Thursday, November 1, 2012
1965 Ford Mustang Prototypes
The Allegro-X car shown in August 1963 was one of many ideas to come from the T-5 program, but it proved a literal red herring.
Designing the 1965 Ford Mustang
It was still more than two years before the original 1965 Ford Mustang would make its debut, and Ford was casting about for the right formula. Engineers, designers, and marketing men were in uncharted territory: No one had ever created the kind of car they were after.
Ford briefly considered another two-seat idea, the "XT-Bird," a revival of the 1957 Thunderbird proposed by the Budd Company, which had built the original bodies and still had tooling. Budd pitched a prototype using a Falcon chassis and a '57 T-Bird body with updated styling and a tiny rear seat added. But though claimed production costs were temptingly low, Ford couldn't see a two-seater of any kind drawing the sales and profits that Ford Division chief Lee Iacocca was after.
Even so, two-seaters persisted for a while in T-5 work, which produced scores of sketches, renderings, and clay models. Major themes were refined through several groups of designs labeled Avventura, Allegro, Mina, Median, and Stilletto, to name a few.
The Allegro series alone comprised some 13 workouts differing in appearance, size, projected cost, and other key factors. One Allegro, a fastback coupe, was publicly shown as a "styling experimental car" in August 1963, but it was already a dead duck. Of the many sporty-car concepts churned out in 1961 and into '62, none satisfied Iacocca and other Ford execs.
To get things moving, an impatient Iacocca had the program restarted in August 1962. A new package was laid down, and the company's three design studios were assigned to come up with fitting proposals. Iacocca felt the in-house competition was bound to produce the car everyone was searching for.
The requirements were daunting: a $2500 target price, 2500-pound curb weight, 180-inch overall length, seating for four, standard floorshift, and maximum use of Falcon components. Styling was to be "sporty, personal, and tight." Marketers threw in the notion of an arm-long option list so buyers could equip the car for economy, luxury, performance, or any combination.
Lincoln-Mercury submitted a crisp notchback in Ford's in-house competition to design the original Mustang.
The contest pitted the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury divisional studios against a team from the Advanced Design section under Don DeLaRossa, all guided by design vice-president Eugene Bordinat. Each studio had just two weeks to come up with one or more full-size clay models.
Ultimately, seven candidates were wheeled into the Ford Design Center courtyard for an August 16 executive review. Each had its own character, some more formal than others, but most featured a long hood and a relatively short rear deck surmounted by a close-coupled "greenhouse." This look was at least partly inspired by the sporty yet elegant 1956-57 Continental Mark II, a design benchmark among recent Dearborn cars, but it was also the basic look of many genuine sports cars. Other shared traits included full rear-wheel openings and crisp body lines.
At Last, a Winner
Among the gathered seven, one design leaped out, a white notchback coupe. "It was the only one that seemed to be moving," Iacocca said.
A Ford Studio design was eventually chosen. Note the Cougar insignia indicative of an early proposal for the car's name.
Fittingly perhaps, it came from the Ford Studio headed by veteran designer Joe Oros, studio manager Gale Halderman and executive designer L. David Ash. Oros had his team paint their clay white so as to catch management eyes, which it obviously did. It looked much like the eventual showroom Mustang except for different side treatments left and right -- the former would be chosen for production -- plus rectangular headlamps, different trim, and nameplates (more of which shortly). Ironically, this mockup was a second-thought rush job, completed in only three days after the group spent its first week on a design that Oros immediately vetoed upon returning from an outside seminar.
Iacocca's baby now moved ahead with unusual speed.
The design for the production Mustang can be traced, mostly untouched, to the Ford Studio model.
The 1965 Ford Mustang Prototype
What would become the epochal 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang can be traced directly to the Ford Studio model that was "validated" for production on September 10, 1962, less than a month after a courtyard showdown of competing design concepts.
Except for changes typically made for mass production -- suitable bumpers, round headlights, less windshield rake -- the design was essentially untouched. And most Ford people didn't want it touched anyway. That included engineers, who bent a good many in-house rules to keep the styling intact.
The task of "productionizing" the Mustang fell to executive engineer Jack Predergast and development engineer C. N. Reuter. It was mainly a body engineering job, because the basic chassis, suspension, and driveline were, by design, shared with the Falcon and the related "intermediate" Fairlane, new for '62.
