Skip to main content

It’s The End of The Ford Mustang As We Know It

The Ford Mustang has endured many doom and gloom prognostications over its 56-year history. And never once has Ford ceased to not produce a pony car. General Motors can’t say that about the Corvette or the Camaro. So, with all the talk and dissent over the Mustang Mach E, is this truly the end of the Mustang as we know? Probably not.

One of REM’s greatest songs is “It’s The End of the World As We Know It”. This poppy alternative music song seems doom and gloom, but is really more hyperbole than anything. And with much of the ballyhoo over the Mustang Mach E (some of which I’m guilty of causing), the end seems near for the Ford Mustang, or at least it appears that way. But, and I can’t emphasize this enough, the Mustang has persevered over many missteps and mistakes.

Whether the Mach E succeeds or fails will not affect Ford’s pony car.

The fact is, the only way the Mustang will survive as a rear-wheel drive muscle car is if the sales figures are there. So, as those numbers continue to drop, if this is indeed the end of the Mustang as we know it, we have only ourselves to blame.

Fear not my Mustang friends, I do not believe the Mach E will mean the end of the Mustang as a pony car. Let’s look at some of the other Mustang crises that the iconic pony car has overcome.

Mustang 2: Second Generation Mustang
From 1974 until 1978 Ford created a second generation of the Mustang. It really took a sharp turn in looks from the original first-generation Mustang that was so successful. Perhaps in response to General Motors muscle cars, Ford launched the longer, Ford Pinto-based Mustang II. It’s regarded by most historians as a down turn in Mustang history.

From a collector’s standpoint there are some fans, but generally, the Mustang II was not much and the Mustang even lost the sales lead to Camaro during this time period. During the time, many critics felt the Mustang had peaked and was already showing it couldn’t sustain itself.

Yet, the Mustang did survive as the Mustang II gave way to the Fox Body Mustangs which helped revive enthusiasm and reinforce muscle and performance into the Mustang.

The Mustang Was Almost Produced By Mazda as the Ford Probe
Late in the 1980s, the Fox Body Mustangs were growing old. Sales had dipped below 100,000 units for the first time. Once again talk of the end of the Mustang was underway.

This time, the sacrilege, the unthinkable idea was underway. Why not let the Japanese design studio of Mazda, which Ford now owned, have a run at designing the Mustang. The end result was a small, front-wheel drive coupe. Gale Halderman, designer of the first generation Ford Mustang recalls seeing and said, “It was a nice car, but it was not a Mustang.”

Thankfully two key executives stepped forward and challenged the establishment to not proceed with a Japanese-made Mustang.

Bob Rewey who was VP of Ford’s North American operations said, “I can’t sell this thing as a Mustang, don’t do this!” Likewise Ford’s Chief Engineer Neil Ressler was a vocal critic too and the Mustang clubs spoke up too and started a campaign to save the Mustang. The plan was scrapped, the pony badge was stripped from this Mazda and it became known as the Ford Probe. A fine car in its own right, but not a Mustang. And the Mustang surived another scare!

The Mustang Loses Its Muscle
A Mustang is supposed to have a big powerful V8 engine. That’s the mindset the typical Mustang consumer had. So in 2015 as part of the redesigned sixth generation, the Mustang was introduced with a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine (gasp!!). This surely would be the end of the Mustang. No way can it survive losing all of its power and performance.

How dare Ford do such a thing to the pony car. These were the thoughts and worries of the enthusiasts. But these turbocharge Ecoboosts engines didn’t affect sales negatively at all. In fact it broadened the appeal of the Mustang to a larger consumer base and the V8 engine was still around for the purists who demanded more power.

The Mustang Mach E is Not a Real Mustang
Nobody has been a bigger critic of the Mach E than I have. I started a petition. I rallied up many clubs into a frenzy.

Truth be told many of them are more upset about Ford putting the Mustang logo on a crossover than I am. I am merely trying to help them voice their concerns, since it seems Ford is hell-bent on launching Mustang as a sub-brand. And I’ve certainly talked many club members off the proverbial ledge. “I’m never buying another Ford again.” “They’ll never get my dollars again.” “I was going to upgrade my Mustang, but now I’m not.”

These were some of the comments I heard after the Mach E was revealed. My response was always sympathetic. You have every right to be frustrated. And I wish that Ford had gone a different direction with the Mach E. Simply call it the Model E. Just don’t put a Mustang badge on a freaking crossover. That’s just blasphemy. But I don’t believe this is the end of the Mustang as we know it.

Ford Mustang Mach-E front blue color

One thing I can say for a certainty, if you’re mad about Ford bastardizing the Mustang heritage by placing that hallowed logo on a crossover, then the best solution is to not buy a Mach E, but rather buy a 2020 Mustang.

Show Ford your displeasure with your wallet, not your mouth. In the end, Ford will always follow the dollars. If sales continue to drop on the Mustang pony car, then yes, this will be the end of the legend. But you can stop that from happening by buying an iconic Mustang (and I don’t mean that electrified crossover parading itself with a pony badge)!

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. In addition to being a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, Jimmy has been published in a compilation book about children growing up with disabilities, where he shared his own very personal experience. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 2, 2020 - 1:44PM

When did Chevy stop building the Corvette? The Camaro sure, and like the Mustang the Corvette were also facing the question of if their production should continue, but both he Corvette and Mustang soldiered on, and became leaders in their market. It is good that you bring up the point that the Mustang was almost a Mazda Probe rebody, and that Ford was planning to drop the Mustang's V8 until loyal fans demanded that it remain. Also I agree that the Mustang II was a true low point for the Mustang, and the current Shelby GT500 shows how far the Mustang has improved since that sad time. It says much of the Mustang's iconic success and name recognition that Ford would want to leverage that name for other models. I share your dislike for Ford using the Mustang name in a crossover, but Porsche similarly looked like they would ruin the iconic Porsche name when they started badging new SUVs with their marque, but it actually elevated the SUV class, and helped it become so popular today by redefining both SUVs and Porsches. I still don't like that move either, but history showed that it helped Porsche survive and prosper, and go on to build some of the best sportscars and high performance cars in the world. I have no doubt that the iconic Mustang name (and car) will continue to thrive and inspire future generations for a long time to come.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 3, 2020 - 2:05PM

In reply to by Jimmy Dinsmore

Yeah, I forgot about the missing '83 MY Corvette, but that was not a result of discontinuing the Corvette. It was more of an issue with their QC delays in coming out with the completely revised/new C4 Corvette, which was supposed to come out in 1983.

Chris (not verified)    January 2, 2020 - 6:32PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

You bring up Porsche but Porsche didn’t call it’s SUV a 911. The issue with most of us is an SUV going by the Mustang name. That makes as much sense to me as calling a car like the Fiesta an F150. Ford, just call it the Mach E or the Model E and be done with it. You got plenty of advertising out of this.....

Chuck Brenner (not verified)    June 22, 2021 - 12:06PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Chevy stopped building the Corvette for the 1983 model year. 1982 was last of its generation, and due to delays the next was 1984. The sole 1983 prototype is in the Corvette museum.

Dean Ricci (not verified)    January 2, 2020 - 4:13PM

I don't think enthusiasts have to worry about the Mustang going away. The new Mustang, the Mach E might sell well, or it might be a disaster sales wise. Doesn't mean the traditional 2 door coupe is doomed. If the existing Mustang suffers sales losses as it does currently, that is what will seal its fate. More entry level buyers will purchase the 4 cylinder ECOBoost variant of the Mustang over the V8.