The Designer at the Heart of the Original Mustang Has Passed Away at 87

Gale Halderman, whose design sketch would become the Ford Mustang, died last night at Upper Valley Medical Center at the age of 87. Halderman passed after a short battle with liver cancer, reports the Dayton Daily News.

Halderman first joined Ford in 1954 and shaped the 1957 standard Ford, before joining the Corporate Advanced Studio. There, he helped draw the sketch that would eventually be chosen as the design of the Mustang.

Joe Oros, head of the Ford Studio team, has credited Halderman with contributing to the design and the clay model, which made the car a reality.

Halderman said that when he joined the team, he was originally supposed to be working on the full-size Ford for 1965.

“But one day Joe said, ‘We’ve just been told by Bordinat to do a proposal for a small car that Lee wants to build.’” He told Consumer Guide. “I told Joe, ‘I won’t have time. I’m doing the ’65 Ford.’ He told me I had to give him some designs. So I went home and sketched. I took about five or six sketches with me the next morning and put them up on the board. Joe picked one of those to be clay-modeled.

“Dave Ash had already done a clay — very boxy, very stiff-looking. Joe came back from a management conference and said, “No, no, no, we’re not going to do that!” That’s when he said he wanted me to submit some designs. So we actually started over on the clay model using the theme from one of my designs, which had scoops on the sides and the hop-up quarter lines. The front end was primarily designed afterward.”

Still, Halderman was noted for his humility. According to Jimmy Dinsmore, who wrote “Mustang by Design: Gale Halderman and the Creation of Ford’s Iconic Pony Car” and spokesman for the Halderman family, Halderman received little credit for his work on the Mustang, but never much minded. 

“I’ll always remember his smile at car events when people would thank him for designing such a beautiful car, the smile it would bring to his face,” Dinsmore told the Dayton Daily News. “That’s the impact Gale had – whether you were a Mustang fan or not.”

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