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See how the Mustang’s pony badge has evolved over the last five decades

By Drew Phillips - September 2, 2013 – 7:25 am6 Comments | 3,788 views

The Ford Mustang’s pony badge is one of the most iconic of all time and for the most part has remained largely the same over the last five decades. Even so, there were several iterations of the running pony before Ford finally settled on the final version, from a right-facing pony to just a horse head similar to a chess night. The running pony was first shown on the 1962 Mustang I Concept, featuring the red, white and blue tri-bar in the background, while the surrounding corral appeared with the runny pony a year later on the 1963 Mustang II Concept. The finalized version made its debut on the Mustang in 1964, featuring a fully galloping pony. Since then the badge has slowly evolved over the years, the latest update coming in 2010 with an edgier, more muscular design.

You can see the full evolution of the Ford Mustang’s galloping pony logo from concept to present day below.

In early summer-1962, as California-based race car constructor Troutman and Barnes was assembling the running version of the Mustang 1 concept, the Ford designers gathered in the studio back in Dearborn to review sketches for the badge. The goal was to create something that reflected both a horse for the car’s name and that the car was American. Phil Clark had been sketching ideas for a horse badge for several years and the team preferred his concept for a galloping horse with a a red, white and blue tri-bar design to reflect the Mustang’s American heritage.
While the Mustang concept was being completed in September 1962, a competition was held among the Ford designers for a four-seat sporty car. More than a dozen very different designs were proposed but ultimately a design by Gale Halderman was selected as the basis of what would eventually be sold as the 1965 Mustang. Each design had a different name to distinguish them and Halderman’s proposal was called Cougar. The grille featured a stylized big-cat contained by a surround that would eventually be known as the pony corral.
There was considerable debate about which direction the Cougar or pony should face; left or right. Various design models during 1962-1964 can be found with logos pointing in either direction.
During 1963, Ford prepared a second concept based on one of the production prototype body-shells that would eventually be called Mustang II. The proportions of the pony logo as used on the Mustang I were deemed too tall to fit nicely in the production-style grille corral. Design studio modeler Charles Keresztes was tasked with creating a new version of the pony for the grille of Mustang II and the production car.
Charles Keresztes’ final wooden sculpture of the production grille pony.
The Mustang II concept featured the first public appearance of the pony in the corral on the grille in October 1963.
Other horse-oriented logos that were considered included this horse head reminiscent of a chess knight.
Just as the Cougar logos could be found at various times facing left or right, so too with the pony. This design prototype used the right facing horse because some felt that was the way people were used to seeing horses run on race tracks.
Ultimately, Lee Iacocca said “the Mustang is a wild horse, not a domesticated racer” and designer Gene Halderman felt the pony should always face left, the way Phil Clark had almost exclusively drawn it. J, Walter Thompson account executive, Frank Thomas who worked on the name research, is quoted as saying that Mustang rose to the top “because it had the excitement of the wide open spaces and was American as all hell.” Although no concrete evidence can be found, numerous anecdotes have been told that the left-facing pony represents a horse running west corresponding to that direction on a typical map.
The production grille Pony emblem surrounded by the corral on the 1965 Mustang. Compared to the Phil Clark’s original design, this and subsequent versions of the pony show more of a running stance rather than galloping. The head and neck are more horizontal and the tail flows out behind.
1965-66 Mustangs used a revised version of the Pony emblem on the front fenders with the pony on top of the red, white and blue tri-bar. Modeler Wayno Kangas designed the fender badge and the horse is somewhat flatter with less relief than the grille badge.
The production 1965 rear gas cap with the embedded pony and tri-bar emblem.
When the Mustang II arrived for the 1974 model year, the tri-bar fender badge was reworked to a Roman numeral II and the horse was re-sculpted with its head more upright and a straighter tail.
After disappearing from the exterior of the car during the 1979-93 Fox body years, the tri-bar pony badge returned to the fender of certain models of the 1994 SN-95 Mustang.
A number of special variants of the pony fender badge appeared over the years with different backgrounds including the 40th and 45th anniversary editions which used a horseshoe and the 2009 Warriors in Pink edition which featured a pink ribbon to raise awareness for breast cancer research.
The pony got its most recent revision for the updated 2010 models with a crisper, more muscular appearance.

[Source: Ford]

6 Comments »

  • Jeb Bradbury says:

    Hi guys,

    The legendary 1984 GT 350 20th Anniversary Edition also featured the Pony and Bars on it shoulders. I sure miss mine.

  • Jerry Olson says:

    The Pony keeps riding With A wild Stampede Coming up Behind.Mustangs Forever !

  • EL SHELBY says:

    ….Frank Thomas who worked on the name research, is quoted as saying that Mustang rose to the top “because it had the excitement of the wide open spaces and was American as all hell.”….

    So let make more European say Ford 50 years later.

  • EL SHELBY says:

    Wow, did I miss the boat with my grammar on that one.

    ‘So, let’s make it more European says Ford 50 years later.’

  • PonysiteEd says:

    I am convinced that the wooden carving was not done by Charles Keresztes.
    Wayno Kangas was 20 years at Ford Design and he did all the wooden carvings plus many more animals in his free time. Charles Keresztes may have done the production casting for the grill emblem though.

  • PonysiteEd says:

    Actually Fords timeline on this one seems to be wrong. Charles Keresztes designed the 1974 Mustang II revised Pony emblem, while Wayno Kangas carved the first Pony emblem in wood (after Phil Clark designed it actually). I am still confused about both Keresztes and Kangas having been at Ford Design for 20 years. I think the Pony emblem story needs another review at Ford Media.

    See the press release:
    Given the assignment of creating a new Mustang emblem in July, 1972, Mr. Keresztes first did library research on the Mustang breed and studied the paintings of Frederic Remington, famed Nineteenth Century artist of the Old West.
    He next drew thumbnail sketches and later presented five detailed renderings to top company management. He completed a bas relief sculpture of the “winning” design in plasticine (a clay-like substance) — four times the size of the emblem on the Mustang II grille.
    This was cast in plaster and then in epoxy, a hard, plastic material. The epoxy master model was reduced three-dimensionally on a penagraph machine to the size required to cast a sample metal production die.
    This was not Mr. Keresztes’ first sculpture for a Ford Motor Company product — he previously created the Cougar and Pinto automotive symbols.

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