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History of the early 1970's Mustang

History of the early 1970's Mustang

We’ve recently seen the all-new 2015 Mustang at its reveal in Dearborn, Michigan, and pretty soon, the Mustang will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Here at CJ Pony Parts, we thought it was the perfect time to take a look back at the rich history of the Mustang, and today, we’re bringing you our second installment: 1969-1973.

Another restyling for the Mustang

In 1969, the Mustang underwent its second restyling, stretching it 4-inches longer and 1/2-inch wider. This bigger body style, along with a bolder and more aggressive stance, shifted the Mustang away from its more traditional styling.

Did You Know: The 1969 remodel was largely due to increased competition in the pony car market.

1969 mustang boss 302

Cosmetically, dual headlamp units were introduced, with the extra pair on the outer area of the grille. The corralled pony emblem was replaced with the pony and tribars logo, off-set to the driver’s side on the grille. New quarter panel ornaments were added, and the “SportsRoof” model – formally referred to as the “fastback” – came with side scoops and an integral rear spoiler.

As was true with nearly every new year , there were changes to the available engine options, including an added 250 cubic inch economy I6, a 428 Super Cobra Jet, and two 351 cubic inch Windsor V8 versions.

1969 mustangAlong with the new engine options, 1969 brought with it several new performance packages, perhaps most notably being the Mach 1. The Mach 1 was a SportsRoof version of the Mustang with different stripes and an upgraded interior. It also came with an optional spoiler and rear window louvers. Alongside the Mach 1, the Boss 302 made its debut in ’69, which was yet another fastback, featuring a Hi-Po 302 cid engine, side striping, a partially-blacked out hood, front air dam, rear spoiler, and missing the side scoop on the rear fenders.

A step up from the Boss 302, the Boss 429 came with a NASCAR version 429 cid, and each vehicle was hand-assembled. All Boss 429 interiors were black, and buyers could choose from five different exterior options. Another model, Mustang Grande, was for those looking for more “luxury” from their muscle cars. These could only be purchased as a coupe and featured comfortweave seats, special padded interior side panels, a woodgrain dash, and thick carpeting. The 1969 Shelby was quite the car, as you’d expect from a Shelby, and most notably featured a full-width grille with five integrated hood scoops, three forward facing and two facing the rear.

1969 ford mustangTwo limited edition Mustangs were also released in 1969, including only 50 “Mustang Es.” The Mustang E was a SportsRoof model that came with a 250 cid, 6-cylinder engine, an automatic transmission with a special torque converter, and an “E” emblem on the rear quarters. The Limited Edition 600 was a promotional unit Mustang from the Philadelphia sales department, which was released in May. These Limited Editions could only be purchased through a special order and came in a choice of two unique color options: “Flower Power Red” and “Groovy Green.” These Mustangs also featured upgrades like a hood scoop, chrome mirror, AM radio, and unique fender emblems.

However, in spite of these new packages for the Mustang, it was soon to be losing a big one to its lineup. The GT equipment package was to be discontinued after ’69, and as a result, the 1969 GT was merely a leftover from the 1968 Mustang GT package.

Continuing the new look

While 1969 was a big year for the Mustang, 1970 brought only subtle refinements that were intended to ease the aggressive look from the previous year. These cosmetic changes included the transition back to a single headlight unit, a small scoop added to the outside of each headlamp, no more quarter panel scoops, and the rear taillights recessed into their housing to appear flat and no longer concave. Some other changes included a new oval steering wheel, to make it easy getting in and out of the vehicle, and the ignition switch moved to the steering column.

Did You Know: Brown was consistently among the top three color choices for the Mustang in the 1970’s. It has not been a color option since 2000.

1970 mustang boss 302For the engine lineup, the 250 cubic inch economy I6 engine was still the most preferred base engine for the Mustang, and the 351 cid Windsor V8 shifted to a 351 cubic inch Cleveland V8 for both the 2 and 4 barrel versions.

In 1969, there was a huge introduction of new models and limited edition Mustangs, yet there was little opportunity for this in 1970 due to the limited cosmetic and body changes. Two special edition Mustangs worth noting include the 96 “Twister Specials” build by Kansas Ford dealers, which were a Grabber Orange Mach 1 with special decals, and the “Sidewinder” specials built for Iowa and Nebraska enthusiasts. These “Sidewinders” could be purchased in either Grabber Blue, Grabber Green, Calypso Corral, and Yellow.

