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Ford Solves The Mystery Of The Mid-Motor Mustang

Illustration for article titled Ford Solves The Mystery Of The Mid-Motor Mustang

You may recall that earlier this week we repeated a plea from our friends over at Ford Performance who found an odd picture of what appears to be a mid-engine Mustang mock-up in the Ford design studio from around 1966. The image seems to have stumped their Ford experts and ex-employees, but I have good news! This mystery is solved, thanks for Ford’s own lead archivist.

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Boxes of styling negs
Boxes of styling negs

Thanks to Ford’s ever-vigilant PR rep, Jiyan Cadiz, I was put in touch with Ted Ryan, Ford’s Archives and Heritage Brand Manager, the man with the access to thousands and thousands of pictures from the Ford Design Studio, much like this one.

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Ted revealed to me a key bit of information about these pictures, and others like it; they’re referred to as styling negs, for negatives, because, traditionally, these pictures of design works-in-progress were stored as negatives.

Every day starting in the early 1950s, in the design studio, active projects were photographed and categorized with an S-XXXX number. You can see that number on the placard here, under the date:

Illustration for article titled Ford Solves The Mystery Of The Mid-Motor Mustang

So, as you can see here, we’re dealing with the S-9955 series, of which there are multiple negs, this one being the first. The S-neg collection has over 350,000 negatives, over 50,000 of which have been scanned. The original inventory was destroyed in a flood, but there’s still a huge collection available.

Ted reached out to a colleague who has written a book about the Ford Design Department, Jim Farrell, and this is what Jim had to add:

I’ve sent photos of the car to 13 designers or clay modelers that were at Ford on 66. Bud Magaldi called and sent the attached 2 photos of the Mach 2. He says the license plate has the name on it. He got to Ford in June 1966. He says the chassis was started in ‘66 and it took some time to get everything right. Several years later he sketched the body for the car, and the fiberglass body was built and put on the car. He says he remembers the chassis with the “roll bar” at the back of the doors, the slope of the windshield and the bumpers as Mustang. The photos are from Bud. To his recollection it’s the only mid-engine made at Ford. He also says it was an engineering project.

Bud Magaldi also remembered the following: Car was done by Larry Shinoda in a small basement studio in secret. Bud helped design it in the evenings. Jerry Morrison was another designer involved, and Bob Huzzard was the studio engineer.

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Bud did a bit more digging and remembering, and came back to Jim with some more details:

Bud looked on the internet and found pixs of the 67 and 70 Mach II. He says a whole bunch of memories came back to him after seeing the 2 cars. He says the 1967 car was done because Bordinat wanted to market a sportscar. The Mach II or whatever they called it back in 67 was another bite at the apple by Bordinat, but less expensive. Magaldi and Morrison worked on the first car and it was supposed to be done in secret. Bud says they were not supposed to talk about it. Magaldi says he needed the overtime because he and his wife were expecting a child. He said he liked the proportions of the first car. He thinks the 1970 car done by Shinoda may have been built on a bigger chassis (maybe GT-40). He(Bud) often looked in on the Shinoda car because he had done the first one.

According to Bud, Jerry Morrison was the lead designer on the ‘67.

For reference, here is the significantly larger 1970 Larry Shinoda Mustang Mach 2 concept:

Illustration for article titled Ford Solves The Mystery Of The Mid-Motor Mustang
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This Mach 2 was built on a DeTomaso Pantera chassis, it’s said, and it’s remarkably forward-looking. I see a lot of Acura NSX in the front end. Shinoda was, of course, the designer who worked on the Corvette Sting Ray design for Chevrolet, among many other achievements.

The consensus here seems to be that what we’ve been looking at and wondering about is indeed related to the Mustang Mach 2 concept project, but it’s not exactly the same as the final released concept car, which looked like this:

Illustration for article titled Ford Solves The Mystery Of The Mid-Motor Mustang
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Damn, that’s a fantastic-looking car. Also, I like that cupcake hat the lady there is rocking. Oh, and if you had a reflective white surface on the underside of that front trunk lid and a projector on the dash, this car would be an ideal self-contained drive-in movie theater.

Illustration for article titled Ford Solves The Mystery Of The Mid-Motor Mustang
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But back to our mystery; what we see in these photos is for the Mach 2, but it didn’t originate in the styling department. This was a mockup that was started in engineering as a packaging study, then sent over to design once the basic packaging issues were worked out.

It’s likely that this mockup frame could have provided the proportions for, or maybe actually be the actual base of the Mach 2 clay model:

Illustration for article titled Ford Solves The Mystery Of The Mid-Motor Mustang
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You can see that the proportions of the clay model differ slightly from the final concept car; look at the proportions of the rear wheelarch to the rear fender or the size of the side air intake vents, for example:

(image flipped horizontally to match orientation of clay model)
(image flipped horizontally to match orientation of clay model)
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If we look at other pictures of the Mach 2 concept, we can see other close similarities to the mystery packaging buck, like the use of stock Mustang bumpers (and turn signals, just to note), and the under-bumper air intake looks to be exactly where the packaging study included it:

Illustration for article titled Ford Solves The Mystery Of The Mid-Motor Mustang
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So, the takeaway here is this Mystery Mustang was an engineering packaging study for what would become the 1967 Mach 2 concept car. The Mach 2 was an incredible-looking car, and it’s also worth remembering that this was a project done sort of secretly, after hours, which is amazing in itself.

So, there you go, Ford Performance. Now you can sleep at night.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

imnotdedyet
David E. Davis

That’s a great picture but why does Ford Archives care about my cat’s exercise?