The very first Ford Mustang was scooped up in 1964 for around $3,400, and over the next year and a half, a million-plus more were sold. The original pony car has since become a legend among cars. On Wednesday, the lead designer of that legend died. The Detroit News reports Gale Halderman, 87, who worked for Ford for four decades, died at a medical center in Troy, Ohio, after a bout with liver cancer. "He created the greatest icon in the automotive industry, in my opinion," longtime friend and Mustang aficionado Mike Rey says. "If not for him, we would never have the Mustang as we know it." The Mustang came to be after then-Ford executive Lee Iacocca held a competition in the early '60s for a concept car—one that had to be "sporty, exciting, personal, and appeal to both men and women," CBS Detroit notes.
Halderman reportedly stayed up late one night to sketch out his idea, which was the one ultimately chosen. The Drive notes he was an integral part of the design team all the way up through the production process. He retired from Ford in 1994. "Today, as we mourn the loss of our dear friend Gale, we remember his amazing contribution," the brand tweeted Wednesday, along with a photo of Halderman's original sketch. Ford Motor Company says it's "saddened" to hear about Halderman's passing, noting in a statement that his time at Ford "included many projects" other than the Mustang design. Halderman is survived by three daughters, nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. As for that first Mustang that was sold in '64? The original owner still had it as of November, and it's said to now be worth between $350,000 and $450,000. (Read more obituary stories.)