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The Phil Clark Story

Designer of the Mustang Running Horse.

The Man Behind the Pony, by Holly Clark
© 2004. First Periodical Rights

The retro craze and the fact that the Mustang still exists, tells a huge story in itself. The Mustang is still around....40 years after its difficult and controversial birth. This is part of the untold story of a man name Phil Clark, and his input into a design called MUSTANG.

I am Holly, the daughter of Phil Clark. My father was the ultimate car buff. He loved the power and freedom that he felt behind the wheel of the muscle cars of the 1950's & 1960's. My father designed the Mustang 'Pony' emblem and helped design the Mustang I. He was 27. The year was 1962.

©Phil Clark at 16.

My father was right handed, and so he naturally drew all of his renderings from left to right. This is why he drew the pony facing the left. It was only natural for him. He prepared the emblem for presentation, along with other renderings for the Mustang I. My mother was in Detroit with him in their home as he created the emblem. Like the Christmas tree stars that topped our tree, he cut the emblem from cardboard. After finishing the precision cuts, and creating the wild mustang, he covered it with Reynolds wrap aluminium foil for a shining effect. The smoothed foil was a close representation to the chrome pony that the Mustang still sports today.

© One of Phil Clarks original sketches.

If only we could find that original emblem! It is truly the holy grail of the Mustang world. We believe its in our family momento's somewhere, and like the Holy Grail, we are still searching. Dad kept everything especially related to the Mustang. We feel it will surely show up in the near future.

Mr. J. Mays, current Ford Motor Company Vice President of design said that Bill Ford asked that research be done concerning Clark’s work on the Mustang. During that research, they discovered that a legacy of Clark’s styling was the Mustang logo. Today, more than eight million Mustang’s have been produced, each  sporting Clark’s emblem in as many as four or more places. Mustang emblems are found on virtually everything possible, from T-shirts to car mats. Companies and magazines are created with the equine’s name and likeness. The Mustang emblem is a wonderful legacy. Clark, however, had a desire to leave more than a legacy of a running steed. He wished to have a car with his name on it. He once said, “See the Cadillac. When you step into the door you see ‘Body by Fisher’. One day I want to create an automobile that you step into and it says, ‘Body by Clark’.

© This is a personal family photo of Phil Clark taken when he was with Ford.

General Motors

His short stint with General Motors did not allow him to create what his heart desired, create a vehicle that would thrust futuristic designs into the real world. General Motors allowed him to work on an imaginative city called Futurama that was used for the 1964 World’s Fair. Clark was years ahead of his time. For GM he designed ‘The Car of The Future” for the futuristic World’s Fair display. When the task was completed, he and many others were let go. Ford Motor Company’s Mustang Project would be the answer to his musings. He turned out to be at the right place at the right time. This was a project, which upon completion would fulfill Clark’s dream of having an automobile that would have his name applied to it. He would finally leave a legacy for his offspring to remember him by.

Ford hired Clark, along with several other young men full of enthusiasm and dreams of building a new breed of car, one that would be equally at home on the race track or on the streets of the city. America at the time was under a ban by the AMA. The ban basically said Ford could not back the car racing industry. The AMA controversy threatened to forestall Clark’s dreams of a car that would race on Saturday evening and take the family to church on Sunday morning. Ford made a decision to boycott the ban, and responded in a letter that said they were going racing. "Powered by Ford" was created.

The Birth of the Mustang I

They immediately began building the Mustang Concept car at a feverish pace. The car was dubbed the 100 day wonder because it was built in 100 long and exhausting work days. The Mustang I, premiered at Watkins Glen racetrack on October 6, 1962. The birth of many of Clark’s concepts were revealed. Ironically Clark’s grandson, Kyle Walker was also born on that day exactly 25 years later. (It was actually raced by Dan Gurney the next day.)

Clark had considerable input into the whole body design. His family said that he told them it was the first time in Ford’s history that one sketch was solely used for the design of a car. Up until that point, auto companies used bits and pieces of ideas from individuals and combined them to make one. Mr. J.J. Telnack, former Vice President of Corporate Design, for Ford Motor Company said, “Phil was one of our most talented designers and was part of the original Mustang design team throughout its development in 1962 until it’s launch. He had considerable influence on the total design with the early prototype Mustang concept vehicle that he [Clark] directed”.

© Four of Phil Clark's Personal Drawings.
They were created before the May 8th date that the prototype was started.
Holly has this collection in its entirety.

Advanced Design

The Mustang I used a rear drive mid engine power unit, had a 1850 lb maximum design weight with 45% in the front wheels. Curb weight was 1544 lbs with 13 gallons of fuel. The engine displacement was 91.4 cu in (1500 cc), with 3.54" bore and 2.32" stroke. Both road version and track engine versions were created. The road version was 89hp at 6600rpm with maximum torque of 89ft/lbs at 3600 rpm. The track version was 109 hp at 6400 rpm with maximum torque of 99 ft/lb at 5200 rpm. It has a V4 OHV with balance shaft, and carried a single barrel down shaft carb for road use, with a two 35 mm double-choked Weber carb for track. Compression ratio was 11.0 to 1, and the standard axle ratio was 3.30 to 1. Two sets of transmission ratios were listed, but neither approached the close ratio category.

