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The First Wild Horse

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Not many know that the original Mustang Ford rolled out was quite a different beast from America's favorite muscle car.

On October 7, 1962, the Mustang I was unveiled at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, NY.
The sleek, futuristic piece of metal that drove up was a roofless two-seater with a 4-cylinder mid-engine, but was just barely off-pace from the Formula 1 racers it was compared to.

Everyone at Ford was gearing up for the fall press release that would unveil 1962's new products.
Lee Iacocca, who was leading the Ford committee of managers, had wanted something new and sporty that could compete with the likes of the Corvette.
The design chief at the time, Eugene Bordinat, wanted something that would really catch the public's eye.
They wanted something radical and needed it in a hurry.

After getting a hold of engineering and looking over some design work John Najjar had been tossing around with Philip Clark, the two were quickly gathered up along with Roy Lunn, who was appointed Product Planner and relied heavily on his experience designing racing cars to help bring something truly fierce to the public.

The speed of the work really matched the speed of the car. The team hammered out the design and went from drawings to a clay model in under three weeks. Fiberglass panels were made from the clay and everything they had was shipped to race car fabricator Troutman-Barnes in Culver City, California to make it in metal.

A few stories about how the car was labeled float through the air.
John Najjar is said to have been an avid fan of aviation with a particular appreciation of the World War II P-51 Mustang and had let the curves of airplanes inform his design decisions.
Another story is that Philip Clark had been traveling from his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee to Pasadena, California when he saw wild mustangs running in Nevada and was so stunned by their beauty that he suggested naming it after them.
Robert Eggbert, then head of marketing, bred quarter horses and his wife had given him a copy of The Mustangs by J. Frank Dobie for his birthday, which some say may have created the spark.

The name was definitely meant to be.

After its release to the public, wherever possible, the Mustang I was shown off. A short movie as well as a 1/10 model were produced and taken on a tour of college campuses in order to foster interest in Ford's movement towards innovation.
The Mustang was a success on its own, but not quite something to be mass produced. Iacocca was interested in a higher volume goal and wanted to consider a 2+2 design.
There was no doubt that the car was impressive and different design cues were taken from this sporty little experiment for the herd of iconic cars that we have today.