Part of the dilemma in developing a "sports car for the masses" was how to capitalize on the brand equity enjoyed by Ford's Thunderbird. Costs to develop were a consideration ... the company might have to invest upward of $100 million to create an entirely new car. Cost to the consumer was another consideration. The team established a target price of $2,500; an overall weight of 2,500 pounds; 180 inches maximum length; four seats; a floorshift, and a host of options that would allow buyers to custom-tailor the car to their individual personalities.
With those general parameters, the engineering department set out to craft the prototype for a project referred to as T-5. Three men quarterbacked the effort - Herb Misch, an engineer; Gene Bordinant, a stylist, and Roy Lunn, a product planner. In an unparalleled 21 days, the design for a low, sleek show car with roll bar and retractable headlights went from drawing board to clay mock-up.
The engine was adapted from a V-4 being developed in Europe for the "Cardinal" subcompact. Mounted laterally behind the cockpit, it was capable of generating 90 horsepower at 6400 rpm. It was cooled by two small radiators located at air vents placed just ahead of the rear wheels. It featured wishbone suspension; coil springs and shocks; rack and pinion steering; front disc brakes and rear drum brakes, and a four-speed transaxle with cable-operated linkage. The skin was stressed aluminum riveted to a multi-tubular steel chassis.
The innovative prototype weighed 1,200 pounds, stood 40 inches high atop a 90-inch wheelbase with five inches of ground clearance. Its long, low sloping nose housed a spare tire; it featured a racing style windshield, and the dashboard and cockpit were simple but functional.
The Mustang I was introduced in October, 1962 at Watkins Glen for those attending the U.S. Grand Prix. Dan Gurney and Sterling Moss each piloted the model for several demonstration laps around the raceway. Capable of 115 mph and covering a quarter-mile in 18.2 seconds, it enjoyed an immediate, enthusiastic reception from the racing fraternity.
A second prototype dubbed the Mustang II debuted in 1963. It now remained for the final design modifications to be incorporated into the initial production run with delivery of the first unit to roll off the assembly line targeted for March, 1964.