The final design of any automobile destined for mainstream consumption is a truly collective effort, one that goes through various stages of development before you see the finished product in car showrooms. Naturally, the same applies to every generation of the Mustang.
We looked into Ford’s archive and sorted out a plethora of images from the clay studies, sketches, rolling prototypes and concepts that played a smaller or a bigger role in the formation of the first five iterations of the series, from the original to the current S-197 codenamed model that will be replaced next year by the 2015 Mustang.
Every picture tells a story. For example, did you know that when GM released the Corvette C2 with the now famous split rear window in 1963, Ford toyed around with the same idea for its Mustang coupe that was born the following year?
Well, as you can see from this rare picture, the Blue Oval’s designers built a fastback clay prototype featuring a split-rear window, but the styling feature never made it into production.
Another interesting prototype from the development phase of the first generation Mustang (1964–1973) was the so-called “Allegro” study built in 1962 from a design team led by Gene Bordinat. Ford recalls: “While the production 1965 Mustang was a very different car in almost every visual detail from Allegro, the design study established the basic proportions that would define most Mustangs for the next five decades. The notchback coupe had the same long-hood, short-deck layout with a compact greenhouse that would roll out of the Rouge factory two years later.”
It might have been a reasonable move on Ford’s behalf, given the 1973 oil crisis and the downsizing trend that was sweeping the industry, but the second generation Mustang (1973-1978) that was loosely based on the underpinnings of the subcompact Pinto, is one of the least loved Mustangs today.
At some point, though, during the early stages of the Mustang II program, Ford did look into keeping the larger 1971-to-1973 platform with a completely new design, a prototype of which is pictured here. “This particular proposal was built on the 109-inch wheelbase, but aside from the galloping pony badge on the grille, almost nothing about it says Mustang,” says Ford.
The same can be said about the two prototype proposals for a fastback and a hardtop Mustang commissioned from the Ford-owned Ghia design studio in Italy. Too bad the only styling elements from the wedge-shaped 1971 Ghia Mustang II study that made it into the production car were the molded-in faux side scoops. Even today, it looks pretty neat.
In 1979, Ford released the third iteration of the Mustang based on the longer Fox platform, which remained in production until 1993. Again, the Detroit carmaker’s designers experimented with various ideas, including a three-door, shooting brake-like wagon concept in 1976 with what appears to be…faux wood paneling on the sides.
In the same year, there was a notchback proposal with a sharper looking treatment for the front end and hood, supposedly reminiscent of earlier GT350 and GT500 cars.
Before the introduction of the fourth generation Mustang (1994–2004) that ended up being rear-wheel drive (as all models of the series), Ford’s people contemplated switching to a front-wheel drive (FWD) layout. In fact, they even commissioned the design of the only full-size clay concept for a FWD Mustang. It’s worth noting that the Blue Oval’s designers made a clever/cheeky change to one specific element of the car to separate it from its RWD stable-mates; can you spot what it is from this picture?
Another concept for the Mk4 proposed a slippery shape with a lift-off panel to make the rear seat more accommodating for rear-seat passengers. Now, where you’d place/store that removable panel, is another (non-practical) story.
In the minds of most Mustang fans, the fifth generation model (2005-2014), codenamed S-197, with its retro-inspired design that echoes the fastback Mustang models of the late-1960s, is the best version of the series after the original – not counting the new one, of course, as we still need time to digest it.
Going retro may have won the hearts of Ford execs, but designers had offered alternative proposals as well, like this early sketch with a very cab-forward-like layout and a steeply sloping hood. For the final design, Ford went through a number of rolling prototypes and paper and computer renderings, each recommending a different styling angle.
As we said in the beginning of this piece, each photo you see below in our collection from Ford’s archive has its own story, many of which deserve a separate mention, but for the sake of time, we’ve included all of them in a single gallery. If you’d like us to tell you more about a specific model, just hit us up in the comments and we’ll do our best to find out and share any available details we may have.
By John Halas