Ford developed the Mustang for a special mid-season debut at the New York World's Fair in April 1964. The resulting attention, and Mustang's instant appeal among consumers, made this one of the most memorable new car introductions in history. The Mustang sold very well at first and reaped large profits. Contrasting with the mystique of the Corvette convertible, the practical coupe or hardtop was the most popular Mustang body style, far outselling the convertible. This 1965 Ford Mustang coupe, manufactured in October 1964, belonged to Eleanor McMillan, a conservator at the Smithsonian Institution. Ms. McMillan commuted to work and drove the Mustang on pleasure trips. She donated the car in 2004.
Ford correctly read the market for a new type of car in the early 1960s. Baby boomers were reaching driving age, more families were buying second cars, and women and single people were buying cars. Many new-car buyers were looking for economical models with flair, excitement, and optional equipment that enhanced comfort and performance. Ford developed the Mustang with these criteria in mind. Lean and sporty, it was more sophisticated than Ford's first compact car, the Falcon, and it had some of the Thunderbird's panache.
American auto manufacturers were finding their way with small cars in the 1960s. Before strong sales of imported compacts and subcompacts raised issues concerning domestic product quality, production methods, and technological stagnation, Ford's popular "pony cars"-Falcon, Mustang, Cougar, Maverick, and others-showed that emotional appeal, style, comfort options, and effective market research could sell cars. Like the Model T and Model A, the Mustang endeared itself to a generation of motorists. But by the 1970s, these efforts were overshadowed by the import invasion, and Ford, like other domestic auto manufacturers, had to design new types of compact cars, deal with internal problems, and go global in order to remain viable in the small-car market.