Oct 25 2016

Early Milestones for the Mustang III Concept Show Car (1963-1965)

These are the early milestones for the 1963 Mustang III Concept Show Car.


Howard Kroplick

August to December, 1963 Building the 15-Pre-Production Mustangs in Allen Park Pilot Plant

 Ford built 15 pre-production pilot Mustang chassis to establish assembly procedures, to determine engineering and production corrections necessary for future production at Ford’s huge Dearborn Assembly Plant. These 15 Mustangs were built in the Allen Park Pilot Plant, just south of Dearborn, in  a scaled down assembly plant. Each of these pre-production cars received a special S-code VIN. They were never meant to be driven and were scheduled to be destroyed after their use as test or concept cars.

In the April 2015 issue of Mustang Monthly, Mustang historian Bob Fria provided details on the 15 pre-production Mustangs. Only three of the 15 pre-production Mustangs are known to exist today.

As noted in the chart, the convertible chassis for the Mustang III was the ninth pre-production built. Since the first eight pre-production S-Coded Mustangs have been destroyed or unknown, the Mustang III is likely the oldest Mustang on the road today. It is the only Mustang in the world with an S VIN #.

October-December 1963 Assembling the Mustang III Chassis

Labels found in the Mustang III indicate it was assembled sometime from October to December in 1963.

The windshield and side windows were built with "Prototype Solid Safety Glass".

December 1963- May 1964

Location unknown. Likely at the Ford Allen Park Pilot Plant for testing and modifications.

June 1964 - Transfer from Ford to Dearborn Steel Tubing

Early on the Mustang program " two-seaters were frequently pitched as potential replacements for the late, lamented first-generation Thunderbird". Ford provided the ninth pre-production Mustang to their prototype/concept show car supplier Dearborn Steel Tubing (DST) and designer Vince Gardner to build a unique Mustang for the Ford Custom Car Caravan.  According to Ford.com, "it’s not known if Gardner ever saw or had access to rejected Ford design studio sketches, but the concept crafted by the DST team bears a strong resemblance to at least one sketch from February 1963."

A September 3, 1965 document from Dearborn Steel Tubing documented the transfer of the Mustang from Ford to DST:

"This car was built at the request of the Ford Motor Company Car Marketing Division in June 1964. After completion the car was used by Ford Motor Company for showing in its Custom Car Caravan which travels all over the country... The frame was a prototype fram furnished to us, which we added various parts to build it up to a completed stage. All of the body design and panels were constructed of fiberglass were made by first having a mold constructed from which boduy parts were cast and formed. ..this is a show car of which there are no duplicates."

"While this car was equipped with a high performance engine and special transmission, it was not used for over the road purposes, but was a show car to be on display at various exhibits and auto shows."
The total costs to Dearborn Steel Tubing to build the Mustang III was $16,979.02, equivalent to $128,560 today.

June-July 1964 Building the Mustang III

As noted above, there were" several hundred hours acumulated to design, build and rebuild this car." The build was supervised by contract designer Vincent Gardner.

The building of the Mustang III was described in the April 1965 issue of Custom Craft.

July 1964 - April 1965 Exhibited on the Ford Custom Car Caravan

The Mustang III was a featured automobile on the traveling Ford Custom Caravan

May 1965 Featured in Motor Trend

The automobile was featured in the May 1965 issue of Motor Trend and described as "Mustang III, a limited production 1965 1/2 offering... Its new fastback roof may herald changes on production models for 1966."

The Mustang III was displayed at the 1965 sports car exhibit  for the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village.

May 2, 1965 The Theft of the Mustang III

According to the September 3, 1965 DST document, "the Fastback "Shortie" Experimental Mustang..was stolen from our shop at 2920 Inkster Road on May 2, 1965."

According to National Automobile Theft Bureau documents, the Mustang III was stolen by designer Vince Gardner. He was apparently concerned that his creation was headed to the crusher to be destroyed.

June 24, 1965 Transfer from DST to Aetna

Dearborn Steel Tubing placee a claim for the Mustang III and received a check for $10,000, equivalent to $75,500 today.

December 7, 1965 The Recovery of the Mustang III

Seven months later, the Mustang III was recovered by the Detroit Police Department.

Soon after, the Mustang III was sent to its new owner Aetna Casualty and Surety. Since Aetna did not have any agreements with Ford, they were under no obligation to destroy the car. The Mustang III was saved and soon sold to an Aetna executive who offically titled the car.


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