A couple months ago, the world eagerly awaited the unveiling of the all new 2015 Ford Mustang. Its throwback design and radically re-engineered powerplant had pony car fans around the globe drooling en-masse. But what they didn’t tell us was what went on behind the scenes for more than four years, to get the new Mustang from pipe dream to road reality.
At the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), we had the rare chance to peek behind the Blue Oval and see exactly how the Ford design team reimagined this iconic pony car. Here’s how they did it:
More than four years ago, the team started with hundreds of concept sketches of both the exterior and interior. Everyone wanted to be a part of the redesign.
While many of the early designs are pretty far out there, the interior team had some “musts” to include, like the Mustang’s big signature dual round gauges, a muscular brow line for the dash, and functional toggle switches. This helped guide the final designs, which took over two years to decide on.
Interior designs are then rendered in both 3D on the computer, and in life size clay models. The 3D renderings have to be ultra precise—they are the actual files that will be sent to manufacturers to produce the final parts.
Clay models are also made as precisely as possible. Senior Interior Designer Sewon Chun told us he prefers to work with the clay models, because he can sit inside them and get a true feel for the design’s effect on drivers.
For the exterior design team, a retro feel with a modern take was a must. Along with a wide, powerful stance.
Exterior sketches were narrowed down to 20-30 top choices, then are narrowed down again to three “themes” that are more fully developed. All pay homage to a 1968 concept by legendary auto designer, Caroll Shelby.
These are then sculpted out of hundreds of pounds of clay into 3 or 4 life size models so designers can see and feel the car. The models are painted. Real wheels are put on. The Ford team of designers and executives spend hours looking and discussing, trying to decide which one to take to market.
Theme A was ultimately picked. It has a low roofline, and is 50 millimeters wider at the rear with a dramatically lowered deck lid from the outgoing 2014 model. It features strong side lines with wide shoulders and a narrow waist. In the nod to Shelby, the power dome in front is emphasized. A final clay model sculpted.
The clay model is scanned and digitized. Engineers compare this with actual dimensions, then the model is re-sculpted, millimeter by millimeter, to perfection, then re-scanned and re-digitized.
While all this sculpting is going on, the color team gets rolling with the paint and interior materials that will be available for the new Mustang.
There are decisions about what paint colors will be available at the different trim lines, from base to premium. Along with special paint schemes, like the Triple Competition Yellow and Ruby Red, both of which require 3 coats of paint instead of the usual one coat. (We also saw a beautiful dark green that reminded us heavily of Bullitt’s Mustang. We’re anxious to see that one on the road.)
The Mustang interiors are all based on black with little pops of color. Four different interior aluminums are chosen. It took three years to decide on the final interior and exterior colors.
Meanwhile, a new life-sized fiberglass model is milled from the data scanned from the clay model. This model is painted gray so the team can evaluate how the design looks under different lighting conditions. There is a cutaway on one side of the roof to expose the interior.
Once the final tweaks have been made to this model, an extremely exact model is made of the final specs for both the inside and outside. This one-off takes modelers, sculptors, painters and other craftsmen roughly 4-5 weeks to complete.
The doors work. You can sit inside it in the actual seats that will be used. You can flip the toggle switches. Handmade, detailed lights are installed front and rear. The chrome badges are made by hand and fixed to the model. Since this is essentially the finished product for the team to review, the fit and finish needs to be perfect.
This model is eye-poppingly close the real thing. We walked past it a few times before being told it wasn’t a “real” working, production Mustang. (We made an offer to make it a permanent fixture in the Crave Online office collection, but unfortunately they didn’t go for it.)
With such an unbelievable amount of art, design and craftsmanship that goes into every step of the process, it’s no surprise it took Ford 4 years to get the new 2015 Mustang on the road.