After the passing earlier this year of Gale Halderman, the principal designer of the original Mustang, fans have been wanting to know more about the man who had played such a key role in one of Ford Motor Company’s most iconic products. Lucky for enthusiasts that there’s the hardcover book, “Mustang By Design: Gale Halderman and the Creation of Ford’s Iconic Pony Car,” that offers an inside look at Halderman and the special car that he helped create.
Co-authors Jimmy Dinsmore and James Halderman (Gale’s cousin) had interviewed Gale extensively for the heart of this book, as well as logged countless discussions with many of us in the Mustang hobby who had come to know Gale so well over the past 10 years. For well-versed Mustang fans, Gale Halderman is best-known for his contribution to the design of the prototype that was eventually chosen as the production 1965 Mustang. Under the direction of his then-boss Joe Oros, Halderman went home after a long day at the Ford Design studio and sketched out the now-classic shape of the original Mustang on his kitchen table. That sketch was chosen as the design direction for the all-new Mustang sporty car dreamed up by product planner Hal Sperlich and pushed into production by his Ford Division chief, Lee Iacocca.
Halderman was then tasked to skillfully guide Mustang through the feasibility process, from a clay-model dream to a manufactured reality. After spearheading the 2+2 Fastback, he received the Industrial Design Society’s Design Award for his work on the 1965 Mustang, and served as styling chief for the Mustang for eight more years. Mustang design advances under his leadership are said to include the ’67 SportsRoof and the ’71 Notchback and full Fastback designs. The rest, as they say, is history – even as his contributions to Ford went well beyond Mustang.
Let’s face it – the Mustang is a legendary car, so it’s to be expected that people who had touched it along the way will take credit for things – even things that didn’t happen and things that they didn’t do. The problem is, sorting out Mustang fact from Mustang fiction can be difficult, as not everything you’ll see in books is supported by Ford people who have actually worked on the program. And that’s where this book differs from all the rest – Gale Halderman was there from the beginning. He not only played a major role in making the Mustang a success, he was on the inside when many of the critical decisions were made about the car. So this book is not only a story of Gale’s life – it’s a firsthand account of how the car came to be. And it came from someone who was actually there – so it’s right from the horse’s mouth, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The promo for the book, which was published in the fall of 2018, does a great job of explaining what you should expect once you start reading, so yes, the publisher, Car Tech, does a nice job of setting the stage for the reader:
“Without question, the 1964-1/2 Mustang is one of the most important and influential cars in automotive history. When Ford launched the Mustang, it created an automotive revolution. Award-winning designer and stylist Gale Halderman was at the epicenter of the action at Ford, and, in fact, his initial design sketch formed the basis of the new Mustang. He reveals his involvement in the project as well as telling the entire story of the design and development of the Mustang.
“Authors and Mustang enthusiasts James Dinsmore and James Halderman go beyond the front doors at Ford into the design center, testing grounds, and Ford facilities to get the real, unvarnished story. Gale Halderman offers a unique behind-the-scenes perspective and firsthand account of the inception, design, development, and production of the original Mustang. With stinging losses from the Edsel fresh in minds at Ford, the Mustang project was an uphill battle from day one. Lee Iacocca and his assembled team had a herculean task to convince Henry Ford II to take a risk on a new concept of automobile, but with the help of Hal Sperlich s detailed market research, the project received the green light. Henry Ford II made it clear that jobs were on the line, including Iacocca s, if it failed.
“The process of taking a car from sketch to clay model to prototype to preproduction and finally finished model is retraced in insightful detail. During the process, many fascinating experimental cars, such as the Mustang I two-seater, Mustang II prototype, Mustang Allegro, and Shorty, were built. But eventually the Mustang, based on the existing Ford Falcon, received the nod for final production. In a gala event, it was unveiled at the World’s Fair in New York. The Mustang received public accolades and critical acclaim, and soon it became a runaway hit. After the initial success, Ford designers and Gale Halderman designed and developed the first fastback Mustangs to compliment the coupes. The classic Mustang muscle cars to follow, including the GT, Mach 1, and others, are profiled as well.
“The Mustang changed automotive history and ushered in the pony car era as a nimble, powerful, and elegantly styled sports coupe. But it could so easily have stumbled and wound up on the scrap pile of failed new projects. This is the remarkable and dramatic story of how the Mustang came to life, the demanding design and development process, and, ultimately, the triumph of the iconic American car.”
In this book you’ll find much of Gale’s own firsthand perspective, as well as so many of those wonderful stories that Halderman had shared personally with those lucky enough to have met him. Gale’s respect for Ford product guru Sperlich, Ford Design chief Gene Bordinat and his deep friendship with his studio boss and co-designer Oros, can be felt at each turn of the page, and rightfully so. Plus, there are plenty of interesting sidebars in the book about the people and projects that any real Mustang fan would want to know about.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any other book that tells the story of a car from inside of the design studio quite like this one does – and all from the very man who made Mustang magic happen. And unlike what happened to Gale – where for years the media reports had overlooked him to give full Mustang design credit to David Ash or Oros – Gale gave due credit to those who styled Mustangs under his watch. The fact that Gale heaped praise on Ken Spencer, the stylist on the 1969 Fastback, for example, prove that point.
Dinsmore and James Halderman show a knack for letting Gale’s views come shining through in this book, without trying to temper his opinions. It’s refreshing to see they were able to capture the spirit of the same Gale Halderman that so many fans have come to know and respect over the years. Ford Performance was glad to support the effort by securing historical photos from the Ford Archives from our files, and by penning the book’s Foreword. Beyond the visuals and the use of Gale’s own storytelling, the authors also did a nice job of putting Mustang in the proper context, both from the industry and the consumer side of things.
All in all, Mustang By Design provides a treasure trove of insight on the design story behind the iconic Ford Mustang, as well as a close look into the life of one of Ford’s most iconic designers, Gale Halderman. There is much for you to enjoy on each and every page, and even if you wind up paying the full list price of $42.95, it’s worth every cent. It can likely be had from Amazon for less, but the smart buy would be to get an author-signed copy from Gale’s daughter, Karen (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is still operating the Halderman Museum on Gale’s homestead in Tipp City, Ohio, as an ongoing tribute to her late father.
Mustang By Design: Gale Halderman and the Creation of Ford’s Iconic Pony Car
By Jimmy Dinsmore and James Halderman
Published by Car Tech
Hardbound, 176 pages and 250-plus photos
ISBN-10 : 1613254075 / ISBN-13 : 978-1613254073
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS / COURTESY JOHN M. CLOR and FORD MOTOR COMPANY ARCHIVES