Did Ford Name its Mustang after SMU's Mascot?

fordmustang.jpg
It's September 28, 1963, and the mood in the visitor's locker room of Ann Arbor's Michigan Stadium is somber. SMU's undersized Mustang football players hang their heads, mourning their season-opening 27-16 defeat at the hands of the Wolverines. There are few words as the players prepare for the trip back to Dallas.

The door swings open, and in walks Ford Motor Company president and American business icon Lee Iacocca. Heads turn, and Iacocca begins to speak.

"Today, after watching the SMU Mustangs play with such flair, we reached a decision," he says. "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."

That's SMU's version, anyway, often repeated by head coach Hayden Fry, who also maintains that Iacocca sold him the first Mustang to come off the line, painted in red and blue, and most recently trotted out by the university last week when it announced that the Mustangs will return to Michigan Stadium in 2018 for a chance to avenge that 1963 loss.

If the notion that one of America's largest carmakers would make a multi-million dollar bet based on a losing performance by a rival college football team seems far-fetched, that's because it probably is. On Friday, Automotive News' Nick Bunkley fact-checked SMU's claim and found it wanting.

First, here's Iacocca's story, as delivered to Automotive News by his personal assistant.

We had a fellow at J. Walter Thompson Advertising suggest a list of names. Cars were being named with animal names, which seemed to be popular at the time. Our list had animal names, one of which was Mustang. Gene Bourdinat, VP of Styling and I sat down and chose the name Mustang from the list, because the running horse connotation suggested 'moving fast through the countryside.' Our team heard GM was considering using the name Mustang, but we registered it first.

He wouldn't say whether or not he ever delivered the post-game speech, or if he'd even attended the game. But the evidence suggests that, even if he was there, Ford had already made its decision.

Ford dug up three photos of a Mustang prototype for me. They're dated Sept. 27, 1963 -- the day before Michigan played SMU. The car pictured has the word "Mustang" on the back and the horse logo on the grille, indicating that the name was chosen before the Mustangs arrived in Ann Arbor.

Not that we should let the truth get away in the way of a good story.

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25 comments
IgnatiusJ
IgnatiusJ

I had heard that because of Carroll Shelby once attended a Woodrow Wilson football game against Itasca High, he favored the moniker "Wampus Cats" for the car because of it's mythical ferocity.  Huh.

dingo
dingo

So we are all certain that the shrewd businessman Iacocca didn't see a chance for some free publicity and susbequently walked into the SMU locker room to lay the 'horse' shit story on the team?

And with that certainty in hand this piss poor excuse for news outlet is indicting the great Hayden Fry as a liar?

RSFII
RSFII

Anyhow, Carroll Shelby went to Woodrow. And this Mustang is red and gray, our school colors.  :)

carfreak
carfreak

someone in the hillsboro area has some of the orginal design drawings of the mustang and the mustang grill, and they display them sometimes at local shows. they might be able to help date the name. 

MustangSally
MustangSally

The pictured car is a resto-mod or a pro touring  as they are called these days. That is plainly obvious and not in question.

On the other hand, It might be a geniune Shelby Mustang GF-350 or it might be a replica. I'm thinking a replica because car enthusiasts generally do not resto mod geniune cars.

LeroyJenkem
LeroyJenkem

20 years later, and Ford would have named it the "Cokehead".

JustAnOpinion007
JustAnOpinion007

The logo was SMU's way before the Ford Mustang.  I don't know the details but I read somewhere that Ford asked SMU if they could use it.  I guess they said, "Yes, but you have to flip it."  So the logos are identical except for the SMU logo is running to the right whereas the Ford logo is running to the left.

if6were9
if6were9

I heard it was connected to Uber and Mike Miles......what have you heard, Jim?  

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

It's actually named after a p51 mustang fighter.

Much cooler than SMU.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I've always wondered this. Both the Ford Mustang logo and the SMU Mustang logo are virtually identical. Surely one has sued the other for infringement, so who actually owns that logo? Is SMU cutting a check yearly to Ford for it or vice versa?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

The body may be Ford Mustang, but the car in that photo is a Shelby Cobra.

JSSS
JSSS

Ford and Iacocca clearly are trying to gain distance from SMU given that a famous SMU alum once killed 5 hookers.

bifftannen
bifftannen

@MustangSally Who the fuck cares?

Gee, Ford had the Falcon, and along comes the Mustang on a Falcon platform. Animals, indeed.

dingo
dingo

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz You are white and like country music. 

According to the Observer, you are also stupid, like to get drunk and fight. And all of your racists friends continually told you to avoid Fair Park as you were growing up.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@dingo  I grew up in Brooklyn.  Furthermore I care not what you label the music that moves me, be it country or hip-hop.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ColonelAngus @TheCredibleHulk

*sigh* 

Here we go, the age-old argument.

These cars were commonly referred to as Mustang Cobras or, alternatively, Cobra Mustangs (even by Ford and Shelby American in their advertising) due to the fact that Shelby American used Cobra intakes and valve covers and also shared paint schemes and badging with the 2-seater aluminum bodied AC Cobras of that era.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelby_Mustang

Wiki's not my favorite, but it'll do, here.

Also, the commenter above is probably correct in saying that this vehicle is probably a repro.

dingo
dingo

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @dingo I am not in the business of labeling people. I was simply attempting to be helpful by pointing out how your taste in music would have you perceived by the omniscient few that feel they are qualified to do the labeling for me.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ColonelAngus @TheCredibleHulk 

Fair enough.

But it is also true that if you mention the name "Cobra" to the uninitiated, casual car lover, they will likely assume you are referring to the far more common Mustang bodied variety, which is still, technically speaking, a Shelby Cobra and not a Ford Mustang - at least during that era.

Nowhere on the original GT-350 or GT-500 did the Mustang logo appear, only the Cobra logo and badging. 

Anyway, this is just a poor picture to use if you are discussing the origin of the Mustang name or logo as it appears nowhere on this particular vehicle.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@TheCredibleHulk I agree that the monikers Shelby/Mustang/Cobra are used in various combinations.  But if you mention "Shelby Cobra" to a musclecar aficionado without GT350, GT500 or Mustang included then he will assume you mean the AC Cobra. 

Could be a repro.  I have known several GT350/GT500 owners over the years and none would even fathom the idea of replacing the stock rims on an otherwise original car.

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