Conception and styling
As Lee Iacocca's assistant general manager and chief engineer, Donald N. Frey was the head engineer for the Mustang project — supervising the development of the Mustang in a record 18 months from September 1962 to March 1964.— while Iacocca himself championed the project as Ford Division general manager.
Drawing on inspiration from the mid-engined Ford Mustang I concept vehicle, Lee Iacocca ordered development of a new "small car" to vice-president of design at Ford, Eugene Bordinat. Bordinat tasked Ford's three design studios (Ford, Lincoln-Mercury, and Advanced Design) to create proposals for the new vehicle.
The design teams had been given five goals for the design of the Mustang: It would seat four, have bucket seats and a floor mounted shifter, weigh no more than 2,500 pounds (1,100 kg) and be no more than 180 inches (4,572 mm) in length, sell for less than $2,500, and have multiple power, comfort, and luxury options.
The Lincoln–Mercury design studio ultimately produced the winning design in the intramural contest, under Project Design Chief Joe Oros and his team of L. David Ash, Gale Halderman, and John Foster.
In a 2004 interview, Oros recalls the planning behind the design:
“ I told the team that I wanted the car to appeal to women, but I wanted men to desire it, too. I wanted a Ferrari-like front end, the motif centered on the front — something heavy-looking like a Maseratti [sic], but, please, not a trident — and I wanted air intakes on the side to cool the rear brakes. I said it should be as sporty as possible and look like it was related to European design. ”
“ I then called a meeting with all the Ford studio designers. We talked about the sporty car for most of that afternoon, setting parameters for what it should look like — and what it should not look like — by making lists on a large pad, a technique I adapted from the management seminar. We taped the lists up all around the studio to keep ourselves on track. We also had photographs of all the previous sporty cars that had been done in the Corporate Advanced studio as a guide to themes or ideas that were tired or not acceptable to management.
Within a week we had hammered out a new design. We cut templates and fitted them to the clay model that had been started. We cut right into it, adding or deleting clay to accommodate our new theme, so it wasn't like starting all over. But we knew Lincoln-Mercury would have two models. And Advanced would have five, some they had previously shown and modified, plus a couple extras. But we would only have one model because Ford studio had a production schedule for a good many facelifts and other projects. We couldn't afford the manpower, but we made up for lost time by working around the clock so our model would be ready for the management review.
L. David Ash is often credited with the actual styling of the Mustang. Ash, in a 1985 interview speaking of the origin of the Mustang design, when asked the degree of his contribution, said:
“ I would say substantial. However, anyone that says they designed the car by themselves, is wrong. Iacocca didn't design it. He conceived it. He's called the father of it, and, in that respect, he was. I did not design it in total, nor did Oros. It was designed by a design group. You look at the photograph taken at the award banquet for the Industrial Designers’ Society where the Mustang received the medal; it’s got Damon Woods in it (the group that did the interior), and Charlie Phaneuf (who was with Damon), and it’s got myself and John Foster (who was with me), it’s got (John) Najjar in it.
“ So nobody actually did the car, as such. Iacocca in his book flat out comes and says I did the car. It's right there in print, "It's Dave Ash's Mustang." Bordinat will tell you I did the car. This book tells you I did the car, but, in actual fact, I had a lot of help, and I don't think anyone ever does a car by himself, not in these times anyway.
Gale Haldeman, in a 2002 interview with Collectible Automobile, spoke of the Mustang's evolution through the Lincoln-Mercury studio:
“ Dave Ash had started a clay model of the car. He had this very boxy, very stiff-looking car. Joe came back from a management conference, saw it, and said, "No, no, no, we're not going to do that!" That's when he came to me… he said, "…we've just been given an assignment by [Gene] Bordinat to do a proposal on a small car that Lee [Iaccoca] wants to build. We've got to do one, and I want you to work on that project." I went home and sketched some cars, and I took about five or six sketches with me the next morning and put them up on the board. ”
“ We must have put 25 sketches on the board that morning, because Joe assigned three or four of us to do designs. Joe picked one of the sketches I did at home to be clay modeled… so we actually started over on [Dave Ash's] clay model with the theme from one of my designs, which had scoops on the sides and the hop-up quarter lines. ”
To decrease developmental costs, the Mustang used chassis, suspension, and drivetrain components derived from the Ford Falcon and Fairlane. It used a unitized platform-type frame from the 1964 Falcon, and welded box-section side rails, including welded crossmembers. Although hardtop Mustangs accounted for the highest sales, durability problems with the new frame led to the engineering of a convertible first, which ensured adequate stiffness. Overall length of the Mustang and Falcon was identical, although the Mustang's wheelbase was slightly shorter. With an overall width of 68.2 in (1,732 mm), it was 2.4 in (61 mm) narrower, yet the wheel track was nearly identical. Shipping weight, approximately 2,570 lb (1,166 kg) with the straight six-cylinder engine, was also similar to the Falcon. A fully equipped V8 model weighed approximately 3,000 lb (1,361 kg). Although most of the mechanical parts were from the Falcon, the Mustang's body was completely different; sporting a shorter wheelbase, wider track, lower seating position and lower overall height. An industry first, the "torque box" was an innovative structural system that greatly stiffened the Mustang's construction and helped contribute to better handling.
