This is probably the hardest story I’ve ever written. It’s one I didn’t want to write. This one is personal. But Gale Halderman, one of the last remaining original Mustang legends, passed away suddenly from a short battle with liver cancer.
Gale was a personal friend of mine. He, and his entire family, are like my family. So I’m typing this with tears in my eyes. I’m sure many of you reading this also have tears in your eyes reading this.
Gale was one of the most interesting people I had the privilege of knowing. I chronicled his entire life’s story in my book, Mustang by Design. I’m not going to exploit this situation to sell a few more copies of this book. But I just wanted to be transparent as well.
He was the main designer of the original Ford Mustang. It was his sketch that was chosen by Lee Iacocca to become the 1965 (1964 ½ if you will) Mustang. Just being known for that alone makes Gale a legend.
But his legacy goes beyond that. Gale worked 40 years at Ford Motor Company as a designer and design executive. He worked alongside every single major name in FoMoCo’s history (Henry Ford II, Hal Sperlich, Lee Iacocca) he was even Bill Ford Jr.’s boss at one time.
Gale is beloved at the Blue Oval. Heck Gale is beloved amongst everyone in the Mustang community. This is a profound loss for every Mustang enthusiast.
Every car club, every collector, every person that ever got joy from the iconic Ford Mustang owes a thank you to Gale for creating such an amazing, beautiful car.
Halderman Barn Museum
After retirement, Gale turned his family barn and property into a museum dedicated to car design. Gale, being the humble human being he was, didn’t center the museum around his career and his accomplishments, even though that’s certainly worthy of a museum. Rather, the Halderman Barn Museum was turned into a homage to all things car design.
With a few Mustangs and other Ford vehicles inside the museum the primary focus is on the walls which have sketches, designs and concepts that Gale collected throughout his illustrious career. Many were from designers that Gale helped hire or that Gale found to be very talented.
Photos of Ford legends are scattered throughout. In short, the Halderman Barn Museum stands as a must-see location for all Ford fans, and anyone with an appreciation for automotive history, because Gale has a major spot within automotive history.
There’s a giant Mustang logo emblazoned on the side of the barn. As such, the Halderman Barn Museum has been a mecca for many Mustang enthusiasts. The backdrop of that giant Mustang logo on the barn makes for a great beauty shot and to showcase each person’s prideful pony car.
Likewise, the barn would host many car outings and car clubs. It was quickly becoming a rite of passage every car show to take a trip down to Tipp City, Ohio to have a great day at the Halderman Barn Museum.
Gale would speak to visitors with stories of his time at Ford. I had heard many of the stories multiple times, but they never got old. The joy at which he told the stories to the interested crowds was inspiring to me. And the glean in his eye and that great smile he had, will be etched in my memory forever.
His daughter will still keep the barn open for the public to enjoy and as a car club destination.
Gale Halderman’s legacy
The story of how Gale drew the winning sketch for the Ford Mustang is quite amazing, in that it was quite unremarkable. Late at night, in his home, on his kitchen table, knowing there was a big meeting the next morning, Gale sketched his idea for Iacocca’s concept car.
It had to be exciting and sporty. It had to appeal to both men and women. It needed to have a long hood and a short deck. Many designers at Ford Motor Company were making submissions for this project, Gale, along with his boss Joe Oros teamed up to create their vision.
Joe Oros’s design ideas were displayed on the passenger side of their clay model and Gale’s was displayed on the driver’s side. Iacocca came around to look at it. His cigar twirled in his mouth, which Gale said was always a good sign.
Lee proclaimed that he liked Gale’s design the best and the still unnamed Mustang project was approved, with Gale’s concept greenlighted.
Some of Gale’s concept can still be seen on today’s Mustang. The side scoop, which was one of Gale’s biggest ideas can still be seen on today’s Mustang. Likewise, the three-slashed taillight is symbolic of the Mustang. And that was something that Gale worked on.
Whenever I see Mustangs old or new, I see my friend Gale in each one that rolls down the road.
Now with his passing, I’ll think of my friend even more when I see a Mustang on the road, or hear the roar and growl of the single most iconic car in American automotive history. His spirit lives on in each Mustang on the road.
Thank you, Gale, for all you’ve done for the Mustang community. But thank you also for being a role model for everyone on how to be humble and kind. As talented of a designer as Gale Halderman was, he was an even better person. He will forever be one of the biggest role models in my life.
Gale leaves behind three daughters, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. But for everyone who ever met him, they felt like he was part of their family too. And he is part of the Mustang family, now and forever. I will miss you my dear friend.
Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.