Lost in the other news and industry events this month was the death of Donald Frey, the Ford engineer who styled the original Mustang prototype and went on to lead the design team for the production car. Henry Ford II rejected the Mustang concept on four separate occasions, but Frey and his team persisted. Forced to work offsite and with a very limited budget, Frey, Lee Iacoca, and a team of engineers met in locations ranging from hotel rooms to storage lockers. Ultimately, Ford gave the Mustang project a green light, on the condition that Frey would be fired if the car was not a commercial success.
Despite his incredible achievement with the Mustang, Frey was proudest of his efforts to improve safety at Ford. He pioneered the transition from bias ply tires to radials and increased the use of disc brakes across a wider range of Ford products. In 1967, Time magazine called Frey, “Detroit’s Sharpest Idea Man”.
Frey left Ford in 1968, largely due to conflict with Lee Iacoca, but went on to enjoy success in both business and education. He passed away on March 5, at the age of 86.