Ford Mustang I

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Ford Mustang I
Ford Mustang I at the Henry Ford Museum
ManufacturerFord Motor Company
AssemblyDearborn, Michigan
ClassConcept car
Body style(s)2-door convertible
Layoutmid-engine layout
RelatedFord Mustang
ManualsService Manual

The Ford Mustang I was a small, mid-engined (4-cylinder), open two-seater with aluminum body work, that began life as a design exercise and eventually became the progenitor of the famed Ford Mustang. Although it shared few design elements with the final production vehicle, it did lend its name to the line.

Design and development

The original Ford Mustang was a product of the Fairlane Group, a committee of Ford managers led by Lee Iacocca. The Fairlane Group worked on new product needs and, in the summer of 1962, the Group laid out the framework of a new sports car to counter the success of GM's Corvair Monza sports coupe. Designer Gene Bordinat envisioned a low-cost sports car that would combine roadability, performance, and appearance in a radical layout. A 90 in (2286 mm) wheelbase, 48 in (1219 mm) front and a 49 in (1245 mm) rear track, width of 61 in (1549 mm) with an overall length of 154.3 in (3919 mm) were the working dimensions. The body skin was a one-piece unit that was riveted to a space frame. To increase rigidity, the seats were part of the body. The driver could adjust the steering column and clutch/brake/accelerator pedals.

Roy Lunn was put charge of building the car as he brought racing-car design experience and together with his engineering really brought the concept to life.[1] An "off-the shelf" German Ford Cardinal 1500 cc 60 degree V-4 powered the Mustang I. It was mounted in a power pack of engine and 4-speed transmission in a common housing with an axle and conventional clutch. Lead designer John Najjar favored a mid-engined configuration, cooled through two separate radiators on the sides of the car. It was said that Najjar also proposed the name "Mustang" for the concept vehicle. As an aviation enthusiast, he was familiar with the P-51 Mustang fighter and saw some design similarities in the diminutive but sleek profile of the new sports car Leffingwell 2003, p. 43. Note: Najjar was an aviation enthusiast who saw the sleek lines of the original Ford Mustang I concept car as similar to that of the P-51 Mustang. After public relations and the legal department veted the project name (they particularly liked the connection to the wild horse of the same name), the name continued onto the Mustang II showcar and later was applied to the production version of the Ford Mustang. However, the discovery of Phil Clark's original diaries and from his time with Eugene Bordinat,along with confirmation from Ford (reference Ford Press Release 2010 Mustang, August 2008), now tells us that Phil Clark was the artist under Bordinat that drew original Mid-Engine Designs that later made it up to the executive's and met their approval for Mustang I. Bordinat is also known for his design of Mustang II prototype 1963. The Mustang name was kept under wraps by the Code Name Allegro for the entire project. Allegro was a musical term and Clark and ALL of the designer's he worked with were involved with various Musical Instruments. This gave the young group who originally were with GM a way to speak about the Mustang project in a code that no one to this day can decipher except for the original designers. Phil Clark suggested the Mustang Name to the executives after traveling from his hometown in Nashville, Tennessee to The ART School of Design in Passedena California where he passed the wild Mustangs in Nevada and was hooked with their beauty. Clark Graduated with honors as a desiger and stylist from Art School with a double Major in Art Transportation and Design. Clark had been drawing the Mustang Design in variation for years before the final car was produced. His drawing of the Mustang Coupe, or Fastback can be seen signed by him, in the Spring 1963 MotorBook Magazine. Note: Clark was with Avco Aviation where his father was the Vice President of Avco and his Father in Law was also a Machinist with Avco Aviation. Clark had been an engineer for Avco before he became ill with Urological issues and decided that Transportation Design would be a better fit for his health. Clark died at 32 from an ulcer, but to this day is best known for his design of the Mustang Running Horse emblem. Phil Clark's private journal, and, and Page 3 of Consumer Guide, the updated version that includes Clark.

Although intended as a road vehicle, the prototype had a racing-type windshield and an integral roll bar. Two versions of the V4 engine were available, an 89 hp (66 kW). street and a 109 hp (81 kW). race engine. The manufacture of the Mustang I took place in the garage of famed racecar builders, Troutman-Barnes of Culver City, California. Using the Ford Styling clay and fiberglass body bucks, to create a new aluminum body, the firm met a three-month deadline. Lunn and his team of engineers finished the prototypes in just 100 days.[2] Final assembly and testing of two prototypes took place at the Ford Scientific Research Garage at Dearborn, Michigan.

Schematic view of Ford Mustang I

Public debut

The Mustang I made its formal debut at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York in 7 October 1962, where test driver and contemporary Formula 1 race driver Dan Gurney lapped the track in a demonstration using the second "race" prototype. His lap times were only slightly off the pace of the F1 race cars. Gurney was the second Race Car Driver to offically try this car.

For the next two years, both Mustang Is appeared at car shows and automotive events as a show car. One of the unusual uses for the cars was to tour colleges as a recruiting tool for Ford. After reactions from potential customers and focus groups had demonstrated that the original concept of the Mustang I had limited appeal to the general public, a completely new concept car, the Mustang II, appeared in 1963. Both Cars were from Eugene Bordinat's Advanced Design group, which was a part of about 13 car ideas for MUSTANG. The original code name for this group of cars was called ALLEGRO. One of the cars from this design project actually became known as Allegro.

The four-seater Mustang was known before hand to be the car that would actually be produced for sale because Ford was stuck with all of the Falcon chasis that they could not sell--these had to be used. Stretched to a four-seater and using a front-engined layout based on the Ford Falcon (North America), the Mustang II was much more conventional in design and concept and resembled closely the final production variant that would appear in 1964. Nearly the only design element that remained from the original Mustang I were the fake louvers that recreated the radiator scoops of the two-seater that were originally designed by Advance Designer Phil Clark, and can be seen has he released them to the executives in a movie from Ford about the Mustang I.

Final disposition

One Mustang I languished for years in storage although it appeared at times on displays and in museum loans including the Henry Ford Museum. In 1967, Ford executives, Morris Carter and Frank Theyleg discovered the remains of the car in a basement and arranged for the Scientific Research Garage to restore the car. Donated to The Henry Ford Museum, it officially became part of the museum collection in 1982.



  1. "The Ford Mustang I" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, undated, retrieved on April 27 2008.
  2. Leffinwell, Randy. (2001) American Muscle: Muscle Cars From the Otis Chandler Collection, Motorbooks, page 15.


  • Leffingwell, Randy (and Newhardt, David for photography). Mustang: 40 Years. St. Paul, Minnesota: Crestline (Imprint of MBI Publishing Company), 2003. ISBN 0-7603-2122-1.
  • Clark, Holly (and Van, Red photography). "The Man Behind the Pony Series, Finding My Father"

Rusk, Texas, ClarkLand Productions, (Division of Phil Clark Foundation), 2006. ISBN 0-9785140-1-7.

External links