Hau Thai-Tang: 2005 Mustang Chief Engineer

2005 Mustang chief engineer Hau Thai-Thang's family escaped Communism when Vietnam fell in 1975. See more pictures of the Ford Mustang.

As chief engineer for the 2005 Mustang, Hau Thai-Tang was at the epicenter of the project from its beginning. He managed the technical team that designed, developed, and tested the car's every mechanical aspect. And he was responsible for reconciling its engineering with the diverse demands of styling, assembly, and cost. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Thai-Tang grew up in New York City and joined Ford as a Ford College Graduate trainee in 1988. He spent time on Ford's CART racing crew, was engineering manager for the Lincoln LS, chief engineer for the Thunderbird, and led development and launch of the 2001 Mustang GT, V-6, Cobra, and Bullitt models. He holds engineering degrees form Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Michigan. In 2006, Thai-Tang was named Director of Advanced Product Creation & SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Ford's performance vehicles division. Here, in his own words, is a remarkable journey that led from Vietnam to the heart of American high performance.

It's a great privilege for me to work on this fifth-generation Mustang. For me, as a kid growing up in Vietnam, my aspirations were to some day own a car.

I have one brother, and my parents are both college educated. My mother worked for Chase Manhattan Bank in Saigon. My father was a school teacher. At the end of the war, when we recognized that the Communists were going to win and the U.S. had pulled out all its troops, the people from Chase Manhattan Bank told us, "We're going to help emigrate some of our employees to America."

They went through a selection process and I think what helped us was both my parents were college educated, and they spoke the language -- actually they were more fluent in French because we were a French colony -- but we had a small family and I think Chase determined that we could probably assimilate over here pretty well. I was nine. We were told, "You're going to America. Listen to this radio and when you hear "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby, you'll have an hour to get to the airlift destination."

Thai-Tang's connection to the Mustang was forged as a young boy in Vietnam.

We were allowed one carry-on bag each. So we had four bags lined up by the door. One day in April 1975, we heard "White Christmas" and my parents got us into a car, sped over to my grandparents' house, said goodbye, and drove to this meeting place. They took us by bus to the airport. We got put on an American military plane. We flew to Guam. The next day Saigon fell to the Communists.

In America, Hau Thai-Tang looked back to his first encounter with a Mustang as inspiration for an automotive career. Find out on the next page where that memory led him.

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.
  • After 40 years, the newest Mustang since its inception showed that it had learned a thing or two from its heritage. Read about all the nods to the past in the 2005 Ford Mustang.
  • 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.