The complete engine assembly was three-point mounted in a space frame of 0.064-wall, 1-inch OD tubing. A vertical biscuit mount was located at either side of the engine block and a single horizontal one at the rear of the transaxle. By unbolting a cross-member the entire engine transaxle could be removed through the bottom of the frame.

The power train was actually one that was used for the German Ford Taunus project. Clark was later involved in the Taunus also.

The vehicle body consisted  of a welded aluminium skin over 1.0 diameter tubular steel space frame. The drivers seat was fixed, with moveable pedals. Both the steering column and the foot pedal assembly are adjustable. The foot pedal assembly has a hydraulic brake and clutch, and cable throttle that are positioned together on a hinged carriages. There is separate twin master cylinders for the split system brakes. The steering column was unique because of the use of a flexible cable at the bottom end, replacing double u-joints.

The head-lights were retractable, a design Clark had drawn during his time with GM. Dual exhausts with unique manifolds, and cast magnesium wheels were derived from Lotus. Unique were dual rear mounted radiators creating a ‘shark gill’ design on each side of the vehicle. These inlet air scoops on either side of the chassis are about a foot square. They are behind the cockpit and angled so they face inlet air scoops on either side of the chassis.

Behind the radiators are thermostatically controlled electric fans with plastic blades. Because of these, the car could be driven on either the street or track without the drag of a conventional fan or the fear of overheating in traffic. The air scoops were wind-tunnel developed to get the maximum cooling air with a minimum drag.  Air is circulated through the engine and exits from the rear grille in the low pressure area of the body.

Roy Lunn, a former Aston-Martin engineer and close friend of Clark’s, was responsible for the chassis design. The car was quick for its time, but relatively slow by today’s standards. The Aerodynamic build met current FIA and SCCA specs. It would be considered highly competitive with a lighter chassis, or a more powerful engine.


And so the Mustang was born, and like any other vehicle it began to change. Year after year it would endure metamorphous... beginning with the 1965 (1964 ½) edition that sold to the public for a mere $2368.00. Clark was disappointed in the changes to the street car. He could hardly contain his disappointment, and the fact that his emblem remained on the final vehicle was little consolation. He hardly recognized what America and the world would come to know as the Mustang. If the reflection of his friends and colleges is an indicator, he would become ever more disappointed as the Mustang continued to evolve.

While Clark was managing a design studio in Ford of England, he received a letter from a friend in the States. It was dated in 1966. The friend wrote, “We recently changed the name from styling to design and we had a Hertz car rental showing of the 68’s this week. I hope Mr. Hertz or Mr. Rental or whatever his name is, didn't pack up his lease car slips and bail out. They are hardly worth looking at - except maybe some of the paint stripe numbers. We have a new system whereas the cars are paint striped and then for a subtle note of dignity, they add a touch of body-paint. The striping is vulgar in its mass. I wish I could describe some of them but words fail me. Besides, I want you to be surprised when you see them—or is it taken aback.  The 69’s are even more garish, so I would imagine the 68’s would be “understated”.


Impressed or dismayed in the Mustangs to follow, we will never know. My father was very sick with an unknown kidney disease when he was with Ford and was on dialysis most of his adult life. He died at the age of just 32, four short years after the release of the Mustang to the public in April 1964.  The man who breathed life into the nostrils of the ‘pony’ that America knows and loves, breathed his last breath on February 28, 1968. He died a sad painful death, alone, in a hospital room at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennesee, in the middle of a cold February night.

© Phil Clark with his only daughter Holly just before he died.

When you see the Mustang emblem of chrome, remember the legacy of Phil Clark, the man behind the pony. Race in his spirit. May the heartbeat of a man forgotten, be rekindled in the beat of the hoofs of THE MUSTANG.

Editors note:

The author is Holly the only child of Phil Clark, the man behind the pony. Holly found out about her father after the discovery of his drawings, including the Mustang I and emblem drawings. She discovered these in Phil's mother-in-laws attic and began her search for the truth behind the drawings, letters and journals. Until that day in 1985, she was not aware of her dad's involvement the Mustang, as he died when she was very young. In 2002 Ford formally acknowledged her Father's involvement in the car. Holly has spent many years of patient research and thousands of dollars in her search for the truth. See attended the 2004 Mustang 40th Anniversary celebrations in Nashville Tennessee, and it was a very emotional and spiritual experience for her.

She would like to thank all of those people who spent hours talking to and directing her in this project. A special thanks to Ford Motor Company for their support and acknowledgement, and also Henry Ford Museum where the Prototype is housed, but most of all for Jim Chism and the 40th Anniversary Committee of Nashville Tennessee for allowing her to opportunity to actually see and touch the Prototype...a dream she never thought she would ever fulfil. At that point, the drawings she held for so many years, came to life, and the spirit of her father rejoiced within her.

Holy comes face to face for the first time with the Mustang I that her dad had so much hand in designing.

Holly is writing a book about her  father, called "The Man Behind the Pony". and she, like the Mustang, will celebrate her 40th birthday in the year 2005.  Holy can be reached at kidofponymaker@aol.com 

NEW: Jan 06

  You can find more information at Holly's website, www.myspace.com/philclarksholly. She has also finished her book.