Joe Oros: Chief Designer of the 1965 Ford Mustang

As chief of the Ford Studio, Joe Oros oversaw the design of the early Mustang. See more pictures of the Ford Mustang.

You can thank motivational management techiques for the original Mustang design, abetted by a shrewd chief designer, Joe Oros. Oros first worked for GM in the 1930s and early 1940s, then joined the independent George Walker group that shaped the vital all-new 1949 Ford and the cars and trucks that built on its timely success. When Walker became Ford's in-house design vice president in 1955, he made Oros an assistant, then named him to head the Ford Studio in 1956.

Though Oros would supervise the design of almost every U.S. Ford-brand vehicle over the next dozen years, the Mustang was undoubtedly his biggest success as studio chief. Ironic, then, that his team's winning design was something of a rush job, just like that '49 Ford. Here, in his own words, is how Oros remembers the birth of the 1965 Ford Mustang prototype.

Lee Iacocca wanted a car that was more of a personalized, sporty four-seater rather than a tight, European 2+2 package. Gene Bordinat requested proposals for it from our Ford studio, Lincoln-Mercury [and Corporate Advanced].

Ford Mustang Image Gallery

The request came through on a Monday, and I had gone off to a one-week seminar: training sessions on problem analysis and problem-solving methods. Dave Ash was my executive. On Tuesday I called him to find out how things are going, and he told me about the new assignment. Ash had already made some sketches, and my understanding was that the studio was rapidly putting together a clay model for me to see the following Monday. I could hardly wait. I had difficulty concentrating on the seminar.

The following Monday, I went to the Design building very early and hot-trotted down to the Ford studio. And there was this car with a low mouth-type front end, a bumper integral with the grille opening, and a greenhouse with a reverse backlight like those on recent Lincolns, Mercurys, and the British Ford Anglia.

I thought, "We can't use a reverse backlight if this car is supposed to be new. And the front end is going to be expensive and add weight." The bodysides were not new and exciting either. So I didn't think we would win all the marbles against the other studios. Then the designers started trickling in, and I asked Gale Halderman and John Foster, two managers working under Ash, "What happened here?" They said, "It's what Dave wanted to start with." Then Dave walks in and I said, "Please cover this model."

Learn on the next page how the Oros team went about designing the successful 1965 Ford Mustang prototype.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.