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20 Unique Mustang Concepts & Prototypes

Vukasin Herbez November 6, 2018

Most people know how iconic and important the Ford Mustang is to automotive history. The Mustang is one of the bestselling Ford products of all time. In fact, Ford produced over nine million of them. But, it is also a muscle car legend that has dominated the segment since 1964.

The Ford Mustang is one of the most recognizable American cars they ever made and the quintessential 60’s coupe. The Mustang has dominated the industry for the last 54 years and is still going strong with the new sixth generation on sale now. Although many car fans know everything about their production models, there are still some unknown Mustang concepts and prototypes.

Ford produced many concept models, some of which pre-dated the first Mustang by a few years. The company constantly developed the Mustang model through interesting designs and shapes. In fact, in some cases, the Mustang concepts were more interesting than their production cars.

This list contains the best, most specific classic Mustang concepts to complete the tale of America’s favorite pony car. It will also show you the unique perspective on the history of this model through the designer’s ideas that shaped the Mustang as you know it today. You will see some crazy creations and cars that don’t even resemble the Mustang. Even so, they are still integral parts of the Mustang saga as well as hidden gems in the car’s history.

  1. 1962 Ford Avanti

Even though Ford didn’t call this car the Mustang, it was the first Mustang concept because it represented a small two-door coupe with a sporty design. In those days, Ford was developing the idea of such a vehicle, so their designers produced several sketches and full-size models. The marketing department didn’t come up with the name Mustang yet but the designers were sketching the future car in late 1961 and early 1962.

The early design of the Avanti shows a cool looking fastback with a rear-facing back seat that was a unique, rare design feature. Some of the early designs even featured a two-seat configuration. However, the initial idea was to produce a car that was a smaller, sportier version of the Thunderbird.

  1. 1962 Ford Allegro

When Ford wants to produce a new model, they give several design teams the same task. The goal is to create a few different designs and then they choose the best one. So one team produced the Avanti and the other developed the Allegro around the same time in mid-1962.

The design of the Allegro was totally different, with a wide chrome grille and formal roofline. The front fascia and details looked modern for 1962 standards, but it didn’t look nearly as attractive as later design proposals.

  1. 1962 Ford Mustang

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.” But right from the start, it was clear that the public loved the name. And the connection with Wild West mythology was a great marketing gimmick for the car.

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

  1. 1963 Ford Mustang Prototype

The final design was complete by 1963 and the recognizable Mustang shape was the work of Ford designer, Dave Ash. The basic layout was simple but effective, and the Mustang had sporty lines, as well as a certain elegance that appealed to a wider audience.

Ford decided to abandon the idea of a two-seater in favor of a more economical approach. They decided to use the Falcon platform, which kept the costs down. Ford’s upper management approved the design of the Mustang. In fact, Henry Ford II was particularly fond of the Mustang’s beautiful lines and cool stance.

  1. 1964 Ford Mustang Sedan

For most of the concepts featured on this list, it’s a big shame they were absent from the big picture of the Mustang’s history, but not this one. Most car enthusiasts are glad they didn’t build this model. When Ford developed the Mustang in the early 60’s, they didn’t just make a new model, but also a new class on the market: pony cars. Since there were no pony cars before the Mustang, Ford development team went in several directions.

And one of them was the Mustang in a four-door body style. The car looked good and retained all the classic Mustang lines and proportions. However, Ford realized it would cannibalize the sales of the Falcon since they based the Mustang on the same platform and with the same engines.

The reason people are glad they didn’t build this Mustang is that the four-door model would have ruined the sporty appeal of the car. Also, it would have affected the success of the original model. A Mustang in a two-door coupe or convertible form was an exciting and youthful performance car. But a Mustang in four-door version would have become just another compact family sedan with no iconic appeal.

  1. 1966 Ford Mustang Station Wagon

When they released the Mustang in 1964, it became a worldwide hit, selling a million models in just a year and a half after the introduction. As with all popular cars, customizers started presenting their vision of Ford’s popular pony car. And one of the most notable custom creations was the Mustang station wagon.

Ford noticed the trend, so in 1966, they presented a prototype of a three-door, shooting brake-style station wagon they loosely based on the 1969 design. Ford management saw the potential in a roomier version of the Mustang. Interestingly, the long roof didn’t affect the sleek profile and sporty appeal of the original design. Also, it offered much more in terms of practicality and comfort.

However, they never had the chance to present the Mustang Wagon to the public. Instead, Ford decided to stick with low production costs and standard body styles, which is a shame.

  1. 1967 Ford Mustang Mach I

Ford presented the Mach I during the 1967 Detroit car show. It immediately became one of the most interesting models, even though it was still just a prototype. The Mach I was the first sporty and muscle Mustang Ford released. It showcased not only the 1967 redesign and sexy Fastback lines. But, it also got a new name which Ford would use in 1969.

The Mach I had a chopped roof and square headlights. Ford added Plexiglas side windows with racing-style cut-outs, cool wheels and a beautiful burgundy color. This made the Mach I a muscle car Mustang at its finest. The Mach I captured the imagination of car enthusiasts all around the globe. Even today, it is still a great looking car.

  1. 1967 Ford Mustang Mach 2

The success of the Mustang production model gave Ford designers a chance to explore the sports car concept in any direction. So, 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 version. However, the shape and layout of the Mach 2 were unique.

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

  1. 1968 Shelby EXP 500 Green Hornet

During the Mustang’s heyday, Ford and Shelby worked hard to explore the possibilities and limits of its platform and engineering. Although they produced several interesting prototypes, one of the most popular is the Green Hornet from 1968. Although it wasn’t the only car, the Green Hornet featured the most innovative features.

It came with a 390 V8 with fuel injection, 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 high, so Ford and Shelby decided to go with more conventional technology.

