FORD MUSTANG GT CONCEPTS: THE LEGEND GROWS
With 39 years of storied automotive history, 8 million customers and legions of fanatic fans to satisfy, Ford is introducing two all-new Mustang design concepts at the 2003 North American International Auto Show.
The Mustang GT convertible and coupe concepts arrive ready to take enthusiasts’ breath away – three design-generations after the original made history in 1964. The latest legends of the American pony car are contemporary automobiles that capture the essence of Mustang’s design and performance heritage.
Presented as a two-seat fastback coupe and convertible, the Mustang GT concepts are strong indicators of the next-generation Mustang’s design direction. They emerge as a bold testament to the timeless value that automotive enthusiasts hold for the original American pony car.
“These Mustang concepts are thoroughly modern automobiles that point to a bright future for Mustang,” says J Mays, Ford Motor Company vice president of Design. “Their powerful stances, smooth surface language and ultra-modern interiors set new standards for muscle cars. Above all, these concepts communicate the soul of Mustang: a classic, cool and quintessentially American muscle car.”
Introspective and Extroverted:
The Mustang GT concepts draw on the very elements that have made Mustang the definitive American sports car for nearly four decades. Their exterior designs are clearly inspired by some of the extroverted Mustangs of the past and have been created by a design team that took an introspective approach to updating a classic design.
The designs are modern, crisp and reveal the true character of what Mustang means to so many people. The original 1964˝ Mustang actually evolved from the racing-inspired, two-seat concept car called the Mustang 1. After reviewing archived files, Mustang’s modern-day crafters were struck by how the original design embraced the same inspirational cues that communicate performance. The design team looked beyond production models to the Mustang 1 concept for modern inspiration. Much like the Mustang 1 and the later Mustang Mach 1 show car in 1968, the Mustang GT concepts are rare, radical designs that will appeal to everyone.
“By melding the true character of Mustang into these fully modern offerings, we’ve ensured that even the uninitiated will instantly recognize these cars as Mustangs,” says Mays. “We went beyond their exterior designs to truly understand the extent to which Mustang has embedded itself in American culture.”
The Mustang GT concepts are instantly recognizable as Mustangs, yet they stretch the design far into the future with a distinctly modern look. Like the Mustang 1 concept, the GT concepts are two-place sportscars: one a coupe and the other a convertible. Both cars started out with a significantly modified Ford Thunderbird rear-wheel-drive architecture. The platform was sectioned to achieve the proper proportion. The front-end geometry is all original – customized to accommodate the signature Mustang MOD 4.6-liter V-8.
In concert with plans for the all-new Mustang, due in 2004, the exterior and interior designs of the Mustang GT concepts were penned by designers in Ford’s Living Legends Studio in Dearborn, Mich., and Ford’s California Design Center in Southern California. The concept design execution was done exclusively at the California Design Center.
“Getting the proportions right is the magic to making the entire design work,” says Mays.
“When you’re designing a new Mustang, you’re the steward of 40 years of automotive history. If you don’t get it right, you’ve got 8-million Mustang fans to answer to. I think we got it right,” says Mays.
The silhouette of the car is unmistakably Mustang. The coupe conjures images of 1967 and 1968 Fastbacks while the convertible brings back cues of the early Shelby Mustangs, especially in its “show bar” and wide-element tail lamps.
Inside, there’s no mistaking the no-holds-barred Mustang classic cues. The cockpit is dramatic for the driver and passenger with lush red and charcoal leather accented by billet-aluminum hardware. They’re reminiscent of another era yet, inside and out, the Mustang GT concepts are thoroughly modern.
When the Mustang was first unveiled, Ford chose the 1964 World’s Fair in New York as its stage. A global audience sat and watched an automotive revolution roll into existence. Ford’s timing couldn’t have been better as the baby boom generation was just coming of car-buying age. The baby boomers wanted something very different from what their parents were driving. They wanted to express their own individuality. The Mustang was their answer.
The cars barely had time to relax between the production line and the showroom floor as dealers churned out more than 22,000 orders on the car’s first day on sale.
It debuted at a price of $2,368 and weighed only 2,572 pounds. With its 170-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine, three-speed, floor-mounted manual transmission and seating for four, it offered a comfortable ride and functional appeal.
Mustang rapidly evolved into a vehicle judged by much more than just numbers. In Chicago, a dealership closed early and called police to slow the stampeding Mustang prospects while a restaurateur invited his customers to sample his “hotcakes that were selling like Mustangs.” Something special was happening.
