It's hard to sustain any model of car over a couple of generations, let alone 50 years as the Ford Mustang will mark next year. Auto executives want to make their mark with something new, not wrestle with bringing someone else's old ideas up to date. There's always pressure to either cut costs or grow sales in ways the dilute what made a particular vehicle successful in the first place. And customers tastes change, along with regulations, in ways that inevitably make key features obsolete.
No vehicle demonstrates that better than the Mustang, a car that represents Ford's successes and struggles over the years better than any other. Today's hot-selling Mustang wears its heritage from the front pony badge to its rear vertical taillights, but over the years Ford executives have considered every possible variation of the Mustang — mid-engined, four-doors, even a wagon. The striking 1970 Milano concept above foreshadowed a few touches of the 1971 model and the brooding malevolence of Ford's early '70s muscle cars. In 1988, faced with an aging model badly in need of updates, they nearly talked themselves into switching the Mustang into a front-wheel-drive sports car co-developed with Mazda; the backlash has in many ways powered the Mustang's direction ever since.
Early next year, Ford will reveal the production version of the sixth generation of the Mustang, a modernized design mixing classic cues with the look of the Evos concept for a vehicle Ford hopes to make as popular worldwide as it is in the United States. Until then, here's a look at a few of the roads Ford mulled for the original pony car over the past five decades, but decided not to take.