If you were to take a stroll through the massive Ford display at the 2014 North American International Auto Show, you’d see plenty of press surrounding the all-new Ford Mustang and F-150, and rightfully so. But there was one concept that was not getting nearly as much love as it should, and was a mid engined supercar.
Supercar might be an exaggeration, but the formula found in the 1962 Ford Mustang I is one employed by high performance cars to this day. The Mustang I was Ford’s answer to the Chevrolet Corvair Monza. At the time, folks in the industry were convinced that the Corvair style of car would dominate the industry– Until Ralph Nader killed it. (What people don’t know is that with a properly inflated set of radials, the Corvair was a perfectly safe car)
Unlike the the eventual 1964.5 Mustang Coupe that the world fell in love with, the Mustang I was a mid-engined speedster, employing the front-wheel drive setup and moving it behind the driver. The engine was the strange 1.5-liter V4, which powered several European Ford models and the Saab Sonnet. It produced between 55 and 65 horsepower, but for the Mustang I, it was tuned to 90 horsepower, which was enough considering the car was only 1500 pounds.
The car was setup as a speedster, with a minimal windshield, hideaway headlights, and the spare tire mounted in the pointed nose. Styling inspiration came from the P-51 Mustang fighter plane from WWII.
The car was first shown to the public on October 7, 1962, at Watkins Glen, before the United States Grand Prix. Incredibly, driver Dan Gurney’s lap times were not too far off from the F1 cars running later that day. After that race, the car was used as a promotional tool, visiting college campuses.
Ford decided to go with the four-seat coupe that we know today. It was a far more conventional layout, using many existing mechanical elements, which kept costs down. The Mustang was a hit, but what a world it would have been with a car like the Mustang I, jetting down American streets!