Mustang I and Mustang II concepts to join Mustang serial number 10001 at The Henry Ford Motor Muster
Every year, The Henry Ford presents its Motor Muster, an annual celebration that honors cars, trucks (and even bicycles) built between 1933 and 1976. This year, in honor of its 50th birthday, The Henry Ford will be paying homage to the Ford Mustang by showing the 1962 Mustang I concept, the 1963 Mustang II concept and the Mustang bearing serial number 100001.
Hoping to portray itself as a young and desirable brand, in late 1961 Ford launched a marketing effort it called “Total Performance,” fueled in part by the paranoia over Chevrolet’s innovative Corvair. Ford styling head Gene Bordinat was tasked with developing a concept car that personified this Total Performance image, which would be a daunting task even with unlimited resources. Bordinat didn’t have unlimited resources, so he did the best he could with what was at hand, and with a team of designers that included John Najjar, Jim Sipple and Phil Clark, created a two-seat roadster with an aerodynamic body built upon a reversed Ford Taunus platform in roughly 100 days.
The Mustang Experimental Sports Car (which would later become known as the Mustang I) debuted at the 1962 U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. The venue was significant for Ford, as it had received word that Chevrolet would debut the 1963 Corvair at the race, and Ford didn’t want to be left out. The Corvair made an appearance, but only in static form; the Mustang I, on the other hand, was driven around the circuit by Dan Gurney to the delight of the crowd. Later, on the show circuit, the Mustang I generated an enormous response from consumers, the bulk of whom wrote to Ford saying, “build this.”
That presented a problem for Ford, as a second project was well under way at the automaker to build a four-seat sports car, coincidentally also named the Mustang. If the public loved the Mustang I roadster with its wedge-shaped front end and two-seat impracticality, would they also warm to a car that used the same name but carried over very few design elements?
Seeking proof that the production Mustang was still headed down the right path, Ford commissioned the construction of the 1963 Mustang II concept (not to be confused with the production Mustang II, which debuted in 1974), meant to temper the public’s expectations of what the actual Mustang would be like when it hit dealerships as a 1965 model. Like the production car, the Mustang II concept carried four seats, dual three-bar taillamps and faux side scoops. Like the Mustang I concept, it featured a white with blue stripe livery and used a front end that seemed to split the difference between the Mustang I and the production Mustang (and, coincidentally, managed to look somewhat like a Thunderbird in 3/4-scale). Though often shown in topless form, the Mustang II featured a removable roof, foreshadowing the fact that the upcoming production Mustang would be available in both convertible and coupe body styles.
Built from a pre-production Mustang, the Mustang II’s use of design elements seen on both cars served as a bridge between the intentionally impractical Mustang I and the production-based Mustang. Like the first concept, the Mustang II proved to be a hit at its introduction, timed for the 1963 U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, and public reaction to the car gave Ford the confidence that its production Mustang would indeed be a hit when it reached dealer showrooms.
Even the Mustang carrying serial number 100001, now owned by The Henry Ford (along with the Mustang I concept) has an interesting story to tell. Never meant for sale, serial number 100001 was delivered to a St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, Ford dealership for display purposes only. There, it caught the eye of Captain Stanley Tucker, an airline pilot for Eastern Provincial Airlines. Though the dealership advised Tucker the car was not for sale, he was not dissuaded. Facing the loss of a sale, the dealership eventually agreed to sell the car to the impatient customer. This didn’t sit well with Ford, which wasted little time in contacting Tucker to strike a deal for his car. After nearly two years of negotiations, the parties agreed to terms: Tucker would turn over the keys to serial number 100001 in exchange for the millionth Mustang built.
Visitors to The Henry Ford can see the Mustang I concept and serial number 100001, but the Mustang II concept is part of the Detroit Historical Society’s collection. This year’s The Henry Ford Motor Muster will give Mustang fans their only chance to see the Mustang I concept, Mustang II concept and the production Mustang bearing serial number 100001 together at a single venue in 2014, which may be reason enough to attend the event.
The Henry Ford Motor Muster is scheduled for June 14-15 at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. For additional details, visit TheHenryFord.org.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.