On the face of it, you could form a mightily compelling argument to say that the Ford Mustang is the most iconic American Muscle car in history. But what many don't realise however is how the icon first began its life as a concept – and more specifically, just how different that concept was to anything we'd called a Mustang. And yes, that statement includes a horse!
If the car you see before you drove on by, then unless you were a particularly ardent type of anorak – which considering you'd have to be out of the house to see one, you wouldn't be – then you wouldn't be at all aware that it is indeed a Mustang. There's absolutely nothing to distinguish it as a 'Stang. And that statement stretches to when you look under the "hood".
The first thing you'd do upon lifting the bonnet up is wonder where on Earth the engine is. And that's because this – the very first Mustang Concept – had its engine in the middle. But even upon locating the engine in the centre of the chassis, looking at it will only make you wonder where the other half of the cylinders are. And that's because it's powered by a rather dainty 1.5L V4.
The objective laid out when this Mustang was conceived in 1962 was to create a sports car. And in some aspects of the finished vehicle, that was abundantly clear. It was designed to have independent suspension, and disc brakes at the front. But as far as power from the 1.5L engine was concerned, you weren't in for oomph that was going to tear your face off. Two versions of the 'fun-sized' engine were proposed – a "street" version, with 89bhp, and a "race" version, with 109bhp. Far from muscle car figures. But perhaps even more oddly, drive was sent via a 4-speed manual gearbox to the front wheels!
The sleek lines and low non-existent windscreen were designed by an aviation enthusiast: a fact which is said to have influenced the shape, and the Mustang name, after the P-51 Mustang fighter. The body was aluminium draped over a sub-frame, meaning that even though there was never a huge amount of power, there wasn't a huge amount of weight neither. In fact, this Mustang concept weighed just 1544lbs (700kg). Practically size-zero by today's standards.
Two prototypes were made, taking just 100 days to complete: one a rolling mock-up; the other a fully-functioning car. But in this early form, despite speculation from the media that Ford were preparing a car to rival the Corvette, the Mustang was seen as far too exotic and unconventional to put into production.
Another concept – called the Ford Mustang II – came along in 1963, which from the side at least, did appear to be more Mustang-y. But this too did not make production. Thankfully, people didn't have to wait all that long before the Mustang name landed in the production car domain, as just a year later in 1964, the very first production Mustangs were rolling off the line.
The one working Mustang I concept now resides in the Henry Ford Museum, where it was donated in 1982. There, it will sit forevermore as a reminder of where the legendary saga of the Ford Mustang first began.
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Written by: Angelo Uccello
Tribe: Speed Machines
Facebook: Speed Machines - DriveTribe
Photo Credits: Richard Owen