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20 Ford Mustang Prototypes That Didn’t Make It To Production

Vukasin HerbezJanuary 11, 2019

The Ford Mustang is one of the most famous global automotive icons. In fact, it is the only car that successfully transcendent its pony/muscle car origins to become a full-fledged sports car. During its 55 years long history, the Mustang has gone a long way from its humble Falcon-based chassis to today’s Porsche-killing handling and performance levels.

And as you probably already know, there are numerous models, generations and versions of this legendary model. However, the following list in not about those well-known Mustang variants. It is about something different. These are the models the Ford company seriously considered for production, yet they never made it onto the assembly line.

These are the iconic cars they left in the gray area between fiction and reality. Although these Mustangs managed to go from the drawing board to the prototype phase, they never reached the dealership floors. So, here are the 20 Mustangs that almost made it and could change automotive history forever.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

20. 1962 Mustang I

The Mustang I concept was a big deal when Ford introduced it in late 1962 as a fully functional concept vehicle. This was the first time they used the name, “Mustang.” And right from the start, it was clear the public loved it. The name, “Mustang,” created a connection with Wild West mythology. That turned out to be a great marketing gimmick for Ford.

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The Mustang I was a little two-seater roadster with a rear-mounted V4 engine from Ford Europe. It had a modern wedge-shaped body consisting of lightweight aluminum. The original idea behind the concept was to develop a small sports car. Ford wanted to compete with those European imports like the Triumph TR3 or MG A. But despite the favorable reaction from car enthusiasts, Ford decided to go another way.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

19. 1964 Mustang Sedan

When Ford developed the Mustang in the early ’60s, not only did they make a new model, but they also created a new class in the form of pony cars. Since there were no pony cars before the Mustang, the Ford development team went in several directions. And one of them was the Mustang in a four-door body style. The car looked attractive and retained all the classic Mustang lines and proportions. However, Ford soon realized that the Mustang sedan would cannibalize the sales of the Falcon. That was because they based the Mustang on the same platform with the same engines as the Falcon. But the main reason most car enthusiasts are glad they decided not to build this Mustang was that a four-door model would’ve ruined its sporty appeal.

Photo Credit: Vista Pointe

And that could’ve affected the success of this original model. A Mustang in a two-door coupe or convertible form was an exciting and youthful performance car. But a Mustang in a four-door version would be just another compact family sedan with no iconic appeal. And that was not what Ford intended their pony car to be.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

18. 1964 Mustang Two-Seater

Ford marketed the Mustang as a sports car, even though they built it on the Falcon platform with regular engines. Critics thought that the car needed a two-seat configuration to be a proper sports car. So Ford contacted an outside company to produce a shorter, two-seater version of the Mustang.

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They named the result the Mustang III. It served as Ford’s show car for the 1964-65 season. Interestingly, they lost this original car after that. But, it remained in one piece, resurfacing a few years ago. Since then people have regarded the Mustang III as one of the most interesting pieces of Mustang history.

Photo Credit: The Freston

17. 1965 Mustang AWD

In 1965, the Mustang was already one of the hottest coupes globally, raising attention from enthusiasts all over the world. However, in England, the Ferguson company, a well-established manufacturer of farm machinery and all-wheel-drive systems decided to convert a regular V8-powered Mustang into a capable all-wheel-drive coupe. Almost immediately, Ford shipped several cars to England to receive a Ferguson all-wheel-drive system.

Photo Credit: The Freston

Ferguson mated them to Ford’s standard V8 engine and transmission. The results were promising since those prototype AWD Mustangs had good handling and superb traction in any condition. The downside was the added weight and cost. Ford sent a few examples to the U.S. to test them even further, but eventually, they shelved the project.

Photo Credit: Car Styling

16. 1965 Bertone Mustang

Since the Mustang was such a hot car in the mid-60s, lots of coachbuilders and design houses tried to improve the design. They wanted to introduce their own creations they would base on Ford’s bestseller. But one of the most interesting was the 1965 Bertone Mustang. They first presented it at the Geneva Motor Show in 1965.

Photo Credit: Car Styling

The Bertone Mustang was a totally redesigned car based on the Mustang GT platform. Bertone made a different, aerodynamically enhanced body with a custom interior and special details. However, Ford wasn’t interested, so they only sold this to a string of owners. And today their whereabouts are still unknown.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

15. 1967 Mustang Mach 2

The success of the production model gave the Ford designers a chance to explore the sports car concept in many directions. As soon as the first redesign of the car appeared in 1967, Ford introduced the Mach 2 concept. This was one of several cars with the Mach name which would later appear on the regular production circuit, but the shape and layout were quite unique.

