Posted By admin on September 27, 2010
One of the great cars created in Detroit is the Ford Mustang presented to the public in 1964. At the helm of this creation and championing the cause was Lee Iacocca, then assistant general manager and a chief engineer, Donald N. Frey. Being Ford’s third oldest nameplate in production it has undergone several transformations and is now in its current fifth generation. Iacocca became President of Ford in 1970 arguably due to the phenomenal success of the Mustang. Some of the successes and accolades this car has collected are:
- 1964 pace car for Indianapolis 500
- 1965 Tiffany Gold Medal for excellence in American design. The first automobile to receive this award
- Car and Driver magazine Ten Best List in 1983,1987,1988,2005,2006
- Motor Trend Car of the year award 1974 and 1994
- 2005 Canadian Car of the Year and runner up to the Chrysler 300 for the North American Car of the Year award
Lee Iacocca and Donald Frey with the Ford Mustang. The Ford Company came close to not making the iconic pony car at all. As the leading forces behind this vehicle Iacocca and Frey and his team would meet secretly outside the office at a motel and in the day in a storage room at Ford to work on the project as it had not yet been approved by top management.
The beginning started with an “intramural” design contest between Ford’s design studios instigated by Iacocca. The winner: Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury Division design studios under the direction of Project Design Chief Joe Oros. The concept which Oros gave to his team was: “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 in the front – something heavy-looking like a Maserati, but not a trident. I wanted air intakes on the side to cool the rear brakes. It should be as sporty as possible and look like it was related to European design”. Within a week the design team had hammered out the new design after studying sketches, and spending many late night meetings. Next came cutting templates and creating a clay model. Because this was an internal project and an intramural game of sorts they still had their regular studio production schedule work load and realistically could not afford the time and manpower for the project. But the commitment and leadership was there and the team worked round the clock to get a model ready for Iacocca’s review. The result changed American car history, created a vehicle dynasty, and propelled business executives and designers into global prominence.
A New Class
The Mustang created a new class of American cars called the “pony car”. This meant a sports car-like coupe with a long hood and short rear deck. Seeing a revolutionary new design other manufacturers entered the market with their own pony cars. Following in this new design trend came GM’s Chevrolet Camaro, AMC’s Javelin and Chrysler’s revisualized Plymouth Barracuda. The inspiration continued with imports in the Toyota Celica and Ford Capri. The creation of the Mustang marked Ford’s most successful car launch since Henry Ford’s Model A.
Business wise, the construction of the vehicle was a model in using best production practices already in place. The Mustang was created using familiar and trusted components already in production on other Ford models. If you knew Ford’s Falcon and Fairline – under the hood – you knew the Mustang. This implementation reduced drastically development costs which resulted in a retail price of $2368. The styling attracted a wide range of buyers, and the affordable cost made it a possibility. The original sales forecast projected about 100,000 units for the first year sales. This was surpassed in three months. Ford had a record year with Mustang selling another 318,000 units. It hit a million in sales in eighteen months.
The Mustang has undergone several transformations in its history. The first generation of was from 1964 to 1973, second generation 1974-1978, third 1979 – 1993, fourth generation 1994-2004, fifth generation 2005 to current time. It had the distinction of being one of the stars in the James Bond film Goldfinger in September 1964. This began a new role for cars in the film industry. Also, Mustangs proved successful on the racing circuit, winning five of the Sports Car Club of America’s six divisions in 1965. Currently they compete in several racing series including the Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup and the KONI Challenge winning the manufacturer’s title in 2005 and 2008.
The second generation of Mustang came due to a decrease in the sales of the pony car market. Buyers were turning to lower priced fuel efficient compacts like Ford’s own Maverick (a great success story itself). Plans to downsize the vehicle resulted in the next generation. The 1974 Mustang II returned to a size closer to the 1964 model ultimately winning the Motor Trend Car of the Year award. For this change the company again decided to use the format of existing production in making the cars.
The current Mustang’s design goes back to its roots of the 1960’s in what J Mays, Ford’s senior vice president of design calls “retro-futurism”. The history of the Mustang is made of Hollywood story material from the inception as an internal project, to the meteoritic rise of a company president, to the lasting name plate excitement.
Also see – 4.12.2010 Story of the week “Ride the Mustang”
Margery Krevsky is the author of, Sirens of Chrome: The enduring allure of auto show models , published by Momentum Books, available www.amazon.com, www.sirensofchrome.com, www.momentumpublishing.com