Mustang fans across the world celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with one slight problem…
They were 2 years late.
The first production Mustang rolled off the lines on March 9th, 1964, but 3 years prior Lee Iocacca and a committee of Ford Managers were looking for an answer to GM’s successful Corvair Monza. That answer came in the form of John Najjar Ferzely and Phil Clark’s “Allegro” project tasked with building a concept for the “Cougar”. History, of course, would remember this by the name later inspired by Clark’s cross-country drive where he encountered the living version of the car’s namesake in Nevada.
Ford’s design vice-president Eugene Bordinat was looking for a newsworthy “bell-ringer” for Fords new-model press release in the fall of 1961 when he discovered the Mustang I design. He gave engineer Roy Lunn (Aston Martin DB2, Jeep Cherokee, Boss 429 etc.) the task of taking the car from a designer’s dream to a drive-able machine in just 60 days. Roy was up to the challenge, and the press was delighted with a preview of Dearborn’s first true sports car later that year.
The public got their first glance of the Mustang I on October 7, 1962, when it made its formal debut at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York. The iconic test driver and contemporary Formula One racer, Dan Gurney, lapped the track in a demonstration. His lap times were only slightly off the pace of the F1 race cars.
After an extensive tour with a heavy focus on college campuses, it was decided that the impractical design and expensive price tag of the Mustang I was unlikely to do well with the younger demographic of emerging baby boomers. It was housed in a basement and forgotten about until 1967 when Ford executives Morris Carter and Frank Theyleg discovered its remains and sent it to the Scientific Research Garage to be restored. It became an official part of the Ford Museum collection in 1982.
Although it may not garner as much attention as its production descendants, the Mustang I was the catalyst to the car we know and love today. I hope you’ll join us in documenting its collectibles and wishing the father of all Mustangs a very happy 53rd birthday!