Take a look at Ford's most iconic cars through the decades — and how they evolved

  • Ford has been around for 116 years, and in that long period of time, it’s produced many important, powerful, and beautiful cars.
  • But several Ford vehicles stand out.
  • We’ve taken a closer look at the evolution of the Ford Thunderbird, the LincolnContinental, the F-Series pickup trucks, and the legendary Mustang.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Ford has been around for over a century, and you could certainly argue that its most iconic car was the one that started the auto industry: the Model T.

But the Model T didn’t change much. Ford later discovered the joys of new models, and ever since, the company has been pleasing customers with at-times iconic rides.

Several stand out, both for their longevity and their influence.

We rounded up four: the magnificent Thunderbird, the stylish Lincoln Continental, the indispensable F-Series pickup, and the glorious Mustang. Here’s how they evolved over the decades.

The Ford Model T. This is more of an honorable mention because although it’s certainly the most important car Ford ever built, it didn’t change much.

The Ford Thunderbird. Ford fired back at the Chevy Corvette with its own stylish American take on the roadster.


By 1957, the T-bird had established itself in the youthful US auto market.


The Thunderbird wasn’t frozen in time. Through the 1960s, the car evolved.

By the early 1970s, however, the original DNA of the T-bird was definitely in the past. Gone was the snazzy two-door of the fifties, replaced by a long-hooded barge.

Christopher Ziemnowicz

In total, eleven generations of the Thunderbird were produced by Ford — although the eleventh arrived after a five-year hiatus for the nameplate. The throwback design was controversial, but it attracted fans before the car went away for good in 2005.

Kevauto/Wikimedia Commons

The Lincoln Continental. Ford’s luxury brand rolled out the storied Continental in the early 1940s. It was sold until the late 1940s, then retired.

Wikimedia Commons

The Continental returned in the 1950s, but it was the coach-doored (or “suicide” doored, if you will) sedan of the early 1960s that captured the popular imagination.


The Continental endured for several more decades, but its aesthetic fortunes rose and fell. The nameplate was finally dropped in 2002, only to return as the flagship vehicle for a resurgent Lincoln, first as a concept in 2015 …


… And then as a production car in 2016.

Hollis Johnson

In 2018, Lincoln celebrated its 80th anniversary with the special-edition Continental, complete with coach doors.


The Ford F-Series. The greatest pickup truck of all time came to life in 1948.


In the 1950s, the F-Series was a work truck, used by ranchers and farmers.


The F-150 designation arrived in the 1970s, and by the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the F-Series became America’s best-selling vehicle, a title it would hold until the present day.

Wikimedia Commons

The 13th generation of the F-150 was introduced in 2014. It was the most risky F-Series redesign ever for Ford, as the automaker built it in much more lightweight aluminium.


Customers can now also buy the high-performance Raptor, which is based on the F-150.


The Ford Mustang. The original Pony Car was unveiled by Ford in 1965. It was an instant hit.


The Mustang would become an icon in the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to its muscle-car performance and aura of cool, endorsed by the likes of Steve McQueen in the movie “Bullitt.”


The unloved Mustang II arrived after the long run of the first generation ‘Stang.


The late 1970s and 1980s saw Ford develop the now-legendary “fox” body Mustang.


The sixth-generation ‘Stang arrived in 2015, and Ford updated the design slightly in 2018.


Ford has created its fair share of iconic cars, but if you had to choose one that’s at the heart of the 116-year-old automaker, it would have to be the Mustang.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.