Ford is no doubt one of history’s most influential automotive manufacturers. Spanning all of 116 years thus far, they have produced several highly significant models, but surely their most iconic must be the Mustang.
The Mustang first created the whole Pony Car segment and evolved from there to eventually become the archetypical American Muscle Car. Ever since its debut in 1964, it has often dictated the way forward with both trends and design within the American automotive industry.
When the Mustang was launched in 1964 it was initially only as a Hardtop and a Convertible, but already in 1965 they added a third bodystyle with the Fastback. With its raked roofline the Mustang suddenly looked truly sporty, and as the V8 engines grew in size, more and more people began referring to it as a Muscle Car. However, among the more hardcore Muscle Car enthusiasts there is still some debate to this day whether the Mustang should carry that title or not.
But for every model year, the Mustang was available with at least one V8 option – except for 1974, where the poor Mustang was stripped of every little ounce of dignity it had built up since its initial launch ten years earlier.
As with practically every other American car, the Mustang received at least a few slight changes for every new model year. The first major revision happened for the 1967 model, where the Mustang grew a little and was tweaked to look slightly more masculine. In 1969 they were at it again, giving the Mustang it’s second big make-over where it grew once again and gained new front and rear end designs which were again even more aggressive. But by the time we got to the ’71 to ’73 model, the Mustang had changed in a big way. It was now big, heavy and with an entirely different design language. Focus had moved from the sporty to the more luxurious.
Ford always kept experimenting with the design of their Mustang, and up through the years this led to several interesting ideas which never saw the light of day…
1961 FORD AVVENTURA CONCEPT
One of the very first concept cars which would eventually lead to the birth of Ford’s first Pony car was the Avventura from 1961. The prototype was based on the period Ford Falcon. It was given three different names through the design phase, but one was Avventura. What made this design really interesting, was that the rear seat was turned 180 degrees leaving the rear seat passengers facing backwards.
1961-1962 TWO-SEATER STUDIES
The two-seater Mustang was given the thumbs down in favour of the more practical four-seater. Ford first played around with the two-seater idea during the development stages of the early sixties, and it resurfaced several times later in life. If this concept had become reality, the Mustangs we came to know would have most likely been significantly smaller.
1962 FORD AVANTI CONCEPT
Ford Avanti was the further development of the Avventura design and received a few changes here and there. Most notably, the rear seat was now facing the conventional direction.
1962 FORD ALLEGRO DESIGN STUDY
Probably the most influential of those early pre-production designs was the Allegro concept penned by Gene Bordinat in 1962. The Allegro more than any, established the fundamental concept of the Mustangs to come with its long bonnet and – at least for an American car – a relatively short wheelbase.
1963 MID-ENGINE FORD COUPÉ TWO-SEAT CONCEPT
The two-seater coupé concept from 1963 came to have a mid-mounted engine and a hardtop design. It later became the inspiration for the legendary long-distance racer, the Ford GT40.
1964 FORD TWO-SEATER STUDY
In the year where the first Mustang was launched, one of the design concepts was still a pure two-seater giving the car a much shorter overall length.
1965 FOUR-DOOR FORD MUSTANG
This Ford Mustang concept from 1965 had all of four doors – how very un-Mustang-like. The design was of course just an extension of the recently introduced ’64 Mustang Hardtop, utilising the Falcon platform. The result was of course a very different kind of Mustang, and it apparently never got close to production.
1966 FORD MUSTANG STATION WAGON
By 1966, Ford was working on yet another quite different Mustang concept: an estate. It was based on that years Hardtop Mustang, retained just the two doors, but of course received a much revised roofline. It was noted by Ford themselves, that it had a more European flavour and looked nothing like the typical American estate of the time.
1966 FORD MACH 1 CONCEPT
The Ford Mach 1 concept came well beyond the famous production Mustang Mach 1. The first designs were from 1966 – three years prior to the public launch of the Mustang Mach 1. As illustrated above, it clearly looks quite different from both the 1966 Mustang and equally from the Mach 1 launched in 1969.
1966 FORD MACH 1 CONCEPT (2)
The first Mach 1 concept was tweaked a bit further, gaining a look which was less show car and more production ready. The roofline was extremely flat and design as a whole remained just a concept, but elements of the design clearly made their impact on the 1969 revisions for the Mustang.
1967 FORD ALLEGRO II CONCEPT
1967 saw the second concept to be named Allegro. The design team went perhaps just a little over the top with this one, giving it a low speedster windscreen and several other rather bizarre design solutions. Must Mustang fans are probably happy this one remained just a concept.
1967 FORD MUSTANG MACH 2 CONCEPT
Ford revisited the dream of a Mustang with a mid-mounted engine for the Mach 2 concept. A 289 cu in V8 was installed longitudinally behind the driver and the design was defined both by its pointy nose and proud Kamm tail. This concept made it as far as the Chicago Auto Show, but sadly never saw production.
1970 FORD MUSTANG MILANO CONCEPT
The Milano concept is perhaps my personal favourite of them all. It too was displayed at the Chicago Auto Show hinting at the following years production Mustang. However, the only thing truly carried over was the almost horizontal rake of the rear window and roofline. I guess the rear design was just too extreme to become a reality, but just imagine if they had dared stick with it…
1980 FORD MUSTANG RSX CONCEPT
The Ford Mustang RSX concept from 1980 was designed by GHIA in Italy. RSX was short for Rally Sport Experimental as it was inspired by period rally cars. The wheelbase had been shortened by almost 6 inches, the rear seats were gone, and power came from a turbo-charged 2.3-litre four-cylinder.