However, the Green Hornet is one of the rare surviving cars from the era. Also, it is probably one of the most expensive Mustangs since Ford offered it at $1.8 million, which wasn’t enough.

  1. 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Rear Engine

The Boss 429 Rear Engine is one of the most interesting Mustang prototypes. Despite the fact it didn’t appear on the show circuit back in the late ’60s, it caused a lot of controversies. Basically, they took the 1969 Boss 429 and moved the engine to the trunk. Then Ford extensively tested it 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. Next, they turned the rear glass into a hatchback door to provide access to the engine. In fact, the entire conversion was surprisingly trouble free.

The Boss 429 Rear Engine had a 40/60 weight balance. The added weight over the rear axle helped launch it off the line and reduced wheel spin. However, Ford realized there weren’t any significant performance improvements, so they decided to kill the project.

  1. 1970 Ford Mustang Milano

Ford scheduled the Mustang for its third big restyling in 1971. But before they released their new design, Ford teased car fans with the gorgeous Milano concept car in 1970. This Mustang had some interesting design cues that appeared on later models. One was the nearly horizontal rear deck and the hood that was almost identical to the 1969 and 1970 Shelby models.

The front end was somewhat similar to the 1971 regular models, but it had hidden headlights in a special central part of the grille. The car came in a unique purple color that was never a part of the Mustang catalog.

  1. 1971 Ford Mustang II Concept

The second generation of the Ford Mustang debuted in 1974, but Ford started developing it as early as 1971. As most car enthusiasts know, the Mustang II was much smaller, slower and no longer a muscle car by any means. However, the degradation of the model was not a bad move since annual sales were high. In fact, the Mustang II helped the car survive the problematic ’70s.

During the process, Ford toyed with many interesting ideas. One of which was a small sports car with a wedge design and hidden headlights. Despite the fact it looked cool, Ford decided to go with the more conservative design for the Mustang II.

  1. 1976 Ford Mustang Wagon

The 1966 Mustang Wagon concept was featured earlier on this list. And 10 years later, in 1976, Ford decided to play around with the idea of another Mustang wagon. This time, they based it on the Mustang II platform, equipping it with a roof rack and woodgrain inserts on the sides. In those days, Chevrolet offered the Vega three-door station wagon for sale, so Ford wanted to compete in that market segment, too.

However, most people are glad the Mustang Wagon never went beyond the concept stage. The Mustang station wagon with woodgrain in the typical ’70s fashion would have killed any sporty characteristics of the concept. In fact, the Mustang II a’most destroyed the car’s reputation from the ’60s, so the wagon version would have killed it forever.

  1. 1975 Ford Mustang Fox Concept

The third generation of the Mustang, which Ford popularly called the Fox Mustang debuted in 1979. This car brought a redesign, new technology and modern looks to the Mustang. So, Ford started developing the idea as early as 1975 using the Mustang II as a platform for their designers. As always, there were several design teams involved, all with different results.

The Fox concept was the work of one of Ford’s design teams, so it represents the development of the Mustang II design. This prototype features a big chrome grille, similar proportions and a rear end design reminiscent of the Ford Fairmont from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Fortunately, Ford abandoned this look and went with a more modern approach. This resulted in better sales and the revival of the Mustang model in the early ’80s.

  1. Bertone Mustang

Since the Mustang was a hot car in the mid-60s, lots of coachbuilders and design houses tried to improve the design and introduce own creations based on Ford’s best seller. One of the most interesting was the 1965 Bertone Mustang.

First presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1965, the Bertone Mustang was a redesigned car the based on Mustang GT platform. Bertone made a different and aerodynamically enhanced body, custom interior and special details. However, Ford wasn’t interested and this car was sold to a string of owners. Today’s whereabouts are unknown.

  1. Quarter Horse Shelby Prototype

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. Known as the Quarter Horse, those pre-production prototypes they built in 1969 have lots of interesting design cues linked to Shelby and the Boss Mustangs.

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

  1. “Lil Red”

Probably the most famous lost Mustang prototype is the Lil Red 1967 Shelby GT 500 Convertible. In 1967, Shelby American produced at least one convertible model as a prototype for possible serial production.

As you may know, they added the convertible to the Shelby lineup in 1968. But in 1967, Shelby delivered only coupes. Carroll personally used the red 1967 Shelby convertible, but after 1971 the whereabouts of the car became unknown. They’ve built many replicas since, but the original is gone.

  1. Mustang III Two Seater

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

They called the result the Mustang III and it served as a show car for the 1964 to 1965 season. The car disappeared after that but remained in one piece, resurfacing a few years ago. Since then car enthusiasts have regarded it as one of the most interesting pieces of Mustang history.

  1. 1966 Mustang with Different Tail Lights

Despite the success and instant classic status of Mustang design, Ford tweaked it a bit for the 1965 to 1966 season. The main thing was the design of the rear lights. For 1966, the Ford designers proposed different units with separate light bars.

While the 1966 model went into production without any changes to the rear, Ford produced a set of photos and brochures featuring the new design. However, no one knows if any of those 1966 cars survived.

  1. 1965 Mustang Ferguson 4WD

The Mustang Ferguson was not an official project from Dearborn. Instead, it was an interesting concept Ford of Great Britain produced in 1965. Back then, the European Ford engineers wanted to produce the ultimate Mustang with all-wheel drive configuration.

So, they contacted the tractor manufacturer, Ferguson, who supplied an AWD drivetrain to install into two 1965 Mustangs. But they abandoned the project due to the high cost. Still, both cars managed to survive.

This list of alternate Mustang history outlined Ford’s best classic concepts and prototypes for the model. Did you find your favorite? Although most of these cars are rare or even non-existent now, they had a big influence on the development of the Ford Mustang.

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