Automotive designer Gale Halderman passed away at the age of 87 on April 29, 2020 from cancer.
You may not know his name, but you definitely know of his work. You’ve heard it firing up in the morning. Probably dreamt about owning it. Listened to songs about it or seen it on the big screen. He is the man who designed the first generation Ford Mustang. His vision for an affordable sports car became a record selling icon. More than just a sports car, the Mustang has stampeded its way into pop culture through song, film, and quarter mile memories. In life’s own poetic scene of screenwriting Halderman died on the same month his creation was announced to the world.
With Halderman goes the last of the original minds behind the development of the Ford Mustang. A car that would have never been built hadn’t these people taken a chance in what they believed in. After the Edsel’s failure Henry Ford II was gun-shy about taking another risk on an idea for an affordable sports car. Lee Iacocca had to develop the Mustang on the cheap and often by secret to avoid awkward conversations like, “will this work?”
In fact, Halderman had to work his concept titled “Cougar” at home on his own time. This happened because he busy working on other Ford models, and because this project was still technically a secret. The clay model that would later be called the Mustang was based off a sketch Halderman made while sitting on his porch at home in 1962. His concept made history and the car lives on all over the world. Including in my driveway where my father’s 1966 Mustang convertible 289 automatic sits patiently awaiting new parts.
Interviews with those who knew Halderman best say that he was a humbled guy who loved his work. Jimmy Dinsmore, author of Mustang by Design: Gale Halderman and the Creation of the Ford’s Ionic Pony Car, has been the spokesperson for the Halderman family during this difficult time.
In an interview for the Daytona Daily News, Dinsmore said, “For many years, Halderman did not receive much attention for being the Mustang’s original designer, preferring to let others take the credit.”
It’s probably why many people, unless they were Mustang fantiacs, were unaware of the impact Gale Halderman had on automotive culture as well as American pop culture. I’m guilty of it. I did not know about Halderman and I’m disappointed in myself that I found out too late. But, now I’ll never forget.
Ford sold over 1 million (1964-1966) first generation Mustangs. If this was a music album it would have gone platinum! He worked for Ford Motor Company for 40 years and is also credited for designing the 1990 Lincoln Town Car. Throughout his career with Ford he held positions as director and executive director of the Advanced Design Studio, Interior Design Studio, Lincoln/Mercury Design Studio and the Ford Design Studio.