Photo Credit: Mustang And Fords

The Mach 2 was a two-seater sports car with a long hood and short rear end, as well as the mid-engine configuration. The car was like an affordable version of the GT 40 race car with it’s stunning red paint and Shelby-style alloy wheels. Unfortunately, Ford never produced the concept, so the Mach 2 only served as a car show item.

Photo Credit: Mecum

14. 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

Ford built this unique Shelby GT500 to be a rolling laboratory to showcase the possibilities of the Mustang platform as well as for testing Goodyear’s “Thunderbolt” tire line. It had a Le Mans-winning GT40 race engine, special transmission, suspension, and tires. But Ford only produced one example.

Photo Credit: Mecum

There were plans for a limited production run, but the proposed price was over $8,000. That was an enormous sum in the late ’60s. And that’s too bad since the Super Snake was capable of 170 mph top speeds. Those numbers were unheard in the late ‘60s and could have made the Mustang the world`s fastest muscle car.

Photo Credit: Free P

13. 1967 Shelby Little Red

After almost 50 years of searching, in early 2018, they found the infamous Shelby Little Red sitting in a Texas field. Known to only a handful of car enthusiasts, the Little Red was the long-lost Shelby prototype and a missing piece of the Shelby puzzle. So, what makes this old Mustang so important?

Photo Credit: Craig Jackson/Hagerty

Well, it was a special 1967 notchback model Ford loaned to Shelby American to get fitted with numerous experimental parts and a supercharged 428 engine. But best of all, it is the only ’67 GT500 notchback coupe Shelby ever built. They used the car for the development of the famous California Special package. However, in the late ’60s, the car was gone, and everybody thought it had been destroyed.

Photo Credit: Automobile Mag

12. 1968 Shelby EXP “Green Hornet”

During the Mustang’s heyday, Ford and Shelby worked hard to explore the possibilities and limits of the Mustang platform and engineering, producing several interesting prototypes. And one of the most popular is the “Green Hornet” from 1968. Although it wasn’t the only car they built, the Green Hornet featured the most innovative features like a 390 V8 engine they equipped with fuel injection.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

It also had unique disc brakes on all four wheels and an independent rear suspension. With this layout, the Green Hornet was a capable car that handled and stopped better than any other sports car on the market. Unfortunately, the cost of producing those features was too much, so Ford and Shelby decided to go with more conventional technology.

Photo Credit: Silodrome

11. 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Rear Engine

This one is one of the most interesting Mustang prototypes. Even though it didn’t appear on the show circuit in the late ‘60s, it caused a lot of controversies. Basically, this is the 1969 Boss 429 with the engine in the trunk. Ford did some extensive testing to see if this conversion had significant advantages over the standard layout. They placed the engine longitudinally in the trunk and connected it to the rear wheels over the C6 automatic transmission unit.

Photo Credit: Top Speed

Ford turned the rear glass window into a hatchback door to have access to the engine. And in fact, the whole conversion was surprisingly trouble-free. This Boss 429 had a 40/60 weight balance. So, the added weight over the rear axle helped launch it off the line while reducing the wheel spin. However, Ford realized there weren’t any significant performance improvements, so they decided to kill the project.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

10. 1979 Shelby Quarter Horse

In the late ’60s, Ford had several successful performance editions of the Mustang. But even so, Shelby developed a few of his own prototypes to further explore the limits of the platform. Ford named it the Quarter Horse, building the pre-production prototypes in 1969 with lots of interesting design cues they linked to the Shelby and Boss Mustangs.

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Those cars had a Shelby front end with a Mustang rear end. Ford added a Boss 429 engine and a Mercury Cougar dashboard. Their idea was to produce a more affordable Shelby GT 500. However, Ford killed the project in 1970.

Photo Credit: Fav Cars

9. 1976 Mustang Wagon

In 1976, Ford decided to play around with the idea of a Mustang wagon. They decided to base it on the Mustang II platform and equip it with a roof rack and woodgrain inserts on the sides. In those days, Chevrolet had the Vega three-door station wagon on offer, so Ford wanted to compete in that market segment, as well.

Photo Credit: Fav Cars

However, Mustang fans are grateful that this car never went beyond the concept stage. After all, a Mustang station wagon with wood grain in the typical ‘70s fashion would’ve killed any sporty characteristics this model barely even had. The Mustang II had almost destroyed the Mustang’s reputation from the ’60s, so a wagon version would have killed it for good.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

8. 1979 Mustang RSX

Briefly, in 1979, it looked like Ford would produce an interesting looking Mustang as a homologation special for rally racing. Over the years, Mustang was a drag racer, street racer, circuit racer and even entered the Le Mans, but it was never a successful rally car. However, with the Mustang RSX, Ford wanted to change all that.

