As far as jobs go, being responsible for reinventing a legendary vehicle like the Ford Mustang on its 50th anniversary ranks right up there in stress levels with being the brain surgeon for the president of the United States or an experimental atom bomb physicist. One wrong decision, and it’s all over. Maybe not to the extent of life or death, but for Ford Motor Company, screw up the 2015 Ford Mustang, and you’ve killed the soul of the entire company. As Mark Fields, chief operating officer for Ford, said, “when you’re redoing an icon, it’s a combination of a great honor and extreme fear because you don’t want to screw up an icon.”
Lucky for Ford, the team of designers and engineers has saved Ford’s soul. The all-new 2015 Ford Mustang walks the thin line between heritage design and modern sports car. By holding introductions around the world for the new sixth-generation Mustang on the same day, there’s no question Ford has big intentions for a global launch of epic proportions to give the Mustang even bigger worldwide appeal and sales than ever before.
The Ford Mustang is the only car to carry the same nameplate continuously for a half century. Chevrolet’s Corvette can’t say that (we all know what year it’s missing), nor can its Camaro (for a few more years, anyway). Now that all the pomp and out-of-control media exposure has settled a bit, let’s take a more detailed look at the new Mustang, and focus on what the team did and why they did it.
Exterior Design: It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish
With 50 years of heritage, it would have been easy to yank design elements from previous models and call it a day. But Ford knows that Mustang enthusiasts are a vocal majority; they make soccer fans look like a bunch of grandmas quietly knitting by the fireside. Make a design faux pas, and you’ll be hearing about it for decades. Like any good car design, multiple concepts are presented before the vehicle is set in stone (or clay to be more accurate), and this was true for Mustang as well. According to Ford Design Director Joel Piaskowski, after undergoing a thorough exploration phase, the team narrowed it down to three design themes, and then the best elements of the three were incorporated into the final design. While this may sound civil and gentlemanly, we know that there had to be some heated discussions over what stayed and what went. In the end, it appears everyone kissed and made up.
In the front, a lot of heritage design remains, as evidenced by the shark nose. The goal was to create a look that made you think the vehicle was “punching” through the wind. The shark nose is most prominently seen on 1964-1969 models, and is an instant identifier. If you look at the “new face of Ford,” evidenced in the Fusion, Fiesta, C-MAX, and new Transit Connect, the Mustang shares the same hexagonal-style grille. What’s interesting is the Mustang has almost always had that shape, and while many think the new face is reminiscent of a much more expensive sports car that used to live under the Ford umbrella, the truth is those new vehicles seemed to follow Mustang’s front design treatment more than anything else. No matter where the design originated, the Mustang does a good job of moving Ford’s design DNA through the family tree.
The cabin has been reworked entirely, and by pushing it back, the Mustang has a longer hood to give more of that forward-facing style. There is also talk that the reason the cabin sits back and the hood is longer is because of European pedestrian safety regulations. We said earlier the Mustang is going global with a vengeance, and it’s always better to design in the requirements now than fight them in the future.
One of the design goals was a fastback look, which also incorporates heritage design. From the side, the daylight opening side glass (the greenhouse area from A to C pillars) gave the designers the overall fast shape they wanted to emulate in the body. You can jump back to a 1966, a 1971, or even a 1973 model, and you’ll see the rear haunch as clearly as you see it on this new model.
While the rear sides look more muscular, besides doing for design effect, the underlying reason was to support the all-new independent rear suspension, a first-ever for the Mustang. To go a step past that, the reason for the new rear suspension was because of the Mustang going international. The whole shinbone connected to the leg bone story, you know. The rear width spread is just shy of an inch on each side (20 mm), but brings the sheetmetal out to the wheel edges, giving it that massive stance.
Around back, in order to continue a broad beam illusion, the taillights were narrowed. Speaking of taillights, Mustang designers were smart enough to know not to be a-messin’ with the three-bar look of the rear lamps, and especially the sequential feature that instantly identifies it as the ponycar. The modern take is that the bars now are 3D, and add a unique dimension the rear. Sorry Camaro, but the Mustang wins the taillamp competition hands down.
Now let’s talk colors. First, thanks for not offering Grabber Blue. It’s been redone to death. There are nine exterior colors, some of which span the Ford vehicle lineup outside of Mustang, such as Race Red and Deep Impact Blue. For those brave enough to laugh in the face of speeding tickets, opt for the Triple Yellow, a color that’s been dipped three times to add a brilliant sheen.
We all love a great-looking exterior, but you do spend most of your time inside; and, well, if that doesn’t work for you, the outside could be solid gold and you’d still turn away.