Remembering Mustang Legend Gale Halderman On The One Year Anniversary Of His Passing
Today is April 29. I should be writing something fun about the 429 Boss engine, similar to what I wrote yesterday (on 4-28) about the Cobra Jet engine. But today’s date will always be a more somber one for me and other Mustang enthusiasts.
One year ago today, I lost my friend Gale Halderman, the principle designer of the original Ford Mustang. The Mustang world lost their friend and a Mustang Hall of Famer. I am so glad to have developed such a close relationship with Gale and his family, especially his daughter Karen and granddaughter Lauren.
And of course, I co-authored Gale’s biography, Mustang by Design, with his first cousin Jim Halderman.
So on this one-year anniversary of Gale’s passing, I wanted to do a tribute to Gale and some of his stories. I’m always honored to travel to Mustang club events and speak about Gale, tell stories, and sign copies of Mustang by Design. If you ever met Gale, he always had a smile on his face.
His passion for Mustang showed in all of his stories. And what amazing stories Gale had.
Related Story: Hundreds turn out to pay tribute to the late Gale Halderman.
Who else can say that they had a close relationship with such iconic names such as Lee Iacocca, Hal Sperlich, Carroll Shelby, Henry Ford II and Bill Ford Jr? Gale can, after working 40 years at the Ford Motor Company in the design studio.
Gale Halderman’s Mustang legacy
As mentioned, Gale is the designer of the original Ford Mustang. It was his sketch that was chosen by Lee Iacocca to become the legendary 1965 Ford Mustang. His sketch, that he drew on his kitchen table in the middle of the night, become the most iconic car in American automotive history.
Think about that.
Every time I see a Mustang, whether it’s a first generation (the best in my opinion), a Mustang II, a Fox Body or even any of the current era Mustangs, I can see at least something that Gale contributed. His legacy rolls down the streets and has so for 57 years.
The three tail light slashes were one of Gale’s concept. That design has been on so many Mustangs over the last 57 years, that it always make me think of Gale when I see it. To me, that’s one of the features that epitomizes the Mustang.
And yes, it warmed my heart to see that tail light design on the 2021 Mustang Mach-E, a vehicle that Gale saw in clay several years ago when he was visiting Dearborn, and liked what he saw, by the way.
Ford Should Find A Way To Honor Gale
When Gale passed, Ford issued a pleasant, but too-short response about Gale’s passing. I realize that Ford has had many extraordinary employees throughout its rich history, but it would be great if Ford would honor Gale in some way.
Produce a tribute Mustang or name a wing after him at the design studio, although Ford demolished the Ford Product Development Center which was a huge part of FoMoCo’s history. To be honest, Gale would be disheartened to have learned that Ford just tore down this building and didn’t turn it into some kind of museum or historical marker.
I wish Ford had kept it intact and perhaps named it after Gale. He would’ve liked that.
One of my biggest criticisms of Ford Motor Company is that they don’t often celebrate and honor their rich history enough. They have many cherished and iconic names who have worked for them, and yet they fall short in properly honoring them.
I would argue that above all other American car manufacturers Ford Motor Company has had more iconic names employed there than any other company.
Gale is a member of the Mustang Club of America’s Hall of Fame, a distinction he was quite proud of, but perhaps Ford should go further and do a display at the Henry Ford Museum at least honoring Gale. Perhaps a plaque or something near the display of the VIN1 Mustang that resides there.
Halderman Barn Museum
Imagine turning your family’s barn into a museum celebrating your 40-year-career. That’s exactly what Gale did after retiring from Ford. He returned home to his family’s farm in Tipp City, Ohio and converted the barn into a museum celebrating Ford automotive design.
This isn’t a car museum like so many others, but is rather a memorabilia with a focus on car design. Gale collected some of his sketches, but many of the sketches from the talented designers that worked for him through the years.
Those works of art are displayed at the Halderman Barn Museum, along with photos, and several cars. Gale’s daughter Karen and granddaughter Lauren have kept the museum going since Gale’s passing.
There's also that giant Mustang logo on the side of the barn that makes for the perfect backdrop for a photo of your Mustang.
The Museum is a destination for many car clubs and is open for visitors by visiting their Facebook page. I’ve appeared there many times and the last time on National Mustang Day, with a large crowd from three different states.
It was sad without Gale there. But it was also inspiring to see his legacy continuing with so many in attendance during National Mustang Day. I was happy to talk about the book and talk about Gale and his impact on the Mustang. In retrospect, Gale’s presence was there with everyone and his spirit will continue to live on.
If you’ve never visited the Halderman Barn Museum, I highly encourage a visit. It truly is a mecca for Ford and Mustang enthusiasts. You’ll see Gale’s impact all around, and there’s even a life-size cardboard cutout of Gale with his sweet, warm smile that he was known for.
If you ever met Gale, I’d love to hear the story. Leave your comment below, or leave me your favorite Mustang story, as everyone has at least one.
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.