The big five-oh of happened for the Mustang. It’s hard to believe that America’s most popular pony car first rolled of the assembly line fifty years ago. It’s common for people to be fascinated with movie stars. Everyone wants to see what the kid from Christmas story looks like now and what not. What about us car guys? What do we get to see? Ladies and Gentlemen: I now present to you (in no particular order), “The Men Behind the Mustang”, today.
The Father of the Mustang
Lee Iacocca is known for overseeing the development of the first Mustang. It was this man that revealed the 1964½ Mustang at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Today, Iacocca continues to be a legendary name in Mustang culture. In 2009, for the 45th anniversary of the Mustang, the legacy continued with an exclusive, hand-built production of just 45 Iacocca Mustangs. Iacocca currently spends most of his time with the Lee Iacocca Foundation, the Iacocca Institute, and other “philanthropic endeavors.”
Iacocca recently wrote a book entitled “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” after noticing that this nation is lacking strong men such as Iacocca. You know you’re a badass when you have earned the right to say (in regards to writing this book), “I can’t sit on the sidelines while this nation needs me.” For more information about this great man, Lee Iacocca, please click here.
The Product Manager
Donald Frey worked with Lee Iacocca to make the Mustang a reality. At the time, Frey was Ford’s assistant general manager and chief engineer. In 1962, Frey had come up with the initial design for the 1962 Prototype Mustang, which was a two-seater, mid-engine, roadster. After, he oversaw the design and engineering work for what would become the Mustang as we know it.
Frey would meet in secret to discuss the Mustang. Since Henry Ford II was not in support of the Mustang, when he finally approved the project, Ford said that he would fire Frey if the Mustang was not successful. I guess we can see that “success” of the Mustang is an understatement. Donald N. Frey passed away in 2010 at the age of 86.
The Chief Designer
Joe Oros was a man who designed many cars for Ford Motor Company included MotorTrend’s Car of the Year in 1958: the Thunderbird. Of course, he also went on to work on the Mustang. Oros wanted the Mustang to be appealing to woman, but wanted men to want it as well. It’s ironic that the 2015 Mustangs are all about European styling, when Oros actually wanted the original Mustang to be based off of European styling as well.
After his time with Ford, Oros continued his artistic endeavors at home. Two years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with his daughter, Janet. She told me that when she was little, she met all of the famous names covered in this article. She also told me that Oros had developed very bad Alzheimer’s, and was placed in an assisted living facility. Sadly, Joe Oros had passed away later that year (2012).
The Power Adder
It’s really hard to think of Mustang and not think of the man known as Carroll Shelby. When Iacocca was president of Ford in 1962, Shelby pitched the idea of the now famous Shelby Cobra. With Shelby creating these high performance Cobras that continued to win races, Ford requested Shelby to create some high performance Mustangs. The rest became history.
He took the existing, growingly popular Mustang platform, and went to work. The product? The Shelby GT350, and the Shelby GT500. We have all seen them, and love them. Shelby continued to work with Ford to create arguably one of the best modern day muscle cars: the 2013 Shelby GT500 which set quite a few automotive records. Unfortunately, Mr. Shelby passed away on May 10, 2012.
The Automotive Dream Team
There are many other names that are synonymous to the original Mustang. If it were not for all of these people, the famous American icon would not be where it is today.
John Najjar (1918 – 2011) – Co-designer of Mustang prototype
Philip T. Clark (1935–1968) – Co-designer of Mustang prototype
Daniel Sexton Gurney (born April 13, 1931) – Test driver of Mustang 1 prototype
These are just seven people. With the aid of more, the car originally unwanted by Henry Ford II became America’s most popular muscle car. We have seen 50 years of the Mustang. Even through hard time, government regulations, and more, the Mustang lived on every year. The car will continue to live on, and continue to win over the admiration of many. Regardless of styling, technology, and the names associated with it, it’s still a Mustang, and will always be one.