The sketch that launched the Mustang


Happy birthday, Mustang! The legendary Ford sport coupe made its historic public debut at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964. Fifty-five years later, rather than joining AARP (American Association of Retired Pony cars), the Mustang gallops on in its strongest form ever.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/04/16/the-sketch-that-launched-the-mustang

I’ve always thought it looked like the 1964 Mustang borrowed a lot of design queues from the 1961-1963 Pontiac Tempest, most especially the 1963 LeMans. Just look at the side view and move the “vents” from the front fender to the quarterpanel.


I had the pleasure of meeting Gail a few years ago. It was the visit of a lifetime, hearing his story seeing his collection his passion for the Mustang is as strong today as the day it came it.


Remember that Fair well. Across the highway from the then new, Shea Stadium, and had a great time. Bell Systems showed the picturephones every house would have, GE had a 4-sided circular stage where the audience rotated around it-"Carousel of Progress showing how home appliances were advancing. GM gave us a look into the future (including living on the moon) viewed of course from cars on a conveyor. Ford had a spiraling carousel of their cars and EVERYONE wanted to get into the new Mustang. Good times.


Great story. Odd that he didn’t include a rear bumper in his sketch.


The first Mustang shares an uncanny resemblance to Maserati’s 3500 Vignale Spider (1960 to 1964) in proportion and styling details. And Lee Iacocca used to attend the annual auto show in Turin where it was introduced. About twenty years ago I bought and restored one and numerous times I was able to line mine up next to an early Mustang. Nobody could deny the almost exact copy of their silhouettes and industrialized execution of many of its styling details on the first Mustang. I strongly suspect that either the mother or the father had a secret affair, or rather photos for inspiration in this story.
Could someone please ask Lee for me? Giovanni Michelloti (deceased) must have suspected something but I’ve never read, even a whisper.
Peter Pleitner;


Nice historical article. By the way, his name is Gale, not Gene or Gail.


(From author). I kept typing “Gene” for some reason. We’ll fix.


The 1965 Mustang’s silhouette is iconic today. Much like the split window Vettes and baby birds. With each passing year the 1965 Mustang coupe is gaining status as a true American classic that should be preserved for future generations.


A designer whom I worked with at American Motors named John Starr worked on the first production Mustang. I think he was involved with the wheel cover design. John was also the principle designer of the iconic xj Jeep Cherokee.


Peter, interesting observation. I see some similarity in the profile from the A-pillar rearward. There is a European lineage in the first Mustang, much of it inherited via Lincoln. The 1940 Continental was influenced by the high-end cars that Edsel Ford saw “on the continent,” and the 1956 Continental Mk. II was an attempt to recapture that spirit. The Mk. II in turn influenced the '58 T-Bird, and Iacocca thought Ford should have something like that in a more affordable range. Once the Mustang design was selected, Iacocca and others wanted a “mouthy” grille as on European sports cars – yes, like the ones he would have seen at the Turin show. Design influence of course went in both directions, as you can see in the Auto Union 1000 SP of the early 1960s. Remind you of anythnig? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_Union_1000_Sp#/media/File:Auto_Union_1000_SP_BW_2016-07-17_14-23-20.jpg


While looking at the sketch,I noticed how the roof line and C Pilar resemble that of an early Riviera. The sloping angles of the rear fender line also resemble that of the Riviera.


My favorite Mustang is a 1964-1/2 because I met my future wife in Oct 1965 at Harvey’s Drive-In when I was a passenger in a ‘64-1/2 dark blue 289 Mustang and she was a passenger in a white 6 cyl ‘64-1/2 Mustang & now we’re coming up on our 50th wedding anniversary this August!


Hi Jim,

Thanks for your article about the dawn of the Mustang. I never owned one, should have though. Two years before my license a German friend of my family took me for a spin in Mustang 1. The inspiration for the side cove also might have started there.

Conversations about the genesis of ideas are always fascinating and often controversial. I suppose that’s why no one has dared to write a book about who lifted what from whom.

Yes, the position of the A-pillar, Italian kick-up after the door cut and short rear deck are very similar. Also the early Mustang’s protruding grill is definitely related to the Maserati Spider. That hand fabricated deep shape couldn’t be realized without resorting to small castings for the Mustang. Below are two links to illustrate:

GALLERY: This 1960 Maserati 3500 GT Spyder Vignale Is A New Start …

History of the Ford Mustang

Indeed, the Mustang then was huge. Thanks.

Cheers, Peter



There are no "fathers’ of any car. It is always a team effort. What is there, is a large group of people from various disciplines responding to product planning, market research, design studies, that culminate with an executive championing it . Nothing gets built without one. It takes horsepower to get the troops all marching the same way. Ultimately, major input from a smaller number of people eventually filters out into the final product. Nice to see a designer that was a major contributor get some recognition.


Along with 2 of my brothers, we were fortunate enough to have met Gale Halderman a few years ago @ a car show in Dublin, OH. He stopped to checkout our Avanti’s that were in the show and we conversed for a while regarding the unique vehicle styling from the 60’s. Gale is very personable and openly shared some of his Mustang design story with us…absolutely fascinating!


I’ve heard the official story before, but I can’t help but wonder the role that Budd Body played. They pitched Ford on a smaller T-Bird built on a Falcon chassis. After being turned down they built the XR-400 which shares the concept and to some extent, looks with the Mustang and pitched it to AMC who also turned them down. This was in '62, which fits the Mustang timeline.


It’s very clear Mr. Oros straight line design made it’s way to the 67-70 Falcon and other Ford products. Glad they chose the side scoop version. Iconic it is. Side scoops, triple taillights, hash marks and a rear center gas filler/emblem are things of Mustang legend. As much as I like the new Mustangs, I still visually see the round Mustang emblem between the taillights where none currently resides. Aftermarket anyone??


Guys !! Not enough said about the contribution from the Falcon. When Ford was looking at a prototype pony car, the Falcon was used for different designs. The Cayuse, Challanger 1, Challanger 2 and the Coyote were concept cars back then that used the Falcon for a platform. It was Henry Fords wife that showed fondness for the Mustang that may have influenced the choice. The Falcon was the basis for the Mustang, comet Maverick and such. I have used parts from all those for my 61 Falcon upgrade conversion. The cobra stripe that is famous from Carol Shelby was originally on his 2 door Falcon wagon known as “The Grocery Getter”. Falcons ROCK. I leave the turn signal on when I drive in honor of all the old ladies that used to drive them. So a big thankyou to the Falcon if you love the Mustang !!!


David Scott, with respect to the initial sketch, you’re eye saw exactly what my eye saw…'63 Riviera. The subsequent tweaking removed any resemblance between the two cars in my view.