The challenge set before the design team seemed impossible. The goal, was to create a motor vehicle that would set Ford apart from its rivals as the leader in the emerging sportscar class. It had to look a little European– but not too much. It had to be equally appealing to men and women. It needed to seat four people, weigh less than 2,500 pounds, and be less than 180 inches long. Oh, and it had to sell for less than $2,500. The time to complete the project: 18 months.
Those were the requirements laid down to Joe Oros, Lee Iacocca, David L. Ash, John Najjar, and the other men who created the Mustang. They met each of those strictures, and in the process gave birth to what’s perhaps the most iconic vehicle in history.
An American Answer to Europe’s Sports Cars
Millions of GIs spent years slogging across the fields and forests of the Old World during the Second World War. Among the sights most remembered by them when they returned home were speedy little roadsters with names like Ferrari and Jaguar. Tiny by American standards, they defined that ephemeral quality that would later be known as “cool.”
Tales of these amazing vehicles reached the suits at Ford, which led to a two-seater concept vehicle, the Ford Mustang I, which debuted in 1962. Originally intended as a strictly one-off project, Lee Iacocca pushed for its development as a mass-produced model. He won approval, but only under a set of guidelines so strict that they almost doomed the project to failure from its beginning.
Iacocca and company loaded the Mustang with adjustable bucket seats for both driver and front passenger, a floor-mounted shifter, and the one thing no teenager of the era could be without: an AM radio. The base engine was the 170 cubic inch “Thriftpower” inline 6-cylinder; a decidedly modest power plant that only turned out 105 horses at 4,400 RPM. But that was okay. Their job wasn’t to make the car fast– just cool. Did they succeed? Let the photos answer that question.