Like the Harley-Davidson motorcycle and the M1 Abrams battle tank, the Ford Mustang is an iconic American machine.
Developed as a concept car in the early 1960s, it inspired a new class of “pony cars,” affordable, stylish coupes with long hoods, short backsides and an attractive combination of speed and power.
But why did we write about a logo that’s as self-explanatory as the galloping ‘Stang? Because, as is typically the case in Logo Legends, there’s more to the story. We reveal the real meaning of the Ford Mustang logo.
When I think of a Mustang, I think of horses, and horsepower. There’s also that galloping horse badge on the grille.
But, surprisingly, the origin of the Ford Mustang logo and name may not have to do with horses at all.
In the book “Mustang Genesis,” Ford designer John Najjar says his original idea was to name the car after a prominent World War II fighter plane. Here’s the quote, courtesy of Ford:
“R.H. Bob Maguire, my boss, and I were looking through a list of names for the car. I had been reading about the P-51 Mustang airplane and suggested the name Mustang in remembrance of the P-51, but Bob thought the name as associated with the airplane was too ‘airplaney’ and rejected that idea. I again suggested the same name Mustang, but this time with a horse association because it seemed more romantic. He agreed and we together selected that name right on the spot, and that’s how it got its name.”
But that’s not exactly how everyone remembers it.
Following a college football game in 1963, in which the Michigan Wolverines beat the visiting Southern Methodist University Mustangs, legend has it then-Ford Vice President Lee Iacocca addressed the losing locker room and said the following:
“After watching the SMU Mustangs play with such flair, we reached a decision. We will call our new car the Mustang. Because it will be light, like your team. It will be quick, like your team. And it will be sporty, like your team.”
But Iacocca himself reportedly told others this never happened, and the Mustang name was also said to have appeared on the second Mustang concept car a year earlier in 1962.
However, according to Ford’s website, this didn’t stop SMU coach Hayden Fry from purchasing a Mustang in his school’s red and blue colors when they went on sale in 1964.
That’s it for the Ford Mustang logo. Visit AAA.com/LogoLegends to read about other car badges and logos, and let us know what names and emblems you’d like to read about in the comments section below.