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Ten Ford Mustang History Makers

The People Behind the Success of the Ford Mustang


With 40 plus years of collective pavement beneath its wheels, the Ford Mustang has proven time and time again to be a top performer. It’s the people working behind the scenes, however, that are the true American legends; people such as Carroll Shelby, Steve Saleen, Lee Iacocca, and Donald Frey. Nor can we fail to mention the hard work of all the factory workers in places such as Dearborn, Michigan and Flat Rock, Michigan. Without their hard work, the Mustang would have never made its way into the driveways of consumers. Although we couldn't possibly include them all, what follows are ten Ford Mustang History Makers.

1. Lee Iacocca

Photo © Ford Motor Company
To many, Lee Iacocca is considered the father of the Ford Mustang. In essence, he is the business man and marketing guru behind the Mustang’s initial introduction into the marketplace. Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company in the early 1950s and quickly worked his way up through the ranks. In the early 1960s, while working as Ford’s General Manager, Iacocca pitched his vision of a fun-to-drive compact car to Ford board members. This car would eventually become the 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang. On his 40th Birthday, October 15, 1964, Iacocca was made President of the Ford Division.

2. Donald Frey

Photo © Ford Motor Company

Donald Frey was the Chief Engineer for Ford’s car programs during the time the 1964-1/2 Mustang was created. He is credited with conceiving the first prototype, the 1962 Mustang I concept, which was a mid-engine two-seater roadster. As part of Lee Iacocca’s Fairlane Committee, Frey headed up all engineering aspects of the first Ford Mustang as Product Manager. He was eventually promoted to Vice President of North American Product Development, and oversaw the development of all Mustangs until his departure from the company in 1968.

3. Carroll Shelby

Photo © Ford Motor Company

When most people think of performance Mustangs, the name Shelby comes to mind. Carroll Shelby, a former race car driver and test pilot, is credited with helping Ford create the first high-performance Mustang. Shortly after the design of the first year Mustang, Lee Iacocca reached out to Shelby and asked if he would be willing to turn the Mustang into a racing machine. Shelby was up for the task, and began work on the first racing Mustang. On January 27th, 1965, the first Shelby Mustang, a 1965 Shelby GT350, made its public debut. The car was an instant hit at the track. Shelby continued to make performance Mustangs for Ford until 1970. He rejoined forces with Ford in 2005 when he created the 2006 special-edition Shelby GT-H.

4. Joe Oros

Photo © Ford Motor Company
Joe Oros is credited with creating the initial clay model for the 1964-1/2 Mustang. His model is said to have been the creative force which won over decision makers at Ford, thus giving the green light to move forward with the Mustang project. Oros, who was a Ford Division Design Chief, received an Industrial Design Institute award for his work on the 1965 Mustang.

5. Bob Tasca, Sr.

Photo © Ford Motor Company
Are you familiar with the Cobra Jet 428 engine? Drag racer Bob Tasca, Sr., owner of Tasca Ford in Rhode Island, was the man behind this performance power horse. Tasca was frustrated, in the 60s, when potential buyers would leave his dealership because the Mustang wasn’t fast enough. In turn, he and his dealership team created their own engine (Cobra Jet 428) using parts from the Ford service parts catalog. On the drag strip, his engine blew away the competition, thus resulting in a demand for the 428. In all, Tasca is credited with making Ford Mustangs better than when they left the factory. He once even told Henry Ford II that he made lousy cars. His influence at Ford, as a quality consultant, has resulted in years of Mustang performance.

6. Jack Roush

Photo © Ford Motor Company/Autostock
When I think of racing, I think of Jack Roush and his trademark Panama hat. In 1964, Roush purchased his first Ford Mustang while working as an engineer at Ford. He later went on to run ROUSH Racing, ROUSH Performance, and ROUSH Industries. From 1990 through 2004, Roush’s company worked with Team Mustang as they developed the third and fourth generation Mustangs. His company currently produces performance Mustangs such as the 427R Trak Pak and the P-51A Mustang.

7. Steve Saleen

Photo © Saleen
Think of the Saleen Mustang and Steve Saleen comes to mind. Saleen is a former race car driver who formed Saleen Autosport in 1983. The company produced its first Mustang which debuted in 1984. The modified Mustang finishing first in its class at the Mosport 24-hour race. In all, Saleen is known around the world for his modified Mustangs. In May of 2007, he resigned as Vice Chairman of Saleen, Inc.

8. Larry Shinoda

Photo © Ford Motor Company
Larry Shinoda is the man who oversaw design of the early '70s Ford Mustang. Although his time at Ford was brief (reportedly 18 months), he had a huge impact on the performance Mustangs of the early '70s. Most notably, he pushed for the Kamm back end first appearing on the 1971 Mustang. The names Boss 302 and Boss 429 are all associated with Shinoda, as he was responsible for applying these packages to the production Mustang.

9. Janine Bay

Photo © Ford Motor Company
Janine Bay is known as the Ford Mustang Vehicle Line Director and Product Engineer who lead the team to develop the first Special Vehicle Team (SVT) Mustang Cobra in 1993. Bay is one of the first women ever to head up a sports car division for an automotive manufacturer. In addition, she was involved in the production of the 1999 Ford Mustang. Bay has also been an active member of the Mustang Club of American, having served on its board.

10. Art Hyde

Photo © Ford Motor Company
Many people (me included) think Ford did an amazing job on the 2001 Bullitt Mustang. The true credit goes to Art Hyde who served as Mustang Chief Program Engineer from February 1998 through April 2001. Hyde and his team at Ford worked on all stages of the design, from conception through launch. Hyde saw his first Mustang at the World’s Fair introduction in April of 1964. In addition, he is the creator the Mach 1000 stereo which launched in 2002, and the 2003 Mach 1. His most important contribution was made leading the development of the all-new 2005 Mustang. Although his successor launched the vehicle, all key decisions had been made and the vehicle was 90+% designed before he left.
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