Car Restoration Projects
Ford was just horsein’ around makin’ automotive history
Many worshipers of the iconic automotive brand’s blue oval consider Lee Iacocca to be the father of the much celebrated and beloved Ford Mustang. Now in its 58th year the Mustang has certainly weathered the ravages of time.
Lee Iacocca – Ford Archive
Iacocca was certainly the marketing force and visionary behind the launch, during the northern spring of 1964. However, most Ford enthusiasts worth their salt know at least a couple others who were instrumental in Mustang’s very origins, apart from Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich.
Real insiders know that the magic of the car goes even deeper than just Ford executives and product planners. Of course there are the late Carroll Shelby, Don Frey, Joe Oros, ‘Bunkie’ Knudsen, and Bob Tasca Sr, to name just a few. But for the purists, it’s the designers and engineers who generated all the great Mustang stories.
One such luminary from those early years is the man who designed the original Mustang. Gale Halderman, who passed away in 2020 aged 87, was recruited to Dearborn in 1954, as a young auto designer, where he had helped shape the full-size 1957 Ford.
Gale Halderman and his Mustang sketch – Ford Archive
Before moving to the Corporate Advanced Studio, he worked on ideas for a new low-cost sporty car dreamed up by Sperlich and favoured by Ford Division boss Iacocca. As fate would have it, Halderman was transferred to the Ford Studio just in time to help Oros’ team create the design chosen for the production Mustang, over proposals from Corporate Advanced and the Lincoln-Mercury Studio.
It was Halderman’s sketch that formed the basis for the Mustang’s overall design and he was later given the role of skilfully guiding the Mustang, from clay-model dream to a realistic production-ready car. The rest, as they say, is history.
Halderman later received the Industrial Design Society’s Design Award for his work on the 1965 Mustang and he served as styling chief for the Mustang for eight more years.
Mustang clay modelling – Ford Archive
Lee Iacocca, who died at the age of 94, in 2019, said in his autobiography:
‘On 9th March1964 the first Mustang rolled off the assembly line in Detroit.
‘We arranged for a minimum of 8160 cars before introduction day 17th April, so every Ford dealer in the country would have at the least one Mustang in his showroom, when the car was officially launched.
‘We promoted the Mustang to the hilt.
‘Four days before the launch, 100 members of the press were invited to participate in a giant 70-car Mustang rally from New York to Detroit.
‘The cars demonstrated their reliability by breezing through the 700-mile trip without any problems.’
The news spread with lyrical enthusiasm, together with photographs, appearing prominently in newspapers and magazines throughout North America.
The Mustang was the hottest-selling, new-car model in Detroit history, ringing up $1.1 billion in net profits over two years. Its success landed Lee Iacocca and the Mustang on the covers of both Time and Newsweek in the same week in April, 1964. The talkative Lee Iacocca became a favourite of reporters, who delighted in his openness that is rare in the car industry.
On 17th April, 1964, Ford dealerships everywhere were mobbed by potential customers. In Chicago, a dealer had to lock his showroom doors, as the crowd outside was so large. A Detroit dealer said so many people arrived in sports cars that his parking lot looked like a foreign-car rally.
In Garland, Texas, a Ford dealer had 15 potential customers bidding on the single Mustang in his display window. He sold it to the highest bidder, who insisted on sleeping in the car that night so nobody else could buy it, waiting for his cheque to be cleared by the bank next day.
The Mustang was officially launched at the New York Trade Fair on 21st April, 1964, at a RRP that started at US$2368.
The Mustang was destined to be an incredible hit. During the first week it was on sale, an unprecedented four million people visited Ford dealerships. Iacocca said the car’s public reception exceeded Ford’s wildest hopes:
‘The Mustang being featured simultaneously on the covers of both Time and Newsweek was an outstanding publicity coup for a new commercial project.
‘Both magazines sensed we had a winner and their added publicity during the very week of Mustang’s introduction helped make their prediction a self-fulfilling prophecy.
‘I’m convinced that Time and Newsweek alone led to the sale of an extra 100,000 cars.
‘The twin cover stories had the effect of two gigantic commercials – one telling its readers my name “rhymes with try-a-Coke-ah”.’
‘Iacocca has produced more than just another car. With a long hood and short rear deck, its Ferrari flair and open-mouthed air scoop, the Mustang resembles the European racing cars that American sports-buffs find appealing.
‘Yet Iacocca has made the Mustang’s design so flexible, its price so reasonable, and its options so numerous that its potential appeal reaches toward two-thirds of all US car buyers.
‘Priced as low as $2368 and able to accommodate a small family in its four seats, the Mustang is destined to be a sort of Model A of sports cars – for the masses as well as the buffs.’
‘I couldn’t have said it better myself,’ said Iacocca.
A beautiful early model
South Coast NSW residents Alan and Jane are the owners of this feature car and yes, you guessed correctly, it’s an early model Mustang.
This car is one of the original and uniquely Ford Dearborn Detroit factory assembled, mid-60s cars. It is a very rare survivor these days and is sought-after by Mustang aficionados, who colloquially call it a ’64-1/2’.
It has the distinctive black-painted engine block with gold rocker covers and air cleaner, signifying a four-barrel-carburettor, performance engine.
It also includes rally-pack instrumentation, original generator and gen-dash indicator light, as well as a manual four-speed transmission.
This car is the real deal.
Alan found and purchased the Mustang at the 2021 National Motoring Heritage Day at the NSW Berry Showground. It had a For Sale sign attached and, after some inspection and negotiation, a deal was struck.
The owner was an ex-Qantas flight steward, who had purchased it when on leave in the USA. He was an Indian motorcycle collector and came across the Mustang when checking out some motorcycles. He thought, because of its condition and the potential market for these models in Australia, it would be a good investment. How right was he?
Since purchasing the car, Alan has had to attend to a few relatively small jobs.
Brett at Warners Automotive, who is both a qualified motor mechanic and auto electrician, has assisted with some of the more technical issues along the way: like wiring the NSW legal-amber-blinker kit and fitting a new, later-model fuse box. He also fitted an electronic pointless distributor.
Alan has sourced spare parts from Sydney Mustang Parts, in Carlton NSW. He said: “They have given me first-class service, with orders arriving, in most cases, the following day.”