Gale Halderman poses with his Mustangs at the Halderman Barn Museum in Tipp City in 2017. Halderman is leaning on a 1965 Mustang convertible, the first Mustang he bought, in 2012. SKIP PETERSON/CONTRIBUTOR
Photo: Skip Peterson
Photo: Skip Peterson

Legendary Tipp City designer of iconic Ford Mustang dies

Gale Halderman’s 1962 sketch spawned legendary nameplate

Gale Halderman of Tipp City, world-renowned for being the original designer of the iconic Ford Mustang, died Wednesday at Upper Valley Medical Center, a family spokesman said. He was 87.

Halderman died after a short battle with liver cancer, according to his family.

His design became the basis for a car that would eventually sell more than 8 million units, span six design generations, and be one of a handful of models continuously built for 50-plus years, local auto enthusiast Skip Peterson wrote in the Dayton Daily News Wheels section in 2017.

“To have lived 87 years and to have designed something that is part of pop culture and automotive history, he had such an impact,” said Jimmy Dinsmore, author of “Mustang by Design: Gale Halderman and the Creation of Ford’s Iconic Pony Car,” acting as a spokesman for the Halderman family.

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“He did it in such a humble way that has touched the heart of every Mustang enthusiast out there. As great of a designer as he was, he was an even better human being,” Dinsmore said.

The most striking thing about the 40-year Ford employee was Halderman’s humility, Dinsmore said. For many years, Halderman did not receive much attention for being the Mustang’s original designer, preferring to let others take the credit, he said.

That’s a testament to his makeup and the type of person he was, Dinsmore said. “I’ll always remember his smile at car events when people would thank him for designing such a beautiful car, the smile it would bring to his face,” he said. “That’s the impact Gale had – whether you were a Mustang fan or not.”

Dinsmore recalled when he and Halderman attended a Mecum auto auction in Indianapolis and a 17-year-old boy ran up to the legendary designer as soon as he came through the door.

“He was so revered throughout the Mustang community,” he said. “When Lee Iacocca passed away last year, Gale was the last of the Mustang legends still with us. In some regards, this is the end of the golden era of the Mustang’s beginnings.”

Halderman’s status with Ford Motor Co. did not go unnoticed.

“When he went back to their Christmas dinners and such, he would be seated at the table with Mr. Ford,” Dinsmore said.

Halderman is survived by three daughters: Karen Koenig, Kim Learning and Carol Marchelletta; nine grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death in 2013 by his wife of 60 years, Barbara Senter Halderman; an infant son; and a daughter.

Halderman graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Dayton. He also earned an industrial design degree from the Dayton Art Institute.

During his 40 years in design at Ford, Halderman was director and executive director of the Advanced Design Studio, Interior Design Studio, Lincoln/Mercury Design Studio and the Ford Design Studio.

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A member of the Mustang Hall of Fame for his design, he also received the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award for the design of the 1990 Lincoln Town Car and was honored with the Lee Iacocca Award on April 19, 2014, for dedication to excellence in perpetuating an American Automotive Tradition. In 2016, Halderman was also inducted into the American Legion Buckeye Boys State Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions to the automotive field.

In 2014, he created the Halderman Barn Museum on his family homestead in Tipp City, which holds a giant collection of drawings, artwork, memorabilia and information about all things Mustang, Ford and Lincoln Mercury. It also houses the first car Halderman bought, a 1965 Mustang convertible, according to Peterson.

The museum will be kept open by appointment.

A celebration of Halderman’s life is planned for the future.

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