Gale Halderman: Creating the 1965 Ford Mustang Prototype

Creating the 1965 Ford Mustang Prototype

This fiberglass model of the Mustang fastback coupe is very close to the showroom version released in Autumn 1964.

Ford designer Gale Halderman had produced a sketch that won favor as the prototype for the 1965 Ford Mustang. Here, in Halderman's own words, is how that sketch became reality.

After the Mustang clay was approved, Joe asked me to manage the feasibility process. We had to modify the hood and headlamp area, and the front bumpers a little to accommodate the parking lamps. We lifted them up a little bit, but we didn't change the theme. We had to reproportion it slightly for manufacturing.

The fastback was Joe Oros' idea and designed in Charlie Phaneuf's studio. There was a lot of discussion about whether the roofline should come back all the way, or if it should leave a little bustleback, which is what Joe strongly wanted. But we all felt that for Mustang to be seen as a really sporty car, it had to have a fastback model. We did it in secret. No one, including Sperlich or Iacocca, saw it until it was finished. We cast it in fiberglass, painted it bright red, and then showed it to Iacocca. He said, "We've got to do it!"

No one knew the Mustang was going to be as popular as it was, but it created a huge stir in the company. Everybody just loved it, even the engineers, though we must have bent 75 in-house engineering and manufacturing rules. The Mustang had the first floating bumpers. The whole front end was a die-casting with a floating hood.

There were so many things the engineers said we shouldn't be doing, but they didn't want to change them either. There was so much enthusiasm right from the beginning. Even the drivers at the test track loved it. We would go there for meetings, and the crowds of people around it were huge. That was totally unusual, so we suspected the Mustang was going to be a hit.

Lee Iacocca pushed the Mustang through and is entitled to the credit for it. Mr. Ford knew that Iacocca had assigned Hal Sperlich to determine where the holes were in our car lines, markets where we didn't have cars. He came back and said we don't have an entry-level car for young people, something exciting for them to drive to work, and for newly married couples, and so forth. At first, Henry Ford II didn't want it because it was a brand-new vehicle, and we just had a failure called the Edsel. But Lee loved it.

For even more on the Ford Mustang of yesterday and today, check out the following articles.

  • 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.
  • It was the right car at the right time, but the Mustang had to await the early 1960s, when a savvy Ford exec realized the Mustang's potential. Learn how Lee Iacocca brought his "better idea" to life in 1965 Ford Mustang Prototypes.
  • The Ford Mustang is central to America's muscle car mania. Learn about some of the quickest Mustangs ever, along with profiles, photos, and specifications of more than 100 muscle cars.
  • Ford muscle cars were among the top performers of the muscle car era. Check out profiles, photos, and specifications of some tough Ford muscle cars.