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Ford Tracks Fifth-Generation Mustang Evolution before Sixth-Gen Debut

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Back in those halcyon days of 1999, we were convinced that the world was going to end (and this shared conclusion had surprisingly little to do with the prevalence of Brittney Spears and how amazingly bad The Phantom Menace turned out to be).  For designers at Ford tasked with protecting the legacy of the pony car name badge with the fifth-generation Mustang, their attention was firmly on the future.

Known internally as S197, the fifth-generation Mustang was the responsibility of J Mays, who retired as Ford’s chief designer back in early November.  From the earliest conception of what the next pony car would be in 1999, it was almost a certainty that the next-gen Mustang would be a rear-wheel-drive platform.  Over time, it became clear to Mays and Ford’s designers that this Mustang would have to be built on a platform all its own, making the eventual 2005 Ford Mustang the first in the model’s history to not share a platform with another Ford vehicle.

Related: 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible Gets More Performance and Convenience

Mays was out to create a “retro-futuristic” look that managed to evoke the sentiment of the Mustangs of the 60s and 70s while boasting an entirely unique and forward-thinking design.  A wealth of concept sketches, renders, and early builds were made available with Ford’s press release, showing the evolution of the fifth-generation Mustang with the gradual inclusion of elements such as the side “hockey-stick” curve, shark-nose front, rectangular grille, bucketed headlamps, and long-hood/short-deck proportion.

“When you’re designing a new Mustang, you’re the steward of 40 years of automotive history,” said Mays in 2004 upon his creation’s debut.  “If you don’t get it right, you’ve got 8 million Mustang fans to answer to.”

The fifth-generation Mustang has since become one of the most popular cars in America, having sold more than a million units as of the Mustang’s 49th anniversary in April 2013.  It has been the subject of numerous retro-futuristic special editions, including the 2008-09 Mustang Bullitt, 2012-13 Mustang Boss 302, and the Mustang Shelby GT500 (available since 2007).  All of this is a testament to Mays’ commitment to making the fifth-gen Mustang the best pony car on the market.

Related: Ford Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Mustang with a Grand Display

“We wanted to capture the essence of the car,” said Mays.  “We looked at what made the best Mustangs good and the lesser Mustangs not as good.”

With the sixth-generation Mustang set to debut this week, it can only be assumed that the 2015 model will borrow liberally from so much of what its predecessor did right.

Fifth-generation Mustang

An early sketch of the Fifth-generation Mustang.


Brought to you by Don Chalmers Ford in Albuquerque, New Mexico.