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Nostalgia For The 1960s Is Driving The Sales Of The Muscle Car

2020 2021 2022 2023 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Review S550
Image copyright Matheus Pach, Muscle Cars & Trucks.

Ever since they first arrived on the scene en masse during the 1960s, muscle cars have remained some of the most exciting American-made machines on the market. These V8-powered bruisers carry a certain attitude that is unrivaled on the street, and nowadays they have the performance to match their presence. While these machines were once seen as a symbol of youthful abandon, things have shifted over the past few decades. Nowadays muscle cars are often considered to be a vehicle of choice for older enthusiasts, as nostalgia for those original models grows. We wanted to see just how true that statement is, so we sat down with Ford Mustang Marketing Manager Jim Owens to discuss the demographic breakdown of the average Mustang buyer.

Demographic Vs. Psychographic

The Ford Mustang is the best-selling sports car in the world. That is an incredibly impressive feat for any muscle car, and one that only highlights the broad appeal of the nameplate. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Ford has always done their best to market the Mustang as a vehicle centered around driving enjoyment. As such, Owens noted that Ford doesn’t particularly like to break their buyers down by traditional demographic categories.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Review Emissions Fuel Economy CAFE Regulations EPA muscle cars
Photo copyright Matheus Pach,

“We like to talk about to talk about it as a psychographic instead of a demographic,” said Owens in an interview with MC&T. “It’s somebody that wants that driving experience, that car that makes you feel like you’ve taken a vacation every day. Whether you’re 5 years old and grabbing that HotWheels or 103 and buying your first car ever and it’s a Mustang. It’s that zest and love of life. That’s the psychographic.”

And while this is a great way to look at things from the automaker’s perspective, it doesn’t mean that people of all ages are actually buying the thing. In short, the pony car’s average buyer has indeed been getting older over the past decade or so, regardless of Ford’s efforts to make the car appealing to people of all ages.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Club of America
Image copyright Manoli Katakis, Muscle Cars & Trucks.

Ford Mustang Buyers Are Getting Older

“The demographic is, yeah, they’re getting older,” said Owens. “The baby boomer generation that remembers the 60s fondly… it isn’t substantially getting larger, but it’s more about that psychographic, that type of personality that buys the Mustang, and that’s not age dependent.”

Now that isn’t to say that the Ford Mustang isn’t interesting to younger people. We’d argue that part of the reason that muscle car owners are getting older comes down to the price point at which these things trade hands. An EcoBoost Mustang isn’t terribly expensive by any means, but we all know that it is the V8-powered models that drive enthusiasm. A base model GT now starts at $36,120, which may be a hard pill to swallow for those entering the workforce or starting their families. Add in higher insurance premiums and things get pricey quick. And while a Ford Mustang is surely not entirely impractical, the two-door coupe isn’t as accessible as similarly priced sedans and crossovers. Ford is aware of this, and even refers to the Mustang in terms that highlight this issue.

Ford Mustang Mach 1 Muscle Cars
Image via Ford.

The Ford Mustang Is A Life Stage Vehicle

“Mustang is a life stage vehicle… there’s a time in your life where a Mustang just isn’t that practical for you,” said Ownes. “Now, a Mach-E can change that… it’s more of a life stage. You come into it, then go to what you need for your life, then come back into a Mustang later.”

Perhaps then folks are missing out on that early stage of ownership that Owens is referring to, and are instead only coming to the sports car later down the road. That could be problematic for the muscle car as we move forwards however, as fewer young enthusiasts have experiences with the car. Without getting younger people interested in or behind the wheel of these machines, keeping them around will be harder to justify. It’s nice that Ford wants the Mustang Mach-E to be that “every man’s” vehicle, but what if that costs us the coupe in the long haul? Nobody really wins in that scenario, particularly the Ford Mustang that we all love.

Morgan Stanley has reported that the Ford Mustang Mach-E is eating away at Tesla Motors' EV market Share.
Image Via Ford.

Written by Lucas Bell

Lucas holds a journalism degree from Wayne State University, and is a Automotive Press Association scholarship recipient. While an American muscle fan through and through, he once wrote a fascinating comparison review about eScooters.


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  1. A base mustang GT for $36000?! Where can you buy them? A mach 1 for $60000 and a GT500 for $100000! Why do you allow dealers to add an up charge on vehicles? No wonder we can’t afford your cars!

  2. I wanted a GT350 when they were announced in 2014. I make $150K, but couldn’t justify the high cost until they were in the $40s. When I’m going to spend $80K I’m buying a Porsche.

  3. Lol. Ford wants profits, but the only people that can afford their cars are 2nd or 3rd time homeowners? Majority of people in their 30s that I know are busting butt to try to afford rent in a bad apartment.

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