DEARBORN - In early 1961 a group of Ford Motor Company engineers, designers, product planners, marketers and executives began a series of off-site meetings at the Fairlane Inn in Dearborn, Mich. The goal was to formulate a response to the rapidly changing demographics of the American automotive market. The first wave of the post-war baby boom was coming of age and these younger drivers wanted something different from what their parents wanted.
The group which became known as the “Fairlane Committee” formulated a business plan for a new sporty, stylish and affordable compact car derived from the recently launched Falcon. By the fall of 1961, designers from every Ford studio began sketching up their ideas for a car to fit this template and then rendering them in clay and fiberglass. However, until September 1962, none of the proposals were really catching on. That’s when a new sketch from Gale Halderman finally became the “IT” design. Within 2 weeks, a clay model was ready and the car was on its way to production in April 1964.
At the end of the competition, Halderman’s design was selected as the basis for the new production model. Like all the other designs, this one was named and Oros selected Cougar. Aside from the badging the most prominent visual difference from the final production model were the oval headlights from the European Ford Taunus.
One of the many proposals in early 1962 was essentially a mini version of the Thunderbird that borrowed many queues from the upcoming 1963 model.
A design that went through numerous names including Avventura and Allegro was the fastback Avanti. Featuring rear facing back seats and a hatchback, this design was not selected but the fastback profile did eventually become part of the Mustang lineup.
Each of the design models was given a name to help distinguish them. The design details of the Allegro did meet with management approval, but its overall long-hood, short-deck, hardtop proportions did inspire the production model.
With no one entirely satisfied with the proposals that had emerged so far, a new design competition was held in September 1962. Each of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury studios put together sketches and clay models for the final evaluation. Gale Halderman in Joe Oros’ Ford studio did several sketches in this period from which Oros and his executive designer selected this one.
Like many clay models, the Cougar had an asymmetrical design with a different treatment on each side to save time. The right side of the car had different scoops and shorter doors than the left side which ultimately won out. Note the three-piece taillamps which were replaced by a one simpler one-piece design for production.
Different scoop treatments and more squared-off wheel arches were also tried out on the fiberglass design bucks.
One of the first clay models of the convertible with the production intent side scoops.
On the original clay model from September 1962, the side scoops were intended to be functional but engineering issues eventually precluded that. By December, models had adopted an ornamental scoop design.
Initially only the hardtop and convertible were approved for production. In early 1963, Halderman sketched several proposals for a fastback inspired by the earlier Allegro/Avanti concepts. Halderman want the roofline to extend all the way to the rear edge of the car, a design that would later be adopted on the 1967 fastback.
Many proposals for the strakes in the side scoops were evaluated.
By April 1963, the first clay models of the Mustang fastback showed what was essentially the final shape of the production model that would debut just over a year later.
This initial fastback clay model built at the same time that Chevrolet was producing the famed-split-window 1963 Corvette coupe featured a split rear window design that didn’t make it into production.
With the basic design of the Mustang finalized, Ford decided to produce a new concept for October 1963 that would preview the look of the production model.
This profile sketch shows the extended nose and tail and cut down roof of what would eventually be known as the Mustang II concept.
The clay model of the 1963 concept still had the Cougar badge in the grille but it also had Torino badges on the front fenders.
The Mustang II was built from one of the development prototypes during the summer of 1963 for its debut at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in October.
On April 17, 1964, the production Ford Mustang debuted at the New York World’s Fair on its way to more than 400,000 sales in the first year and 1 million in the first 20 months.