The Ford Mustang’s path from affordable coupe to performance icon has taken many twists and turns in its nearly 60-year history. Built on a platform similar to that of Ford’s econo-oriented Falcon when it was first introduced as a mid-year model in 1964, the Mustang pulled much of its styling inspiration from the Allegro concept that had appeared the year before, and its formula of small car plus V-8 engine would set the tone for the next six decades of its existence.
At least, that’s what happened in our timeline. The alternate history of the Ford Mustang—the one that never came to be—shot off in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions, buffeted by the winds of market change, the addled dreams of designers chasing the latest trends, and the vagaries of engineers dazzled by the latest technologies.
Check out these Mustangs that might have been, but never were.
4-door Mustang sedan concept. Ford
Two early “what if” branches of the family tree illustrated what the Mustang lineup could have looked like had it expanded into a more complete portfolio of cars. Instead, it aimed at satisfying performance fans later and those seeking an inexpensive commuter early on.
While the four-door Mustang sedan concept, built in 1965, never made it anywhere past the designer’s studio, a two-door wagon (or shooting brake) version of the car had much longer legs. The fevered dream of three Ford fans—including Robert Cumberford (designer), Barney Clark (Blue Oval ad exec), and Jim Licata (partner in crime)—the cargo-friendly Mustang was converted from a coupe that had been sent to Italy’s Costruzione Automobili Intermeccanica that same year.
Mustang wagon concept. Ford
When the finished product came back, the trio took it to Ford, Holman Moody, and even independent automotive production companies, all of whom passed on putting it into production. While the original is lost to the mists of time, a number of individuals and aftermarket companies have produced their own Mustang wagon replicas based on its design, giving us a glimpse back at a history that never happened for a car that never officially existed.
Mustang II: A bigger Maverick?
It’s interesting that the most lamented member of the Mustang fold was also the one that underwent such a far-ranging design process before being birthed into the world.
By the early ’70s it was clear that Ford would have to make some choices about the future of the coupe, given impending EPA regulations about fuel economy, the precarious world energy situation, and changing crash-test regulations. This meant a crossroads for the Mustang, and some incredibly out-there looks at what the next-generation Mustang II could be.
Initially, Ford tried to retain the car’s original platform and give it a much longer, personal-luxury type of design, but it became clear that wouldn’t work. A second swipe at the O.G. platform produced something that looked more like an enlarged Maverick than it did a Mustang.
1970 Mustang II Early Design Proposal Maverick Elements original platform. Ford
Ghia’s nose jobs
Granada-style Mustang II Ford
By 1971, Ford was producing Mustang concepts at a startling rate. At first, the smaller Ghia-assisted prototypes still embodied the upright, premium coupe look that had been seen on the larger models, both with a shark-nosed element that was clearly European, and without, in a style that would be seen later on vehicles like the Granada.
Shark-nose Ghia Mustang II. Ford
Where things really got interesting was when the Ghia studio jumped well outside the box of the decade’s styling trends and offered a hatchback version of the Mustang II that, seen in hindsight, could easily have leapt forth from the production lines of a Japanese manufacturer like Datsun or Mitsubishi in the early ’80s. Arguably, this is a far cleaner design than the actual production Mustang II, but it’s difficult to project how a look that was so far ahead of its time would have been received by a market that was still staggering out of the muscle car era.
Early ’80s styling—almost Japanese—from Ghia in 1971. Ford