Overall length ended up at 181.6 inches, a bit over the specified limit but identical to that of the reskinned 1964 Falcon. Wheelbase was set at 108 inches, 1.5 inches shorter than Falcon's, but enough to accommodate four passengers. Though Falcon relied mainly on six-cylinder engines, designer Joe Oros' team had left plenty of underhood space for Ford's light and lively new "Challenger" V-8, which arrived with the Fairlane and became a new option for top-line '63 Falcons.
Designer Joe Oros felt a fastback coupe would give Mustang a truly sporty image and got it approved.
Though Mustang development focused mainly on a hardtop coupe, the effort more or less assumed that a convertible would also be offered despite its inevitably higher price and lower sales. But with racy fastbacks starting to make a comeback in the market, designers felt a sloped-roof coupe was essential to give Mustang a credible performance image with American youth. Planners okayed the fastback, and it was all but wrapped up by mid-October 1963. However, it wouldn't start sale until some six months after its stablemates.
Why the delay? One reason was that the Mustang was a new idea and thus not a guaranteed success, however promising it seemed. While many Ford people thought it would be quite popular, there were a few -- including chairman Henry Ford II -- who feared a replay of the recent Edsel fiasco. They needn't have worried. Indeed, market research conducted during the program's final months strongly indicated that Ford had a winner on its hands. But the Edsel's outlook had been just as rosy, hence a certain amount of hand-wringing in late 1963.
Names and Icons
By that point, Ford had settled on the Mustang name after months of search and debate. Cougar had emerged as the early favorite, one reason the Oros team model wore Cougar nameplates and a big stylized cat within its grille. But countless other names were considered along the way, including Torino, Turino, and even T-5. Chairman Ford liked "Thunderbird II" and "T-Bird II." Ford Division chief Lee Iacocca, engineer Donald N. Frey, and others argued for Mustang, though other horses were in the running for a time, including Colt, Bronco, Maverick -- and Pinto.
In any case, the name wasn't finally decided until late in the game. Indeed, some early Mustang press photos showed production prototypes with another big cat in the grille. But a galloping horse soon took its place. This icon was cast from a mahogany carving by sculptor Waino Kangas working from sketches by John Najjar and Phil Clark for the Mustang I. Equine name aside, the only other legacy from the little midships roadster was a small tri-color logo designed by Najjar, which appeared on the production model's dashboard and lower front fenders.
Many newspapers and magazines previewed Ford's new sporty car with early PR photos of a "Mustang" wearing a Cougar grille emblem.
In many ways, Mustang was a perfect name for the sporty new Ford, evoking romantic images of free-spirited cowboys astride powerful steeds. Just as important, it was easy to spell and easy to remember. As one Ford ad man said, Mustang "had the excitement of the wide-open spaces, and it was American as all hell."
But it wasn't yet a household name, and Ford publicists wanted to build on the buzz created by the Mustang I. The result was a new showpiece, a convertible logically named Mustang II. Though billed as another "experiment," this was really an exaggerated preview of the showroom models, built after tooling was ordered with mostly production-line parts.
Differences included a five-inch longer hood, a more pointed front, a bulkier tail, a cut-down windshield, matching liftoff hardtop, no bumpers, and an elaborately trimmed custom interior. Ford returned to Watkins Glen in October 1963 to unveil the Mustang II. Response was enthusiastic, which must have lessened some anxiety in Dearborn. Reporters, noting the car looked factory-ready, now knew what they'd suspected for months: Ford was up to something potentially very big.
Unveiled in October 1963, the "experimental" Mustang II was actually a fully engineered production Mustang with a custom liftoff hardtop.
The Mustang II kicked off a six-month publicity buildup to announcement day. The next major step came on January 21, 1964, when invited reporters went to Dearborn for a "Mustang Technical Press Conference." Iacocca, who conceived the Mustang idea, played host, beaming like a proud new papa. "Frankly, we can hardly wait for you to get behind the wheel of a Mustang," he gushed. "We think you're in for a driving experience such as you've never had before."
A revolution was about to begin and the American automotive landscape would be forever changed. It's not too far a stretch to say Mustang helped alter America itself in some ways.