One million were sold by March 1966. They were parked in everyone’s driveway, but Ford was most excited about those people eagerly awaiting their first driver’s license. They wanted their cars to be different and Mustang delivered.
The 1964˝ model was the patriarch of subsequent changes to hoods, interiors, headlamps and spoilers. As Mustang weaved in and out of different generations, the vehicle generated an iconic status. Running alongside the best European road cars, it soon became a racing-inspired legend.
Mustang needed racing as much as racing needed Mustang. Right out of the blocks, the pony car was a champion, taking both first and second place in the 1964 Tour de France International rally. By the end of the sixties, Mustang led the SCCA Trans-Am series.
Body styles and engine sizes changed throughout the decade. By 1969, the Mustang offered major style changes, a roomier and more luxurious interior and even more power. To performance enthusiasts, 1969 meant Mach 1, Boss 429 and Boss 302.
Throughout the seventies and eighties, Mustang evolved from a stocky and imposing-looking machine to a vehicle with clean and crisp lines. The 1979 Mustang design wound up running a full 15 model years thanks in part to its performance roots. In 1987, the basic design became truly slick with a smoother nose, flush headlamps and black body trim, and in 1989, Mustang celebrated its 25th birthday and received another successful facelift.
Dramatically restyled and churning with power, the 1994 Mustang got a performance pump from Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (the second-generation SVT Cobra) and was sold to customers with the slogan “It is what it was.” The rest of the decade molded the Mustang into a vehicle that mingled nostalgia with new lines and curves…and, of course, more power.
The last major redesign of the Mustang came three years ago. Since then, the company has continually kept customer’s excitement with special interest models like the Mustang Cobra, Cobra R racing edition and the Mustang Bullitt GT. For 2003, the Mustang Mach I returned replete with the “shaker” hood scoop and more than 300 horsepower.
A Coke bottle, a swoosh, the hula hoop – all are instantly recognizable shapes in American pop culture. So too is the unmistakable silhouette of the all-American pony car, the Ford Mustang.
That silhouette is taking on a striking new definition with the introduction of the Mustang GT coupe and convertible concept cars. The new concepts give a strong indication of the design direction of the next-generation Mustang, due to debut in 2004.
With its signature long hood and short rear deck, Mustang’s design has endured for 39 years. Adorning the legendary shape are classic design cues that define Mustang: C-scoops in the sides, three-element tail lamps and the galloping pony in the center of the grille.
The Mustang GT coupe and convertible concepts are clearly the latest evolution in a long line of Mustang models.
“Casual observers will instantly recognize these cars and that is the greatest testament anyone could make to the timeless design of Mustang,” says J Mays, Ford Motor Company vice president, Design. “This level of universal acceptance comes not from simply copying past designs, but from melding the character of 39 years into these modern offerings.”
The unmistakable design of Mustang is universally appreciated and unequivocally respected. It is a mosaic of historical design and product attributes that has linked three generations of the car together.
The latest incarnations continue the tradition. From a distance, there is no denying the Mustang GT concepts’ heritage. Up close, there is no denying their cutting-edge, modern, revolutionary attitude.
Superlative Coupe, Free-Spirited Convertible:
Ever since the original in 1964, the Mustang coupe and convertible have been a matched pair. So it was only fitting to introduce the new designs at the same time. Each underscores key elements of the Mustang persona in its own way. The Tungsten Silver coupe interprets the performance edge of Mustang’s heritage while the Redline Red Metallic convertible conjures up images of wind, sunshine and the rocky shores of Big Sur.
Zooming in from the trademark silhouette, an aficionado will appreciate the modern interpretation of the sleek nose of the 1967 models. Yet, the car is uniquely modern thanks to taut surfaces and high-tech hardware. The Mustang GT concepts’ adaptive headlamps are like technical jewels. Two concentric rings are shielded behind a single lens. The rings rotate in a helix pattern to zoom in and out like a professional camera lens. From a single light source, the Mustang GT concepts use fiber optic ribbon to deliver adaptable light levels through their highly focused lenses.
An upward rake angle makes the cars appear to be in motion even while at a standstill. The 20-inch wheels and 13.8-inch vented Brembo® disc brakes are pushed out to the corners and anchor the design to the road.
There are no extraneous styling cues on the car. A sharp accent line runs the length of the body just above the rocker panel and culminates in a “C-scoop” design behind the door cutline. The design creates an intentional visual link with the C-pillar design. The angled appearance of the scoops and their relationship to the door cut give them the look of precise technical integration that combines flair with function. The hard-creased edges of the scoops are mirrored in the design execution on the hood scoops.