The Boss 429 lost some of its popularity with the new year, with only 499 models actually made. However, two 1970 Boss 429 Lawmen Mustangs were made to go on tour for U.S. troops. One of these actually still remains today, which has been owned by wrestler Bill Goldberg since 2003.

Did You Know: Fewer than 10,000 Boss 302s and less than 1,500 Boss 429s were made between 1969-1970, making both of these Mustangs pretty rare to own.  

More Restyling

The last major restyling for the First Generation Mustang would come in 1971, with an additional 2 inches added to the Mustang’s length and 2 ½ inches added to its width. This increased body actually required an extension to the wheelbase for the very first time, pushing it to 109 inches.

Did You Know: The 1971 Mustang was also a whopping 600 pounds heavier than previous models.

1971 mustang convertible

These bigger Mustangs in 1971 were designed under Ford’s new Production Design Manager, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, and included hardtops, SportsRoofs, and convertible models. The Mustang and corral emblem returned, appearing back on the front’s honeycomb grille, and a wide chrome strip was added to the front fenders and hood. The new hood was also different in that turned up at the windshield.

The Boss 302 and Boss 429 versions of the Mustang were replaced with a Boss 351, which featured a blacked out NASA scooped hood, twist type locks, special body side stripes, a competition suspension, staggered rear shocks, a Hurst shifter, dual exhaust, and power front disc brakes.

A 1971 SportsRoof Mustang, redressed as a 1973 model, and named “Eleanor,” was used in the 1974 film “Gone in 60 Seconds”. Eleanor was one of the first cars to be featured in a movie, and it was a large factor in fueling America’s love for the Mustang during its period of transition during the early 70’s.

1971 ford mustang mach 1

Did You Know: There were two 1971 fastbacks used for filming the original “Gone in 60 Seconds,” one for stunt driving and the other used for beauty shots. The Eleanor stunt car actually survives today, despite two major incidents it encountered during filming.

In 1972, the “Mustang” lettering across the decklid was swapped with a smaller script emblem on the right side, but that was about the extent of any cosmetic changes to the base Mustang. Things were different, though, for the versions available. Due to increased governmental emissions regulations, the Mustang Boss 351 was dropped from Ford’s lineup, along with both 429 cubic inch engine options. This left the Mach 1 as the only performance model Mustang that remained.

1972 ford mustangEarly in 1972, a special 351 High Output cubic inch engine was created to serve as a low compression version of the Boss 351. In celebration of the 1972 Olympics, a Mustang Sprint car was offered between March and June, and featured white and blue rocker paint, hood stripes, seat inserts, and a USA shield over the rear quarter panel.

Did You Know: Only 50 Mustang Sprint convertibles were made by Ford, specifically for the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in April, 1972.

Last Year of the “Big” Mustang

The 1973 Mustang was the last year for the First Generation Mustang. Large, square chrome headlamp bezels and chrome trim around the taillights replaced the black trim from previous years, and the horizontal front turn signals shifted to vertical.

This was the last year for the Mustang Grande, along with the last year for the convertible, which would only return in 1983. While the Mach 1 was still available, it did change quite a bit in ’73. This included lower and thicker side stripes, and the “Mach 1” emblem moved from the front fender behind the front wheel to the inside stripe in front of the rear wheel.

1973 ford mustang

The engine options that were available in 1973 included the base 200 cubic inch I6, 302 cid Windsor V8, 351 cid Cleveland V8, 351 cid Cobra Jet V8, and the 351HO V8.

Make sure you check out our vast selection of 1969-1973 Mustang parts at, and keep an eye out for our next Mustang History post on our blog! Also, connect with us on social media, including FacebookGoogle+Twitter and Instagram, to stay up-to-date and talk with fellow enthusiasts on all the latest Mustang news.

Sources: The Mustang Source, Mustang Monthly



You keep referring to the 6 cylinder engine option as a V6. Back in the day it was an inline 6 cylinder engine. V6 is a more recent innovation defining the configuration of the cylinders.

Good catch, John. You are correct, and we've made those changes! Thanks!

I am confused as to when the rear window slats and the front and rear spoilers came into being on the Mustang. In the January 2014 issue of Mustang Magazine there is an article titled "Second-Owner-Survivor" about a 1969 Mach 1. In this article the author writes: "...the oft-seen, but Mach-incorrect, front and rear spoilers and slats.... Were the slats and spoilers never an option on the 1969 Mach 1. When and on what performance package did they first appear.

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