REVISED AND EXPANDED — This informative little film stars one of the Henry Ford Museum’s proudest possessions: the original 1962 Ford Mustang I prototype.
If you came of age in the 1960s, this car is a key part of your automotive mindscape. When the Mustang I was introduced to the public in October of 1962, with American hero Dan Gurney performing demonstration laps at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, the little prototype seized the consciousness of the entire car world.
Conceived and designed by a small task group within Ford that included Roy Lunn, John Najjar, and Phil Clark, the Mustang I was actually constructed by the Culver City, California race car shop of Troutman and Barnes. Code-named Allegro, the high-speed, low-drag program produced a running prototype in only 100 days.
To be perfectly accurate about it, the Mustang I concept bears almost no resemblance to the eventual production Ford Mustang that was unveiled at the New York World’s Fair in the spring of 1964. The body is hand-formed aluminum and the 1.5-liter Ford Cardinal V4 drivetrain is installed amidships behind the driver. (The compact powertrain originated with a European-style small car program that was killed in the USA.) There’s only one identifiable design feature on the prototype that made it to production: the side air scoops, which on the production car are merely simulated styling elements.
That’s not really important. What the Mustang I prototype contributed to the production Mustang are first, the name; second, the signature chrome horse sculpture designed by Phil Clark; and finally, a fresh way of thinking about car design that was wide open with possibilities. The Mustang I launched both the Mustang production car and Ford’s Total Performance program that dominated auto racing in the ’60s and altered the company’s self-image forever. Today the restored Mustang I resides in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. Video follows.