For historical context, by the time 1973 rolled around the Maverick was outselling the Mustang and the Mustang had become a big, boring and not at all exciting car that was far removed from its original mid-60s style and mission. The fuel crisis had also moved buyers’ preferences from large, gas-guzzling muscle cars to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. It is no surprise then that Ford needed a change and thus the 1973 Mustang marked the end of the first generation. Due to government regulations, the 1973 Mustang would be the last Mustang convertible until 1983 and it would be the last year for Mustang Grande also. In its final year, there were a total of 134,867 Mustangs produced.
1973 brought the last year of the “big” Mustang, the last of the first generation Mustangs. It was going to be replaced by a smaller, lighter Mustang and Ford was focused on getting that ready, therefore, most of the changes for 1973 were purely cosmetic. A large, square, chrome headlamp bezel appeared, as did chrome trim around the tail lights. A color keyed Urethane front bumper replaced the chrome units of the previous years. The front parking lights were now placed vertically in the front grille.
A new, grained, black applique with bright trim was placed on the rear body panel between the tail lights. This was replaced with a honeycomb style on the Mach 1 and Grande models. The 1973 Mustang convertible was to become the last Mustang convertible for many years.
This was also a year of first for Mustang It was the first year where FORD did not restyle the mustang after 2 model years, it was the first of many years to come where horsepower and performance steadily declined. It was the first to start engine cubic inches in a decline. The next generation of Mustangs known as Mustang II’s would become smaller and “broken” to use a horse term. The next performance car Ford will make will be in 20 years in 1983 when they make a GT with a Holley 4bbl carburetor. I had a 1968 coupe 302 2bbl, 1966 289 GT fastback and 1967 289 4bbl, 4-speed dark green convertible. These would remain my only mustangs until 1983 I vowed not to step backwards and buy an under performing Mustang no matter how much repair work needed to be done to keep the old ones running!
The 1973 Mustang resembled the 1971 and 1972 Mustangs very closely. In most respects, they were unchanged. The most obvious change was the redesigned grille. The egg crate mesh was larger and the turn signal lamps were located within the grille opening. Headlight location remained unchanged, however, the headlight bezels were chromed and similarly, the taillight bezels were finished in bright metal. The front bumpers were different (modified to meet the new federal crash standards), front fenders are different, grille is different. However, if you look casually at the cars, the average person will not distinguish one year from another. The grill had the turn signals mounted in the outside part of the grille.
Headlight bezels and taillight bezels were bright metal, not color coordinated or flat black. The chrome lip on the front of the hood was color keyed as were the front fender extensions, in previous years, they were mostly chrome. The standard running horse in the grille is enclosed in a a corral and has a vertical bar going up and down like the ’65 Mustang. The whole grille assembly is surrounded in a shiny chrome colored metal rectangular corral as well. The Mustang script on the front fenders remains unchanged from previous years.
Bumpers and bumper mountings were modified and the urethane front bumper became standard, and was enlarged in accordance with new NHTSA standards. The bumper was color-keyed to the car’s paint as were the hood and fender moldings. The rear bumper, similar to the 1971-72 unit, was mounted further away from the rear of the car in order to comply with the 2-1/2 mph rear standards.
Engine availability was largely unchanged from 1972. The main change was Ford no longer offering the 351 HO engine. You could get the 351 4bbl and 351 2bbl as an upgrade to the 302. Even though it was the last year for the big Mustang, some mechanical improvements did appear. Suspension travel was increased by a 1/4 inch and the standard drum brakes were larger. And all convertibles came with power front disc brakes.
The Lee Iacocca Mustang II will make its debut in “74 and thereafter for the next 4 years. Goodbye to the first generation Mustangs.
Special Edition Models & Variants
It is hard to call this list of models “special” but they technically count so we technically talk about them. The most exciting of the specials was a movie car used in the 1974 film Gone in 60 Seconds. Known as “Eleanor” the car was actually a 1971 Mustang in 1973 Mach 1 trim.
The last of the Mustang Grande models was much like the Grande cars from 1969 onward in that it was the “luxurious” Mustang. The Grande was unchanged, save for colors and vinyl roof treatments. Noticeably absent from the option list were the 15×7″ chrome Magnum 500 wheels. The 1973 Mustang Grande option was only for the hardtop and consisted of a vinyl roof, plush interior with deluxe cloth high bucket seats, electric clock, interior trim panels with molded pull handles and arm rests, deluxe two-spoke steering wheel, color-keyed racing mirrors, full wheel covers, metal rocker panel moldings, metal wheel lip trim, and dual exterior paint stripes.
While there were no major differences in the ’71 and ’72 Mach 1s externally, the 1973 Mach 1 did receive some significant appearance updates. The lower body accent paint and bright trim were gone and the entire car was one color top to bottom. All ’73 Mach 1s received a wide body-side tape stripe in either black or argent, that featured a “MACH 1” cutout on the front of the quarter panel, and a standard “MUSTANG” script emblem on the fender. Those favoring the vinyl roof look, could order a 3/4 vinyl roof on the Mach 1 and all other SportsRoof models.
The 1973 Eleanor was a movie car from the independent filmmaker H.B. “Toby” Halicki’s 1974 film Gone in 60 Seconds. It was actually a 1971 Mustang in 1973 Mach 1 trim. Two Eleanor cars were used in the movie, a “beauty” version for close-up shots, and a stunt version used for the high speed chase scene. The high speed chase scene is considered one of the best movie car-chase scenes of all time. Another is the the movie “Bullitt” which featured a 1968 Mustang!
A total of 134,867 Mustangs were sold in 1973, up a modest 7% for the final year of the first generation. As usual, all three Mustangs body styles were available but it was the last year for the factory built convertible. This helped to account for the slight resurgence of the convertible production numbers in 1973. To dive into the model and body splits as well as see charts and percentages, check out our 1973 Ford Mustang Production & Sales Numbers deep dive.
Fastback Mach 1
Options and Pricing
Options included a partial vinyl roof on the SportsRoof model. The Mach1 received a non-functional NASA hood which was also available at no cost with the 302 engine. If you opted for the 352 2 barrel engine, you got the functional version of the hood scoop. Both a Mach 1 and base grille were offered, with differing insert patterns. For more detailed options and pricing, please check out our 1973 pricing and options research.
2 Door Hardtop
2 Door Convertible
2 Door Fastback
Exterior & Interior Colors
A total of 16 exterior colors were offered for the 1973 Mustang model year. There weren’t many special colors this year so total exterior color options came in at a total of 18 colors. For detailed colors, color palettes, codes and interior colors please check out our in depth 1973 colors information post.
Dimensions & Weight
The 1973 Mustang resembled the 1971 and 1972 Mustangs very closely. The 1973 Mustang had grown up, out and heavy since its birth in 1964. Wheelbase increased by 1 inch, it was 12.2 inches longer and 5.9 inches wider. In height it grew .4 inches and total weight increased by 575 pounds. Although 575 pounds does not seem to be much, since the original car only weighed 2562 pounds, this was about 22% increase.