The 1974 Ford Mustang: Notchback by Default
How the notchback version of the 1974 Ford Mustang came into being is in fact an interesting lesson in corporate decision-making, and in the challenges facing those who have to execute those decisions.
The notchback concept shown at a November 1971 executive review of design concepts, submitted by Advanced Design chief Don DeLaRossa's troops, had been nicknamed "Anaheim" after it bombed at a September consumer clinic in Disneyland's hometown.
But Iacocca, suspecting researchers had missed something, decided to give it one last chance at a San Francisco session in February 1972. Reaction was positive, so it was decided to do a "trunked" version of the approved fastback -- this with barely 16 months left before production was scheduled to start. "It seems we go through that with every Mustang program," said Jack Telnack, who later replaced Eugene Bordinat as company design chief. "We always start with the fastback.... Then we find out the surveys still say fifty-fifty [preference] and we have to add the notchback."
DeLaRossa long maintained the Anaheim should have been chosen as the theme model. As he later told author Gary Witzenburg: "[If] we wanted to design a modern second generation of Mustangs, why not recapture some of the flavor of the famous original model of 1965? That was a notchback. The fastback Mustangs were offshoots that came in later." He could have added that the notchback had always outsold the fastback, something that may have occurred to Iacocca too.
In any case, Iacocca certainly knew the sales necessity of having two body types, and he'd liked the Anaheim from the first, though maybe not as much as the Mueller fastback. Interestingly, Ford also investigated a cut-down two-seat fastback in February '72, but it was never seriously in the running.
DeLaRossa recalled that, "When we started the Mustang II, I said to Lee Iacocca that we should not forget the original Mustang was a notchback -- that was followed with a fastback -- so let's not do a fastback first. Let's do the notchback first. My recollection is that that made sense to him. So I got to work on a notchback right away at Ghia, and a version of it in Dearborn.
"When Lee saw the Anaheim," DeLaRossa continued, "he said to me, 'It's terrific, but it doesn't have enough 'Mustang' in it. It's almost like it's too modern, too much of a departure.' And much to my chagrin, there was a young designer, Fritz Mayhew, who embarks on doing a fastback.
"It was very attractive. And damned if Lee didn't buy it. A 180 degrees from what we had talked about. So then all hell broke loose trying to make a notchback out of that car. There was no way, and that accounts for the strange look of the Mustang II notchback. It never looked right. The C-pillar looked like a tree trunk growing out of the quarter panel.
"The Mustang II was a mild success and just hung around," DeLaRossa concluded. "I had trouble adjusting to that. I think the car I did would have been gangbusters, but that's life in the creative business."
When it hit showrooms, the 1974 Mustang was noticeably smaller than its predecessor. Get the numbers on the next page.
For even more on the Ford Mustang, check out the following links.
- Saddle up for the complete story of America's best-loved sporty car. How the Ford Mustang Works chronicles the legend from its inception in the early 1960s to today's all-new Mustang.
- A bigger, brawnier Mustang galloped in for 1971, just as buyers were moving away from the pony car market. In 1971-1972-1973 Ford Mustang, learn how the car still offered high style.
- Mustang began a second revolution with the handsome, sophisticated "New Breed". 1979-1980-1981 Ford Mustang tells how hit scored big in the showroom, and in fans' hearts.
- For a full report on the 2007 Ford Mustang, check out Consumer Guide New Car Reviews. Here you'll find road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for hundreds of cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.