Is SMU horsing around with the Mustang's history?
Ford executives Donald Frey and Lee Iacocca pose with the Falcon and Mustang.
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At the time, Iacocca was a vice president with Ford Motor Co., which was preparing to roll out a new sports car the following spring. On Sept. 28, 1963, after Michigan defeated Southern Methodist University, 27-16, SMU says Iacocca entered the visitor's locker room to address the dejected team.
"Today," Iacocca said, according to an SMU press release this week, "after watching the SMU Mustangs play with such flair, we reached a decision. We will call our new car the Mustang. Because it will be light, like your team. It will be quick, like your team. And it will be sporty, like your team."
Just think: If then-Michigan Athletic Director Fritz Crisler had instead scheduled that day's game against a different Dallas-area college, Texas Christian, Ford could be celebrating a half century of its venerable Horned Frog.
On the other hand, what if SMU, whose logo is a near-exact mirror image of the Ford Mustang's galloping-horse emblem, made up the whole story?
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I asked Iacocca's assistant whether the story is true. She provided this response from him:
"We had a fellow at J. Walter Thompson Advertising suggest a list of names. Cars were being named with animal names, which seemed to be popular at the time. Our list had animal names, one of which was Mustang. Gene Bourdinat, VP of Styling and I sat down and chose the name Mustang from the list, because the running horse connotation suggested 'moving fast through the countryside.' Our team heard GM was considering using the name Mustang, but we registered it first."
So did Iacocca go into SMU's locker room or even attend the game at all? "I have read what you sent before and Mr. Iacocca doesn't affirm or deny when asked," she e-mailed back. "I think perhaps he gets pleasure from the various accounts on how Mustang was named."