|Reinvented Hopeful: The Mustang II
Design decisions bring back the "Pony"
by Dick Nesbitt. Photos by author.
Development of the 1974-1978 Mustang II was foreshadowed at Ford Motor Company's annual shareholders' meeting on May 23, 1968. Anna Muccioli, one of the many shareholders attending this meeting, complained that the Mustang, like the Thunderbird before it, was getting too big and less distinctive-looking with each new model introduction. Henry Ford II actually agreed with her and acknowledged this unfortunate turn of events but he also stated this situation was market-driven by public demand.
Anna closed her comments to Henry Ford by asking him to keep the Mustang small, and not to let it get further "blown up" in size. A huge round of applause followed supporting Anna's comments from the many like-minded shareholders in attendance.
Chairman Henry Ford, recently appointed President Bunkie Knudsen and Executive Vice-President Lee Iacocca were clearly impressed by the unanimous and enthusiastic response demonstrated by so many shareholders.
Nevertheless, the Mustang continued to grow, with the bigger 1969-1970 series followed by the biggest yet 1971-1972-1973 versions. This inflated size direction was mostly the work of company president Bunkie Knudsen, in an effort to make Mustang less "pony car" and more "muscle car."
A sudden change of event concerning Mustang's future took place in September 1969, with the firing of Bunkie Knudsen. Lee Iacocca was now in charge of directing future product development at Ford and this would include a small Mustang in line with the enthusiasm show at the 1968 annual shareholders' meeting.
Iacocca elected to explore two seperate small Mustang programs designated as "Project 80." The first was code-named "Ohio" and was to be based on a modified Maverick platform for release in 1974. The second, code-named "Arizona," was to be based on a modified Pinto platform for release in 1975.
From a marketing perspective, a need was seen to compete with import "pony cars" such as the Toyota Celica, Opel Manta, and Ford's own European Capri, as distributed by Lincoln-Mercury in the USA. The "Arizona" project best met that need. As of 1971, further development on the Maverick-based "Ohio" program was discontinued, prompting an all-out effort to establish an appropriate styling theme for the Arizona platform.
Advanced product planning manager Nat Adamson scheduled a focus group review in Long Beach, California including potential popular import competitors with a selection of fiberglass "Arizona" styling proposals, and got very good feedback. Similar enthusiasm was expressed in a San Diego review shortly afterward.
A new influence on the future of the small Mustang program arrived with the purchase by Ford, in late 1970, of Carrozzeria Ghia, a highly regarded design and prototype organization based in Turin, Italy. In record time, Ghia created a drivable, running prototype. This concept was based on an earlier European Capri design proposal created by Ghia, as was liked by Henry Ford and Lee Iacocca.
Althought the Arizona proposals shown so far had done well on scheduled surveys, Ford decided the styling issue still hadn't been fully resolved. Lee Iacocca, by now Ford's president, set up a massive styling competition comprised of several Ford and Lincoln-Mercury production and advanced design studios, also including Ghia of Italy. This would be an all-out effort representing each studio's best efforts from intial concept sketches to finished, full-size clay models for final presentation. The final decision would have to be made within three months, by December 1971.