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BBC Autos

Evolution of Design

Wild horses: Mustangs that never were

  • The wild bunch

    Commissioned by Ford Motor general manager Lee A Iacocca, the Mustang would become America’s original pony car: a compact, affordable, sporty conveyance with enough pep to win over hot-rodders and a pleasing but non-threatening shape fit for a nuclear family’s suburban driveway.

    Ford’s longest-running model has grown more sporting and class-competitive in ensuing decades, but the process has not been altogether smooth. With the 2015 model expected to bow at the 2014 New York auto show – the setting of the Mustang's debut 50 years prior – Ford has opened its archives to reveal the ponies that never had a chance to leave the corral. (All photography Ford Motor)

  • 1961 Avventura Concept

    The long hood and snout of what would become the first Mustang were already in evidence in 1961, when Ford designers conceived the Avventura – a fastback-style coupe based on Ford’s new Falcon compact car. Gill-like vents at the rear and cavernous side strakes, not to mention the fastback body type, would be revisited in subsequent versions of the Mustang.

  • 1961-62 two-seat coupes

    Demonstrating just how fluid the Mustang’s identity was during its gestation, Ford produced two-seat coupe and convertible concepts prompted by the need to fill the sporting niche previously occupied by the Thunderbird, which had gained considerable girth and length since its debut in the mid-‘50s. Over its half-century run, the production Mustang has only been sold as a four-seat vehicle.

  • 1962 Mustang I mid-engine coupe concept

    Though never produced, this design study leapfrogs what would become the first-generation Mustang to claim a place beside the 1966 GT40, the most dominant endurance racecar of its era. From its mid-engine layout to its tucked hind quarters to the slope of its roofline, the study already bore the aesthetic cues of a future Le Mans legend.

  • 1963 Allegro Concept

    It may be difficult to discern at first blush, but the production Mustang owes much to the attractive, if somewhat dowdy, Allegro two-door concept. Essentially a forward-looking take on Ford’s tremendously popular Falcon two-door sedan, the Allegro’s long hood and short rear deck nonetheless struck a chord with Ford (especially with Ford chief Iacocca), unmistakably inspiring the notchback profile of the car that would become the 1964½ Mustang.

  • 1964 two-seater

    The car that would become the first production Mustang is written all over this clay model from 1964, the year in which the Mustang would go on sale. Long nose, a side-scoop crease initiated just aft of the headlight, tapered rear – all cues that would grace their share of ponies over the next half-century.

  • 1965 Mustang four-door concept

    In arguably the first of what would grow to include many styling miscues made in the Mustang’s name, Ford tinkered with the first-gen car’s wheelbase to produce a four-door concept. The extra doors all but sap the magical three-box proportions of the original, producing something as unremarkable as many other four-doors of its day (we’re looking at you, Plymouth Valiant).

  • 1966 Mustang station-wagon concept

    Ford had an unalloyed hit on its hands with the Mustang. Naturally, executives sought to capitalise on the nameplate’s popularity by stretching into new segments. This wagon concept, unlike the four-door sedan of the previous year, pushed the Mustang in a progressive direction by aligning it with so-called shooting brakes leaving design studios in Britain and Sweden. The square-back ‘Stang never reached production, though.

  • 1967 Allegro II Concept

    The automotive equivalent of reworking your older brother’s book report and calling it your own, the Allegro II was not merely a continuation of the style statement made by the Allegro concept of 1962, it was the same car – literally. Ford dusted off the original concept (a handsome coupe credited with establishing the Mustang’s long-hood/short-deck proportions), removed the roof, added speedster-style wraparound glass with “flying buttress” supports. Voila! Instant show car.

  • 1967 Mach I Concept

    With models like the Mach I and Boss 302, the Mustang would shed its squeaky-fun image and emerge as a boulevard-blasting monster. That transition was foreshadowed by two Mach I concepts, one shown in 1967 and another in 1968. Gaping intakes toward the rear wheel arches would make the jump to production, as would the massive mag-style wheels, but the prominent fuel filler cap would not.

  • 1968 Mach I Concept

    With models like the Mach I and Boss 302, the Mustang would shed its squeaky-fun image and emerge as a boulevard-blasting monster. That transition was foreshadowed by two Mach I concepts, one shown in 1967 and another in 1968. Gaping intakes toward the rear wheel arches would make the jump to production, as would the massive mag-style wheels, but the prominent fuel filler cap would not.

  • 1967 Mustang Mach II Concept

    The unspeakably pretty Mach II show car was fully roadworthy, which makes its failure to reach production all the more agonising. Essentially a Ford GT40 for the masses, the Mach 2 packed a mid-mounted 289cu-in V8 engine from the Mustang GT. Ford made no mention of the little beast’s handling, but considering that it utilised a shortened version of the standard Mustang chassis – which is to say, the Ford Falcon chassis – the term “hair-raising” comes to mind. No matter: when a car looks as lovely as this, a little misbehaviour can be forgiven.

  • 1970 Mustang Milano Concept

    Unveiled in February 1970 with a coat of iridescent violet paint and an eye-popping purple interior, the long, low and wide Mustang Milano concept – a two-seater – presaged the grander style of the 1971 Mustang (and with its hatchback body style, it also foretold the Mustang II of 1973). Despite its Mustang forename, it was the Australian-market Ford XB Falcon coupe, which arrived later that decade, that benefited most from the Milano’s artful shape.

  • 1970 Mustang Milano Concept

    Unveiled in February 1970 with a coat of iridescent violet paint and an eye-popping purple interior, the long, low and wide Mustang Milano concept – a two-seater – presaged the grander style of the 1971 Mustang (and with its hatchback body style, it also foretold the Mustang II of 1973). Despite its Mustang forename, it was the Australian-market Ford XB Falcon coupe, which arrived later that decade, that benefited most from the Milano’s artful shape.

  • 1980 Mustang RSX Concept by Ghia

    Considering the number of two-seat Mustang concept cars, it is surprising that Ford has never put one into production. Styled by the Italian design house (and frequent Ford partner) Ghia, the RSX – that’s Rallye Sport Experimental – is certainly one of the most compelling two-place Mustang show cars. The RSX rode on a truncated version of the Mustang’s Fox platform with the wheelbase shortened by 5.6in. Power came from a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine, matched to a four-speed manual gearbox with an Alfa Romeo-style dash-mounted shifter.

  • 1990 “Bruce Jenner” design study

    One of a trio of full-size studies in a series called SN95, which explored design options for the 1994 Mustang, the internally named “Bruce Jenner” car – although applauded for its lean athleticism – was nonetheless deemed too tame to wear Ford’s galloping pony. The car’s softer style had already been applied with success to the front-wheel-drive Probe coupe, introduced in 1988.

  • 1990 “Rambo” Concept

    Another SN95 fiberglass mockup, the “Rambo” car sat at the opposite end of the stylistic spectrum from the trim “Bruce Jenner”. With saucer-size fog lamps, angry-looking hood slats and gaping scoops on its flanks, this Stallone ‘Stang was considered far too extreme for production. For the record, the winning design, and the car that with very little revision would become the 1994 Mustang, was called the “Arnold Schwarzenegger”.

  • 1992 Mach III Concept

    A flight of fancy designed merely to excite the faithful in advance of the debut of the production 1994 Mustang, the google-eyed Mach III featured two seats and a rounded, cut-down windscreen, along with a host of fancifully rendered retro touches, including side scoops and three-element taillamps. The car’s most serious aspect lurked behind its galloping pony emblem: a 450hp supercharged V8 engine matched to a six-speed manual transmission.

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