As we continue the march toward the Ford Mustang's 50th anniversary and the eventual next-gen car, let's continue our look back into the Ford archives at the Mustangs that never earned the badge.
In 1975, Ford designers began working on the third-generation Mustang, and it was clear after the Mustang II that they were in those awkward teen years where they were trying to figure themselves out.
The Mustang II was born out of a need to address late-60s fuel economy concerns and a cry for a smaller car. In the process, many argued that the original Mustang spirit was lost.
The '79 Mustang would be built on the Fox midsize platform, a lightweight, rear wheel drive unitized chassis that would go largely unchanged through 1993. Designers, both Dearborn and Ghia's studio in Italy, were challenged to make the new Mustang more aerodynamic and fun to drive while delivering a spacious interior.
Ford VP of design Gene Bordinat issued a directive: "Thou shalt never do a slantback front end. Henry Ford II only wants vertical front end, and he'll show us the door if we ever try anything like it."
This decree of a formal, upright front end led to a wide range of early concepts that attempted to integrate this required element with a lower, sportier stance. As designers struggled to meet this demand while still creating a sporty car, they went off on a number of tangents, as you can plainly see.
One of those was the fantastic woody shooting brake shown at the top of the page. Holy hell is that thing awesome. It's hard to imagine how this came out of a Mustang design exercise, but drop in a V8 and it may well be the greatest Mustang that never was.
April 1975 brought vice president of design at Ford Europe, Jack Telnack, back to Dearborn to work on the concepts. Firmly believing that boxy designs had run their course, he wanted to inject sleeker Euro-styled design elements, including the previously verboten slanted grille, into the third-gen Mustang.
The final design for the first Fox-body Mustang was an integration of many elements that designers tested throughout the development process. The proportions of the fastback and notchback designs were nailed down by February of '76, but the final design pulled in elements from earlier models such as the laid back grille and quarter window louvers.
In Ford's first attempt to bring European style to the American pony car, it had the lowest drag coefficient on the road at the time—0.44 for the fastback—along with improved visibility and more leg and shoulder room.
Signifying a return to form for the nameplate, the team also redesigned the galloping pony logo to be more muscular with a longer stride. The Fox Body Mustang remained in production from '79 - '93. In that time, we saw the reintroduction of the GT model in '82, the convertible in '83, the rare, turbocharged Mustang SVO in '84, and the first SVT Cobra in '93.
The photos you see here are just a small sample. Our detailed slideshow follows the chronology of the Fox Mustang's design phase and illustrates all the twists and turns the process took on the way to the final product:
Most notable for her fiery locks, happy-go-lucky attitude and inability to sit in the sun for very long, is a with a passion for petrol. She loves dogs and cartoons. She hates olives.