Already, the buzz is feverishly building about the next-generation Ford Mustang, which will be introduced next year as a 2015 model.
The fact that the new Mustang is a hot automotive topic is hardly surprising. When Ford introduced the original Mustang at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964, it was an immediate sensation, blowing past even the most optimistic sales estimates. Dealers ordered 22,000 Mustangs the day it was introduced, and in its first 18 months of production, Ford sold more than a million of them.
In its early years, the Mustang was responsible for an entirely new automotive genre -- pony cars -- and epitomized the 1960s values of youth, freedom and independence. Built on the cheap, largely from parts borrowed from other Ford models like the Fairlane and the humble Falcon, the Mustang was a classic example of exactly the right car for the right time.
The Mustang also was responsible for General Motors creating the Chevrolet Camaro, a model rushed into production in the 1967 model year to give dealers something to fight back with. It was the birth of a fierce rivalry that continues to this day.
Over the last half century, the automotive landscape has totally changed.
Family friendly wagons are the big sellers of the day, while high-performance coupes like the Pontiac GTO, Plymouth Barracuda, Chevrolet Chevelle SS and Mercury Cougar have gone the way of the dodo.
Still, the Mustang lives on, although it hasn't always been a smooth ride.
While the 1960s were a high-water mark for the Mustang - think Mustang GT, Cobra Jet, Boss 429, Boss 302 and various Shelby editions - the '70s were seen as the low points, first with the bottle-nose 1971-'73 Mustangs and then the 1974-'78 Mustang II.
Ford started getting its Mustang mojo back in 1979 with a redesign built on what was known as the "Fox" platform, shared with the Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr. Still, in the late 1980s, Ford nearly replaced the traditional front-engine, rear-wheel-drive Mustang layout with a Mazda-based front-wheel-drive coupe. But after howls of protest from the faithful, the Mustang lived on and the Mazda in question became the Ford Probe.
The Mustang finally found its way again in 2005 with a handsome retro redesign that paid stylistic homage inside and out to the great late-1960s models. When the 2005 Mustang was introduced, sales jumped 24 percent over 2004, and then went up again in 2006, when 166,530 Mustangs were sold.
And when Chevrolet reintroduced the Camaro in 2010 after an eight-year absence, the pony cars arms race was on again, big-time. The 2013 variants of the Boss 302 and Shelby GT500 unquestionably are the best Mustangs ever. That said, competition from the Camaro has sharply cut into Mustang sales in 2012, which were half of what they were in 2006.
With that in mind, the 2015 Mustang will be much different than anything that has come before it. While still a two-door sports coupe, it will be heavily restyled to resemble the Ford Evos concept car.
According to Road & Track magazine, the 2015 Mustang will continue to offer a base V6 engine, but there will be also be a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder "EcoBoost" engine that makes 350 horsepower. The available V8 will make about 450 horsepower. An independent rear suspension will finally replace the live axle, and R&T stated that the top-of-the-line performance version of the new Mustang likely will drop the Shelby affiliation, although it will keep the Cobra name.
Will the 2015 Ford Mustang resonate with buyers like the original? While it's hard to imagine that this new car - or any new car, for that matter - would set the world on its ear like the first Mustang did, you can bet a lot of eyes will be on the 2015 model when it rolls out. Ford just might have something special with its next pony car, which is exactly what Mustang fans are hoping for.