How Ford Celebrated the 10 Millionth Mustang

Quite the milestone.

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Ford

Mustang number 10,000,000 is a GT convertible painted Wimbledon White, with a V8 and a six-speed manual transmission. The spec pays homage to the first serialized Mustang, VIN 001, produced in March of 1964. That first 'Stang was the same color, body type, and engine type. Back then, the optional V8 fed 164 horsepower to a three-speed manual transmission. Ten million iterations later, the V8 of choice—Ford's monstrous 5.0-liter Coyote—kicks out nearly triple that.

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Ford was kind enough to invite Road & Track and a number of other publications to come witness the milestone. I expected the celebration of the number, but was pleasantly struck by a day filled with reminders of what makes the Mustang so enduringly special.

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Ford

The day began in Dearborn, Michigan, at Ford's global headquarters. Basking in the morning sun were iconic Mustangs like the original Bullitt of movie fame, and the first Mustang ever sold—driven off a Chicago lot two days before the car's global debut at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and . Nearly every model-year was represented, from the often-cringed-at Mustang II of the early 1970s to the dime-a-dozen late '90s and early 2000s SN95 generation.

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Gail Wise and her Mustang, the first one ever sold.
Ford

A 1969 Boss 302 and an ultra-rare Boss 429 Mustang sat beside a 1968 Shelby GT500KR, proudly representing the early Mustang's storied motorsports history. Not too far away, a mid-2000s convertible GT with an automatic and big, couch-like seats represented the more cruising-oriented side of the pony car.

Right from the get-go, the Mustang was both a road-trip hero and a perfect candidate to become a highly competitive race car. Sixty- years on, this is still the case. Today's Mustang can be had as a track-pounding maniac or as a calm, comfy daily driver. It helped create the genre of cars that is arguably the nearest and dearest to America's heart—the pony car—and it still helps define that space today.

But this wasn't meant to simply be a parking-lot party at Ford headquarters. A pony-car parade was convened, with State Police escort, running all the way from Global HQ to the Flat Rock plant some 30 minutes south.

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Ford

Arriving at the plant, our cavalcade was greeted by workers wielding their phones and beaming with pride as they watched the lineage of the icon they spend their days building roll past. I parked the Orange Fury GT convertible I'd been loaned in the guest lot and strolled amidst the gathering crowd of plant workers.

Wandering through the sea of blue shirts, I caught snippets of conversations. Someone's dad had an old '85 Fox-body that father and son had built together. Another was deep into reciting a spec sheet, explaining exactly how they'd spec theirs someday. Others were recounting the first time drove a Mustang, or simply rode in one. Which one was the best? What year was their dream car? GT or Shelby? Manual or auto? Convertible or coupe? Earnest debates blended together with anecdotes of personal connection to the car. Their passion for the nameplate and their pride in building these cars overflowed.

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I bet indifferent Mustang owners are a rare breed.

The actual arrival of number 10,000,000 wasn't exactly momentous. As the car burbled into the lot, everyone turned, phone cameras at the ready. Some cheered as the car rolled by, heading to its spot in a gaggle of 62 Mustangs arranged to spell out "10,000,000" from above. The conversations about Mustangs stopped only briefly, picking right back up as the car passed. Overhead, three P51D Mustangs, hero fighter planes of World War II and partial inspiration for the car's name, flew low in formation.

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Ford

Walking back into the makeshift media center, I thought about the other 9,999,999 Mustangs that were built over the previous 64 years, and what events or circumstances had helped make number 10,000,000 happen.

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The Mustang has been America's best-selling sports car over the last 50 years. That helps. More than 400,000 were sold in the Mustang's first year alone. That helps too.

But what really helped Ford reach the eighth digit is that the Mustang is now available in 146 countries. And while it's always been a home-run in the States, the more remarkable story in these recent years might be the way that the world has embraced this decidedly American machine.

Chatting with Carl Widmann, the Mustang's Chief Engineer, I learned about key decisions in recent years that allowed the sixth-generation Mustang to win the hearts of buyers all over the world. Prior to 2015, there was no factory-built right-hand drive Mustang available. This severely limited where it could be sold. "There were a few conversion kits, but nothing that was factory-backed," explained Widmann. This wasn't necessarily a big deal in the early days of the Mustang, or even at the turn of this century. But the increasingly global nature of the car industry eventually had Dearborn's eyes looking across oceans.

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Ford
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The choice to build both left- and right-hand drive variants of the Mustang, and the decision to engineer the car to meet safety and legal requirements in Europe and other global markets, meant that the Mustang could finally reach fans worldwide.

With this decision came engineering challenges. It wasn't just as simple as swapping the location of the steering wheel. Widmann explained that the 2015-2017 export Mustangs differed visually from their domestic counterparts. These differences increased manufacturing complexity and hampered Ford's efforts to get them to market all over the world. They sold well, but opportunities to improve were realized with the Mustang's most recent facelift in 2018.

The 2018 refresh streamlined these issues, creating what Widmann called an "Integrated Global Car." Left- and right-hand drive versions of the facelifted Mustang met rigorous safety standards all over the world, and streamlined production in Flat Rock meant that Ford could more readily deliver on the Mustang dreams of buyers in these new markets.

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Ford

It's working. Since that 2015 decision to sell the Mustang globally, Ford has exported roughly half a million examples. In 2017, more than one-third of new Mustangs were sold outside the US. Mustang is now the second best-selling nameplate for Ford worldwide, trailing only the Ranger.

Today, the 10,000,000th Ford Mustang rolled into the light. It's not the first Ford to reach that milestone: Both the Model T and F-150 have surpassed eight-digit production. Those Fords are revered, and they played pivotal roles in making the auto industry what it is today. But today, the Mustang conjures something else. It's America's sports car, now loved the world over.

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