The for­got­ten Mus­tang

Be­fore the Mus­tang we know and love, an­other sport­ing Ford with the same name al­most reached pro­duc­tion, writes DAVE MOORE.

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Most Ford fans re­alise that the Mus­tang as they know it was launched in mid1964, but few know that in 1962 an­other car had al­ready taken the fa­mous pony badge and name. It was a car of vastly dif­fer­ing for­mat, with a mid-rear en­gine and body that could have come from a sci­ence fic­tion movie. It could have been one of the most ad­vanced Fords of any era, if only it had gone into pro­duc­tion. But the Mus­tang 1 was a de­sign ex­er­cise which at one time, be­cause of com­pe­ti­tion from Gen­eral Mo­tors, could well have reached Ford show­rooms. Just two ex­am­ples of the alu­minium-bod­ied cars were made, and those for­tu­nate enough to drive it said it was quite a per­former, de­spite hav­ing an en­gine mea­sur­ing a third of the ca­pac­ity and pos­sess­ing half the cylin­ders of a full-sized Mus­tang when that even­tu­ally ar­rived two years later. The car was the brain­child of a com­mit­tee of back­room boys known as the Fair­lane Group, led by Lee Ia­cocca. The group was set up as a think tank de­signed to worked on Ford’s new prod­uct re­quire­ments and, in the north­ern sum­mer of 1962, Ia­cocca’s team found it­self work­ing on a new sports coupe project for the blue oval, to com­pete with the Monza Coupe ver­sion of Chevro­let’s rear- en­gined Cor­vair six which at the time was show­ing de­cent sales. This was years be­fore safety cam­paigner Ralph Nader’s book Un­safe at any Speed, started the doubts about the heav­ily rear­ward-bi­ased Cor­vair’s skit­tish chas­sis that fi­nally killed the model. For all its rad­i­cal mid-en­gined alu­minium-bod­ied orig­i­nal­ity, the Mus­tang 1, as it would be called, was not a com­pli­cated car, as it used many bits and pieces from the greater Ford em­pire’s world­wide parts bin. Roy Lunn was put in charge of cre­at­ing the con­cept, bring­ing mod­ern en­gi­neer­ing race car de­sign ex­pe­ri­ence – he won the RAC Rally in 1952 – to the project. An English-born en­gi­neer who had ex­pe­ri­ence with AC Cars, As­ton Martin and Jowett, Lunn had been with Ford of Bri­tain since the early 50s, be­fore be­ing put in charge of the Ford Ad­vanced Ve­hi­cles cen­tre in Detroit in 1958. Later in the mid-six­ties he would be in­volved in Ford’s work to cre­ate the GT40 Le Mans car from the Lola GT, but for the Mus­tang 1, it was his ex­pe­ri­ence cre­at­ing Ford’s first-ever front-drive car, the Ger­man Taunus 15-M, that would prove most use­ful. That is be­cause Ford’s new car would use the V-4 en­gine and four-speed gear­box from the Taunus (known as the ’’Car­di­nal’’ in Ford com­pany speak), by mount­ing the mo­tor and trans­mis­sion ahead of the rear axle in clas­sic mid-en­gined style. The V-4 was es­pe­cially suited to such place­ment be­cause it would be shorter and more com­pact than an in-line four. The Mus­tang 1’s de­sign chief John Na­j­jar favoured the mid-en­gined lay­out, be­cause it would cre­ate a clean, un­clut­tered nose treat­ment, and the lit­tle V-4 power unit could be cooled by ra­di­a­tors on each side of the car. Vice Pres­i­dent of Ford De­sign Gene Bor­di­nat had the idea of a con­test com­pe­ti­tion among his de­sign­ers and af­ter two weeks of non-stop sculpt­ing clay de­signs, a car cre­ated by Joe Oros was se­lected as the win­ner and made into a pro­to­type. Oros’s de­sign used a strik­ingly mod­ern built-in roll bar and a rac­ing wind­screen that would later be seen as the stan­dard style on CanAm­cars. Na­j­jar and de­signer and stylist Phil Clark have over the years been given equal re­spon­si­bil­ity for the use of the Mus­tang name, not be­cause they liked the horse from whence the name was taken, but be­cause, as aero­plane buffs, they had been im­pressed with the sim­plic­ity, el­e­gance and light­weight en­gi­neer­ing used for the P51 which bore the same name. While the Mus­tang horse was de­picted on the con­cept cars, its shape was dif­fer­ent to that used by the even­tual Mus­tang pro­duc­tion car, a lit­tle more up­right, and not in full flight as on the mid-60s pony cars’ badges. Race car fab­ri­ca­tors Trout­manBarnes built the Mus­tang pro­to­types from the orig­i­nal Ford clays and styling bucks. Work­ing closely with the orig­i­nal de­sign­ers and Lunn’s engi­neers, Trout­man-Barnes cre­ated the two pro­to­types in just three months in time for test­ing at Ford’s head­quar­ters at Dearborn, Michi­gan. The Mus­tang 1 one-piece alu­minium skin was riv­eted to a space frame, which cre­ated an al­most tube-like de­sign, which was fur­ther stiff­ened by mak­ing the seat bases and backs a part of the body. This also saved weight and to make up for lack of seat ad­just­ment the driver could ad­just the steer­ing col­umn and clutch, brake and throt­tle ped­als. One of the ad­van­tages of the Car­di­nal’s power train was that the en­gine had two out­put op­tions – the stan­dard V-4 en­gine put out 66 kW, and a mildly warmed-over ver­sion man­aged 81 kWand could be used – should the need arise – for rac­ing. The Mus­tang 1 made a dra­matic pub­lic de­but, at the hands of Amer­i­can Grand Prix driver and fu­ture race car builder Dan Gur­ney at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, in New York state on Oc­to­ber 7, 1962. Us­ing the more pow­er­ful en­gine, it is known that the For­mula One ace clocked some im­pres­sive lap times, and Ford made it known that ev­ery car on the grid of the race proper used ex­actly the same de­sign for­mat as their new pro­to­type. Both pro­to­types then toured au­to­mo­bile shows around the US and even came to Europe. Ford also started a habit with the Mus­tang 1 that it would con­tinue for many years by tak­ing the cars to en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign col­leges where they would not only act as a mar­ket­ing tool, but as a way of at­tract­ing tal­ent to the com­pany. Ford of Bri­tain did the same thing and this writer can even re­mem­ber sit­ting in the world’s first GT70 rally car at univer­sity months be­fore a mo­tor show ever saw one. Sadly for the au­da­cious Mus­tang 1, it was soon plain to see that such a rad­i­cal de­sign might be well re­garded among purists, but a mo­mand pop or Chuck and Jane car it wasn’t. What was needed was a mass ap­peal car, a lit­tle sporty and able to be fash­ioned from ex­ist­ing en­gines and plat­forms. So Ford or­dered a com­pletely new con­cept car to be called the Mus­tang 2 based on the then­cur­rent Fal­con, which would even­tu­ally end up as the Mus­tang that we know and love to­day. It ap­peared for the first time in 1963, went into pro­duc­tion in early 1964, reach­ing show­rooms in April that year. The rest, as they say, is his­tory. The Mus­tang 1 pro­to­types were al­most for­got­ten, and af­ter years spent in stor­age, with oc­ca­sional for­ays to car mu­se­ums and on loan to col­lec­tions one was re­stored and do­nated to The Henry Ford Mu­seum in 1982.

Ap­pre­ci­a­tion goes to The Henry Ford Mu­seum for in­for­ma­tion and pic­tures.

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