The 2015 Mustang looks wider because it is … and the rear roof section is narrower, adding to the effect.

It was the spring of 1964 and a time when the Beatles invaded the top of the Billboard music charts, the U.S. Military invaded Vietnam, and a sporty little coupe affectionately known as the "Pony Car" invaded North American roads.

Behind the strong leadership of then Ford Motor Co. vice president Lee Iacocca, the folks at Ford had no way of knowing the impact the Mustang would have on Americana with a fresh style and freedom it provided a new generation of driver. Fast forward to 2014 as the Mustang readies to step out for its 50th birthday and much has changed to this iconic ride, yet much remains the same five decades after the first one rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Mich.

"The Mustang is a legend. It means different things to different people," said Chris Woodyard, automotive analyst and editor for USA Today."To older people, it is a symbol of their youth. To younger people, it's something they all recognize. It represents fun on wheels."

Ford spared little expense in throwing its fully-updated 2015 Mustang a global celebration in December, holding synchronized vehicle launches in Los Angeles, Calif., Shanghai, China, Sydney, Australia, Barcelona, Spain, New York City, and of course, Dearborn, Mich. The debut drew all the international attention of a celebrity wedding, even though the Mustang is traditionally the bridesmaid on Ford's sales ledger.

In fact, Ford sells more pickup trucks in a week than Mustangs in a month. But with more than 3,000 career appearances in movies and TV shows and even a permanent place on a U.S. postage stamp the Mustang is instantly recognizable. The mere shape is a brand. Since production began in March of 1964, about nine million Mustangs have been sold, and the car has become so iconic that more than 300 fan clubs in countries as far away as Iceland celebrate its legacy.

"Every car company has a vehicle that strikes to the heart and soul," said Mark Fields, Ford's chief operating officer, "And for us, that is the Mustang." What is perhaps more unique than the car is that there will be global exposure; it will the Ford's first ever international sales push. The Mustang has been exported to other countries around the world for decades, but the 2015 model will be the first ever to hit showroom floors outside North America, which is a gutsy gamble in a sluggish international economy. "It really is a vehicle that has residence with people," said Mark Phelon, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press daily newspaper. "And it appears [Ford] feels American tastes have converged in some ways with the rest of the world."

Hoping to add some modern appeal to potential buyers at home and abroad, the 2015 Mustang rides on a new platform with an independent rear suspension and a new front suspension that Ford says will improve ride and handling. Buyers will have three engine options: a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 420-plus horsepower; an updated version of the 3.7-liter V6 that will make about 300 horsepower; and a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder worth about 310 horsepower.

Each engine is matched with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic, the latter with steering-wheel-mounted shifter paddles. Pricing for the Mustang will not be released until sometime in 2014, but the base model is expected to start at less than $25,000. Somewhat surprising, it won't be available for purchase until the fourth quarter of 2014, or about nine months after the recent unveiling. "Which is a long time," Phelon said. "It's not as if the 50th anniversary date snuck up on them. I am surprised they didn't have a whole rollout so they could have it ready for sale in spring since the original Mustang was unveiled in mid-April of 1964."

It's hard to believe that 50 years have passed since the Rolling Stones made their first North American concert tour, Walt Disney released its timeless classic "Mary Poppins," and the first pony car called a Mustang was sold in Chicago for less than $3,000 to a 22-year-old schoolteacher. Ford Motor Co. never could have imagined the impact its sporty little coupe would have on the North American auto industry. But 50 years after the Mustang was let out of the stable, the legend remains as free and wild now as it was then.

"It's a sexy American car. It is a legend," Woodyard said. "And there is no reason to believe it won't be around for many more years to come."