Ford Mustang (first Generation) - Conception and Styling

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 — while Iacocca himself championed the project as Ford Division general manager. The Ford Mustang I prototype was a two-seat, mid-mounted engine roadster, styled notably by lead designerss Philip T. Clark and John Najjar. Lead stylist John Najjar, in a 1984 interview with David R. Crippen, archivist of the Henry Ford Museum, spoke about the genesis of the two-seat prototype:

We had a studio under Bob Maguire and in it were; Jim Darden, Ray Smith, plus an artist, Phil Clark, several modelers, and me. We drew up a 2-seater sports car in competition with the other studios, and when they saw ours - saw the blackboard with a full-sized layout and sketches- they said, 'That's it! Let's build it.' So we made a clay model, designed the details, and then built a fiberglass prototype." This car was simply a concept study rather than the final configuration, but it included a lot of the sporty, rakish flair the later showcar embodied.

The Mustang I was later remodeled as a four-seat car styled under the direction of Project Design Chief Joe Oros and his team of L. David Ash, Gale Halderman, and John Foster — in Ford's Lincoln–Mercury Division design studios, which produced the winning design in an intramural design contest instigated by Iacocca.

The design team 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 and be no more than 180 inches in length, sell for less than $2,500, and have multiple power, comfort, and luxury options.

Having set the design standards for the Mustang, Oros said:

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, 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.

Oros added:

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.

To decrease development 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 inches (1,732 mm), it was 2.4 inches (61 mm) narrower, yet the wheel track was nearly identical. Shipping weight, approximately 2,570 pounds (1,170 kg) with the straight six-cylinder engine, was also similar to the Falcon. A fully equipped V8 model weighed approximately 3,000 pounds (1,400 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.

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