By Paul Lienert
DETROIT (Reuters) - The long wait will be over soon for hard-core Mustang fans: Ford Motor Co plans to unveil the next-generation 2015 Mustang later this year, several months ahead of the car's 50th anniversary, and has invited auto writers for a sneak peek next week.
The Mustang is getting its first complete overhaul since 2005, including a more modern design, a more nimble chassis and more efficient engines and transmissions intended to broaden the car's appeal outside its core American audience, according to sources familiar with Ford's plans.
The automaker has invited small numbers of automotive writers, including European media, to its Dearborn headquarters for a sneak preview of the new Mustang, beginning next week, several sources said.
The writers have agreed not to reveal details of the car until Ford gives the nod -- but embargoes on new car models are routinely broken, so the first photos of the 2015 Mustang could leak ahead of the car's formal debut in December.
The 2015 model is slated to go on sale next summer.
The original Mustang was introduced at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964, to tremendous national fanfare. It was featured on the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazine, helping to cement the reputation of Ford's then-sales boss, Lee Iacocca, and was purchased by more than half a million customers in 1965, its first full year on the market.
When it was last redesigned eight years ago, the Mustang took a step backward in time, with a retro design that has attracted fewer and fewer buyers. Sales last year totaled just 82,995 and were down another 11.5 percent through September.
The automaker is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a ground-up redesign of the car. The 2015 model will be the first Mustang aimed at global markets, notably Europe, Japan and Australia.
To enhance its appeal to prospective U.S. and overseas buyers, Ford is overhauling nearly every inch of the car, the sources said.
The automaker has developed a new rear-wheel-drive platform for the 2015 Mustang, which will ride on the same 107-inch wheelbase as its predecessor but is expected to shed several hundred pounds.
Ford is revamping the car's suspension, steering and brakes, and upgrading engines and transmissions, with a new EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine to be offered as an option.
The exterior sheet metal and the cabin have been completely redesigned to give it a more modern look and feel, but the 2015 Mustang will have styling cues inspired by past Mustangs, the sources said.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)