Photo Credit: Jalopnik

Although the car had a stock 2.3-liter engine, Ford was working on turbocharging it. The public was interested, so the RSX concept gained much coverage from period magazines and fans. But eventually, Ford decided to drop it.

Photo Credit: Lmr

7. 1980 Mustang McLaren M81

Ford built this interesting car with the help of the well-known McLaren racing team via their American operation office in Michigan. The whole idea behind the project was to take a 2.3-liter turbo engine from the regular Mustang and transform it into a street racing beast. They planned to add a race-tuned suspension, lightweight body, and a host of other modifications. So, McLaren and Ford installed a tuned turbo engine pumping out 190 HP, which may not sound like much nowadays.

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That was a big number for the day, especially coming from 2.3-liters, totally changing the looks of the Fox Mustang. The result was an impressive performance and driving dynamics but also a high price tag. Ford offered it for sale at the price of $25,000. And that was roughly three times the price of a regular example. So, despite all the interesting features in the M81, it was a tough seller. In fact, Ford only sold approximately 10 before canceling the project.

Photo Credit: Automobile Mag

6. 1989 Mustang FWD

By the late ’80s, Ford decided to kill the Mustang as a rear-wheel-drive car. They wanted to introduce the Mustang name on the smaller, more economical front-wheel-drive platform from Mazda. They made the decision, to their designer teams already started working on the possible design.

Photo Credit: Automobile Mag

Fortunately, under severe public pressure, Ford decided to cancel the project. They realized it was a better idea to return the Mustang to its roots. So, they went for a new design and technology, canceling the FWD Mustang project. And this is how the 1989 Mustang FWD may have looked if Ford had followed through with their plans.

Photo Credit: Mustang Specs

5. 1995 Mustang Boss 10.0-l

The Mustang Boss Concept from 1995 was one of the craziest machines Ford ever produced under the Mustang name. It had a Boss 429 motor from the late ’60s. But they bored and stroked to almost 10-liters of displacement and with 855 HP on tap. The results were astonishing.

Photo Credit: Youtube

The red Boss 10.0-l could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 1.9 seconds. However, despite the enormous interest from fans who wanted to purchase this crazy machine, Ford only produced one of them.

Photo Credit: Mustang Specs

4. 1997 Mustang Super Stallion

To show the potential of their fourth-generation Mustang, Ford presented the Super Stallion concept in 1997. The car was a regular GT, but they equipped it with a modified engine that could run on alcohol. Amazingly, it produced 545 HP with the help of its twin turbochargers.

Photo Credit: Auto Week

Ford said they would consider the future production of alcohol-powered engines as an answer to the potential oil crisis. But, as you probably know, they soon abandoned the Super Stallion project.

Photo Credit: Net Car Show

3. 1999 Mustang FR500

In 1999, Ford debuted the FR500. But from the outside, this Mustang looked like an ordinary ’99 coupe with just a bit different front fascia. However, the FR500 was a thoroughly modified car using Ford Performance parts and expertise. So, it was significantly more powerful at 415 HP.

Photo Credit: Net Car Show

Also, it had a different suspension, a bigger wheelbase, and better weight distribution. In fact, the FR500 rode much better and was capable of higher cornering speeds. But for some reason, Ford decided to shelve this project and not offer it to the public.

Photo Credit: Auto Blog

2. 2004 Mustang GT-R

In 2004 all eyes were on Ford and their Mustang concept cars after they announced the fifth, retro-futuristic generation of the Mustang. However, soon Ford presented the GT-R. It was even more interesting since it was a full-fledged racing car. In the early 2000s, Ford wanted to restore its reputation for racing.

Photo Credit: Super Cars

The GT-R looked like the best way to produce a factory race car to enter into various championships. But despite the fact the GT-R was a fully functional car that sparked a lot of interest from racing teams, Ford decided to go a different route.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

1. 2006 Mustang Giugiaro

Italdesign, one of the world’s most respected design houses, teamed up with Ford in 2006 to present the gorgeous Mustang Giugiaro. But it wasn’t just a styling exercise for the Italians. It was a fully re-bodied car with a 4.6-liter V8 and a supercharger. It produced 500 HP and was faster than the regular model. Better still, it was more luxurious and lighter. Italdesign even revealed its plans for a limited production run of those machines. Of course, it would come at a higher price since they aimed for more discriminating buyers. Unfortunately, this gorgeous car never happened.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

These are the 20 Ford Mustang prototypes that almost made it into production. Who knows, maybe Ford will decide to resurrect some of these someday. If they do, which one would you choose? All of these projects had promise, so there’s a chance Ford will decide to go with one of them in the future.

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