The functional hood scoops help the supercharged engine breathe as it churns out nearly 400 horsepower; an aspirational number for muscle car customizers in the 1960s. Naturally, the engine bay is a focal point in both cars. It boasts a MOD 4.6-liter 90-degree cast-iron block V-8 with aluminum heads, a belt-driven supercharger and a liquid-to-air intercooler.
The vehicle finally comes to a halt with three-element taillamps that span the width of the vehicle, enhancing its proud stance. The sequentially firing tail lamps appear to have no “hot-spots” thanks to a unique design using forward-facing LED projection lamps set against a satin-finished silver parabola.
Standing next to its counterpart, the Mustang GT convertible concept speaks to another group of followers who yearn for sunshine and open-air driving exhilaration. The body design theme is the same as the coupe. But, the drop top Mustang GT concept gives a completely different look and serves another purpose. The convertible engages passersby, providing a full view of its inviting interior. It features a distinct “showbar” with a rim of billet-aluminum trim picking up where the instrument panel and console trim leave off.
The Mustang GT concepts take a highly recognizable heritage to the limit by subscribing to a revolutionary formula that mixes successful design cues from the past with artful lines that will sculpt the future.
The view from behind the wheel of a Mustang GT concept is as good as the view from afar. The Mustang GT concept vehicles put the driver and the passenger in a most enviable place – the future of the pony car.
While the evocative unmistakable exterior designs draw admirers, it is the inviting interiors that demand closer inspection. The modern interior designs pay homage to another era in Mustang history while their use of high-quality materials, precision craftsmanship and technical innovations point to Mustangs to come.
The Mustang GT coupe and convertible concept cars’ interiors are awash in supple red and charcoal leather and accented with billet-aluminum hardware that gives an appearance that is robust and highly technical.
“These incredible interiors speak volumes about where Mustang and Ford are headed in the future,” said J Mays, Ford Motor Company, vice president, Design. “The functional, contemporary look of this interior and its precise execution set a new standard for muscle car design.”
Upon opening the door, both driver and passenger will see the Ford logo proudly displayed on a billet-aluminum sill panels.
Unlike production Mustangs, the Mustang GT concepts have only two seats – racing-inspired with red perforated leather. The interiors of the GT coupe and convertible are executed with the same performance characteristics, with the coupe configuration boasting a key element more typical of racing. Instead of a 2+2 design, the Mustang GT coupe’s strut support linking the two rear shock towers serves as the primary hold down for a backseat mounted spare tire. Consistent with the trim throughout the interior, a billet-aluminum strut brace holds the tire in place. Early Shelby racers used this functional design.
Four-point harnesses brace the occupants for what they see next. The cluster instrumentation is unique, but features a familiar, round optical look. The mechanicals of the display resemble the movement of a fine timepiece. As the driver stirs gearbox, the tachometer and speedometer put on a show like no other car. The bezels of the gauges are trimmed with sprocket gears around the inner circumference. Rather than using needle pointers, the gauges feature a small, gear-driven, trolley scored with indicator lines that rides around the inside of the bezel matching the rpms and groundspeed.
The upper brow of the dash is covered in charcoal leather, reminiscent of past era Mustangs.
From that point down, a billet-aluminum band makes the transition to the future. Two air vents and an analog clock form the center cluster. Below the trio, a row of cockpit switches allow the driver to control suspension as well as set the air/fuel mixture.
The center stack displays a boost gauge for the supercharged engine. The gauge gives the driver a visual indication of actual boost from a lean to rich mixture. The circular gauge uses an analog indicator similar to those found in the vehicle’s tachometer and speedometer.
The billet-aluminum shifter controls six manual gears in the coupe and five automatic gears in the convertible, each transmission contributing to the concepts’ athletic, muscle-car acceleration capability. A similarly designed parking-brake lever is positioned nearby on the console.
Like the 1967 model, the steering wheel has three spokes with a center hub marked by the Mustang GT logo in a precision typeface, a cue that carries over to the front quarterpanel and fender badging. From a distance, it harkens to the original GT bold font. Up close, “Mustang” is inlaid underneath: two components wedded into a single, simple statement.
The cluster gauges, three-spoke steering wheel and innovative cockpit dash design are clear cues from a rich Mustang history, but there is no denying that Ford’s new Mustang GT concepts’ celebrate that heritage in a dramatically modern interpretation of the future.
Story by Ford