in September 1966 with a 289ci V8 option.
In December 1965 the first shipment of 1966 Mustangs arrived and the first four conversions to right-hand-drive were completed at the Homebush plant in Sydney in January 1966.
After some initial challenges with the conversions, work progressed but orders were reduced from the initial 400. The cars were progressively assembled through to September of that year, when the last of just 161 examples were produced and then sold to enthusiasts.
The ‘Australian’ Mustangs – the only Mustangs ever factory converted by Ford anywhere in the world — were rare on Australian roads even at the time and remain highly collectible today.
They were identified by Australian ID plates fitted to the engine firewall and ‘Ford Motor Company of Australia’ metal decals attached to the door scuff plates in lieu of the US Ford logo.
Ford’s original pony car made its mark on the Australian motor racing scene, with Mustangs thrilling local motorsport fans by dominating the Australian Touring Car Championship in the hands of luminary Pete Geoghegan in the 1960s.
Racing legends Alan Moffat and Dick Johnson also had various successes at the wheels of Mustangs – Moffat in the 1970s and Johnson in the 1980s.
More recently, after a 35-year hiatus, Ford’s performance car partner, Tickford Vehicle Engineering, converted a total of 377 V8 Mustang coupes and convertibles to right-hand drive in 2001 and 2002.
At the time, the 2001 Mustang Cobra was the most powerful vehicle in Ford Australia’s line-up, thanks to a 240kW/430Nm 4.6-litre DOHC alloy V8 matched to a five-speed manual.
Priced at $85,000 for the coupe and $89,000 for the convertible, the Australian Mustangs came with 330mm vented Brembo front disc brakes with twin-piston callipers, multi-link independent rear suspension, traction control, anti-lock brakes and 17-inch wheels.