Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
April 1, 2004
Photos By: Dale Amy, The Mustang Monthly Archives, Courtesy Of Jerry Heasley, From Ford Media

On April 17, 2004, the Mustang will turn 40. That's quite an accomplishment for an automotive nameplate if you think about all the once-popular models that have fallen by the wayside: Falcon, Fairlane, Thunderbird, Cougar, and even Camaro and Firebird. Only the Corvette can lay claim to a longer tenure.

Many things have contributed to the Mustang's long-lasting success. People such as former Ford executive Lee Iacocca and current SVT boss John Coletti have led the cheerleading within Ford. Cars like the Shelby, Boss, and Mach 1, both new and old, contributed to the Mustang's visibility. Oh, we almost lost the Mustang in the '80s. But, in the end, it was you, the Mustang owner/enthusiast, who came to the rescue by letting Ford know you wanted your car to stay sporty-and rear-wheel-drive.

This is our tribute to America's fun car, and to the milestones that have kept it running strong for the past four decades.

November 2, 1960:Lee Iacocca Named Ford Vice PresidentNo one knew it at the time, obviously, but when a young Ford executive by the name of Anthony Lido "Lee" Iacocca was promoted to vice president and general manager of Ford Division in late 1960, just days before John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States, it set in motion a four-year project of ideas, teamwork, marketing research, design sketches, and prototypes that would evolve into a sporty version of the Falcon called the Mustang. Just 36 at the time, Iacocca acknowledged Ford's stodgy image, especially to the emerging baby-boomer generation, and set out to do something about it. After debating designs and names (Torino and Cougar were also in the running), Iacocca's vision of a car for baby boomers debuted in 1964 as the Mustang, a car based on the Falcon, but with sportier long-hood, short-deck styling.

September 10, 1962:Henry Ford II Approves Iacocca's ConceptWhile keeping a close eye on the sales success of the Corvair Monza, Iacocca initiated a design contest at Ford. As a result, the team, headed by Ford Studio Chief Joe Oros, came up with the short-hood, long rear-deck styling and sculpted side scoops for a clay model they called "Cougar." In September 1962, Iacocca made his pitch to Henry Ford II, who approved the car on the spot, assigning $40 million and setting production at 150,000 units. The target date for Job One was March 9, 1964, with public introduction set for five weeks later

October 7, 1962:Mustang I DebutThe Mustang name and running-horse emblem first appeared on a two-seater, mid-engine concept car, which debuted to the press and public at a Watkins Glen road race in early October 1962. Designer John Najjar picked the Mustang name because he admired World War II fighter planes, particularly the P-51 Mustang; but marketers at J. Walter Thompson, Ford's ad agency, felt the image of a "wild American horse" was a better fit. It also provided designer Phil Clark with a concept for sketching out a running-horse logo over tri-color bars. The two-seater Mustang, which became known as the Mustang I, received favorable public reaction and press, so the car toured the United States for auto shows and even colleges with mechanical engineering programs.

November 1962:"Mustang" is the NameJoe Oros, who created the winning long-hood, short-deck styling for Iacocca's "sporty Falcon," lobbied to keep the Cougar name for the production car. But J. Walter Thompson, after sifting through 6,000 possible names, narrowed the list to six: Cougar, Bronco, Puma, Cheetah, Colt, and Mustang. By November 1962, Henry Ford II and Iacocca had made the decision to go with Mustang, although many at Ford continued to call the car by other proposed names, including T-5, Cougar, Special Falcon, and Torino.