On April 17th, 1964 the Ford Motor Company introduced what would eventually become one of their most emblematic products, as well as a car that would serve to define an entire genre of automobiles. That’s pretty impressive, however, it could have gone far differently. The Mustang name, despite its equine badging, was a nod to the North American P51, the fighter plane that is generally considered to WWII’s most bad-ass. The production car had little in common with the plane, but it perhaps had even less in common with the wild sports car to which Ford first applied the moniker.
In 1962, fully two years before the Falcon-in-a-party-dress Mustang debuted, Ford released a show car that carried the same name and badge, and it was a doozie. The Mustang I came out of the Fairlane Group, a team that included Lee Iacocca. They were looking for a halo sports – or sporty – car to recapture the glories of the way-cool, but poorly selling two-seat Thunderbird. One take was the Mustang I which arrived with radical features like Lotus F1 style wobble wheels, aluminum bodywork, and perhaps, most radical of all, a mid-mounted V4 engine, pulled from the German Taunus.
The Mustang 1 was a fully-drivable prototype, and was built by the legendary Southern California shop of Troutman-Barnes. It was however, never seriously considered as a production model, the 4-seat, Falcon-based car having already been approved. What do you suppose would have happened if instead, the Mustang I had actually taken its place? Of course it would have needed a raised windshield, and some pretense of a roof and door glass, but other than that, it was pretty much ready to go. Do you think Ford would have been successful as America’s only purveyor of a mid-engine car? Would Ferrari have taken the company’s purchase offer more seriously if they had? What do you think, should Ford have built the mid-engine Mustang?