Chris Walter spills the beans on the rigorous design process behind Dearborn's pony car.
After months of waiting, the new Ford Mustang debuted earlier this year and was well-received thanks to the stunning exterior that melds retro cues with modern design. Mustang Exterior Design Manager Chris Walter recently detailed the rigorous design process of the seventh-generation vehicle, telling Muscle Cars & Trucks the road to creating a vehicle worthy of the Mustang nameplate was fraught with challenges.
Walter notes that in the early stages, Ford had four or five concepts. Eventually, three designs were selected, along with a theme. However, shortly after commencing work, the team realized it wasn't happy with the chosen theme. "We designed an alternative theme. That ... ended up playing into that [edgier], chiseled feel that we ended up with the car. The two words being sexy and edgy," explained Walter.
To ensure the new Mustang would appeal to youthful and style-conscious customers, the design team conducted market research with around 30 younger Ford employees. "We had ... impromptu internal research to look at the one that we had been, kind of just chugging along with," explained Walter.
But it seems that Ford designers just weren't satisfied with this particular theme. "We didn't feel like it pushed the car into the future enough, and we wanted the seventh-gen to be a real, modern interpretation of this iconic design. So, that more edgy theme, that's the one we went for." He notes that in the early stages of the design process, there were between five and 10 design ideas.
And then in late 2019, Ford finally settled on a theme. The millennial and Gen Z employees were brought back to look at the new design. Interestingly, the decision to let younger Ford employees voice their opinions over the new Mustang came from upper management, who wanted a different perspective.
"We were all on board with the design. We were pushing for this edgier theme. And I'm really glad we did because, I think, at the end of the day, we would have come out with seventh-gen, and it would not have been pushing it into that modern realm as much," remarked Walter.
But then another challenge arrived: the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Designing the Mustang during [the pandemic], those first eight weeks we were all virtual," said Walter. "Not only did we have to pivot on a theme, but we had to learn how to work remotely for at least eight weeks. Design is a hands-on process, and after those eight weeks when things kind of loosened up, we had the essential workers in the office, then we could get into the studio as much as we could to work on the clay models."
It's clear to see the final product pays tribute to Mustangs from years gone by while still remaining a thoroughly modern product. Whether you like the styling or not, there's no denying it's got serious presence and is undeniably a Mustang. The more aggressive Dark Horse derivative boasts even more impressive styling - and a 500-horsepower V8 engine.