Gale Haldeman spoke of the engineering and design of the car in his interview, stating:
“ No one knew the Mustang was going to be as popular as it was, but it created a huge stir in the company. Everybody just loved it, even the engineers, though we must have bent 75 in-house engineering and manufacturing rules. The Mustang had the first floating bumpers. The whole front end was a die-casting with a floating hood. ”
“ There were so many things the engineers said we shouldn't be doing, but they didn't want to change them either. There was so much enthusiasm right from the beginning. Even the drivers at the test track loved it. We would go there for meetings, and the crowds of people around it were huge. That was totally unusual, so we suspected the Mustang was going to be a hit. ”
The idea for a fastback originated with Joe Oros as well, and was designed in Charlie Phaneuf's studio. Haldeman recalls:
“ We did it in secret. No one, including [Hal] Sperlich or Iacocca, saw it until it was finished. We cast it in fiberglass, painted it bright red, and then showed it to Iacocca. He said, "We've got to do it!" ”
An additional 4-door model was designed by Dave Ash as a clay model, but was not considered.
The 1967 model year Mustang was the first redesign of the original model. Ford's designers began drawing up a larger version even as the original was achieving sales success, and while "Iacocca later complained about the Mustang's growth, he did oversee the redesign for 1967 ." The major mechanical feature was to allow the installation of a big-block V8 engine. The overall size, interior and cargo space were increased. Exterior trim changes included concave taillights, side scoop (1967 model) and chrome (1968 model) side ornamentation, square rear-view mirrors, and usual yearly wheel and gas cap changes. The high-performance 289 option was placed behind the newer 335 hp (250 kW; 340 PS) 390 cu in (6.4 L) FE engine from the Ford Thunderbird, which was equipped with a four-barrel carburetor. During the mid-1968 model year, a drag racer for the street could be ordered with the optional 428 cu in (7.0 L) Cobra Jet engine which was officially rated at 335 hp (250 kW; 340 PS) all of these Mustangs were issued R codes on their VINs.
The 1967 Deluxe Interior was revised, discontinuing the embossed running horse motif on the seat backs (the source for the "pony interior" nickname) in favor of a new deluxe interior package, which included special color options, brushed aluminum (from August 1966 production) or woodgrain dash trim, seat buttons, and special door panels. The hardtop also included upholstered quarter trim panels, a carryover from the 1965-66 deluxe interior. The 1967 hardtop also had the chrome quarter trim caps, carried over from 1965-66, but these were painted to match the interior in 1968 models. The 1967 deluxe interior included stainless steel-trimmed seat back shells, similar to those in the Thunderbird. These were dropped at the end of the 1967 model year, and were not included in the woodgrain-trimmed 1968 interior. The deluxe steering wheel, which had been included in the deluxe interior for the 1965-66, became optional, and could also be ordered with the standard interior. The 1968 models that were produced from January 1968 were also the first model year to incorporate three-point lap and shoulder belts (which had previously been optional, in 1967-68 models) as opposed to the standard lap belts. The air-conditioning option was fully integrated into the dash, the speakers and stereo were upgraded, and unique center and overhead consoles were options. The fastback model offered the option of a rear fold-down seat, and the convertible was available with folding glass windows. Gone was the Rally-Pac, since the new instrument cluster had provisions for an optional tachometer and clock. Its size and shape also precluded the installation of the accessory atop the steering column. The convenience group with four warning lights for low fuel, seat belt reminder, parking brake not released, and door ajar were added to the instrument panel, or, if one ordered the optional console and A/C, the lights were mounted on the console.
Changes for the 1968 model increased safety with a two-spoke energy-absorbing steering wheel, along with newly introduced shoulder belts. Other changes included front and rear side markers, "FORD" lettering removed from hood, rearview mirror moved from frame to windshield, a 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 engine was now available, and C-Stripe graphics were added.
The California Special Mustang, or GT/CS, was visually based on the Shelby model and was only sold in Western states. Its sister, the 'High Country Special', was sold in Denver, Colorado. While the GT/CS was only available as a coupe, the 'High Country Special' model was available in fastback and convertible configurations during the 1966 and 1967 model years, and as a coupe for 1968.
The 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback reached iconic status after it was featured in the 1968 film Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. In the film, McQueen drove a modified 1968 Mustang GT 2+2 Fastback chasing a Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco.
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