1973 Ford Mustang: Last of the Original Pony Cars

First introduced in 1964, the Ford Mustang was an instant success that combined style and performance into a compact and affordable package. The car’s long hood, short trunk, and V8 engine┬ácaptured America’s hearts and launched Ford to the top of the sales charts like a Saturn V rocket. Ford was unstoppable, selling a staggering 600,000 Mustangs in 1966.

As time went on, the initial excitement over the new car began to wear off. By 1972, demand for the Mustang was down to 125,000 cars per year. Then in 1973 the oil crisis hit hard, sending gas prices soaring. It seemed as though the Mustang was going to be a tough sell.

Ford responded by introducing the downsized Mustang II in 1974, an ugly little thing that was based on the Pinto. Although it shared the Mustang name, it didn’t share anything else with the first generation cars. That’s what makes this 1973 Ford Mustang so special – it’s the last year of the original pony cars.

I ran across this Mustang in the town of Cameron, Arizona – a small trading post and tourist stop on the way to the Grand Canyon. It was parked close to a group of other classic cars which I presume were on a cruise together. You can tell it is a 1973 by the vertical turn signal indicators in the front grille.

The 1970s were not a time of clean designs or pleasing colors, but even the copper-brown paint job doesn’t completely ruin the look of this car. Though not as beautiful as the earlier Mustangs, this ’73 is arguably better looking than the Mustang II that replaced it.

1973 was also the first year that the Mustang had the federally mandated 5 mph impact bumpers, which were required for all new cars starting in late 1972. Although the urethane front lip is unsightly compared to the metal bumper on earlier models, I think it looks a whole lot better than the horrendous impact bumpers that would grace most cars throughout the rest of the decade.

The 1970s were a transitional time in America, and I would say this car accurately reflects that. This car was built between the carefree era of cheap gas and little regard for safety and a post-OPEC world where fun was sacrificed for economy and safety. It has some of the elements of the Mustang II (like ugly bumpers) but its styling more closely resembles that of the 1969-1970 Mustangs that were quite a bit wilder.

Although 1973 is not the favored year of discriminating Mustang purists, I would say that overall the car has more character than most cars of today. Better to see this on the road than a Kia Rio, wouldn’t you agree?

It is pretty rare to see a Mustang from this era that looks this clean. With its factory hubcaps and raised-white letter tires, this thing looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor, and that’s what I think makes it special.