Born and raised in Ohio, Halderman’s passion for automotive design saw him offered a job at Ford even before he’d graduated from the Dayton Art Institute in 1955. Working in Ford’s Advanced styling studio initially, Halderman would transfer around other design studios within Ford, with some of his earliest work done on the 1957 Fords, followed by designs for the Falcon and Thunderbird.
By 1962, Halderman was a design manager at the Ford studio led by Joe Oros and was working on the 1964 and ’65 full-sized Fords when the request came to design Ford’s upcoming sporty 2-door model. It’s Mustang folklore now, but the design of the pony car was the result of a competition instigated by Lee Iacocca between the three main Ford styling studios
Halderman’s design, the sketches of which still exist today, featured a distinctive hip over the rear wheels, sculpted sides with faux scoops and tail lights in groups of three. Oros’s favourite amongst the designs submitted within the Ford studio, Halderman’s sketch was produced as a full-size clay model and ultimately judged the winner of the in-house competition. Looking at those sketches and clays today, it’s remarkable how many elements from Halderman’s initial sketches made it to the production Mustang.
Other styling responsibilities meant Halderman never returned to the Mustang until the 1971-73 era cars were being developed. By then, he was head of the Ford design studio.
Despite spending time in Ford’s truck studio, as well as the Lincoln-Mercury and other studios in subsequent years, Halderman retained a deep affection for the Mustang, even after retiring from Ford in 1994. In retirement, Halderman turned part of his Ohio farm into a small museum featuring a first-year Mustang convertible and other cars he was involved with, as well as many of his original design sketches.
Halderman’s contribution to the Mustang story and automobile design generally was recognised with induction into the Mustang Hall of Fame in 2004 and a Lee Iacocca Award for Excellence in 2014, amongst other awards.
Gale Halderman is survived by three children, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.