By Patrick Smith
The Ford Mustang burst onto the automotive scene in April 1964 and commandeered the youth market that had been feebly attended to by cars such as the Corvair Monza and Plymouth Barracuda. The range and depth of models, engines and options available combined with low price made it a runaway success. Today it is a collector car classic, allowing anyone to dip his feet in the hobby without spending large piles of money.
A 1965 Mustang in Wimbledon White is always in style.
Mustang's evergreen popularity plus a strong aftermarket supply of parts and services make it an ideal car for the novice. There are some useful things to know should you decide to seek and buy an early Mustang. You can virtually restore an early Mustang around a pair of door hinges thanks to the robust parts supply but there's no reason to subject yourself to such agony. This guide will help you pick a stallion from the nags.
Identification by Year: The 1965 Mustang is distinguished by its chrome waffle iron grille. )There are many subtle difference between an early production Mustang called a 1964-1/2 and the 1965. Almost all of the details involve minor trim and engineering changes such as a switch from generators to alternators, different hood assemblies and variations in carpeting and interior appointments. They're all 1965 models for titles and identification. 1965 Mustangs come with the Falcon based dashboard unless ordered with the optional GT Equipment Group which included the circular fuel, oil, speedometer, amps and temperature gauges. For 1966, Mustangs used a finned grille and finned quarter panel moldings. If ordered as a GT model, the grille with twin fog lamps is used with fins in the background. All '66 Mustangs used the GT dash gauges as standard equipment.
The 1965 Mustang uses a chrome waffle plate grille.
The 1966 Mustang has chrome speared quarter vents and finned grille.
The 1967 Mustang is identifiable by the concave tail lamp deck and a larger rectangular grille that's recessed into the body work. The dashboard is new with large twin instrument pods and flashy trim similar to the Thunderbird model. The space is wider between the shock towers for installing an optional 390 V8 block. The 1968 Mustang is easily spotted as it's the only model with side marker lamps on the front and rear fenders.
The '68 is the only year with side marker lamps.
Engines & Transmissions: Mustang started out as a two door hardtop and convertible in the first production run. Engines were limited to inline six cylinders and the Challenger 260 V8 with the 289 V8 added later. You could get a two barrel A-code, a four barrel C-code and high performance K-code 289 version. Mustang offered a 390 cubic inch V8 for 1967 as part of their GTA option. The front suspension was modified to accommodate the hulking Thunderbird V8 engine. For 1968, a 302 V8 was added to eliminate the 289. In 1968 the car was carried over with a one major package change mid year to compete in drag racing. The 428 Cobrajet engine was installed in special order fastbacks and a couple of coupes. The performance was phenomenal. The 428 became a regular production option for 1969. Transmissions offered ranged from three speed manuals to Ford TopLoader four speeds and automatic C4 and C6 three speeds. The favored automatic, the C6, was only found in the 390 powered 1967 Mustang. The TopLoader was available from 1965 to 1968.
The 289 V8 is favored over the straight six but all are reliable and easy to maintain.
Desirable Options: With 1965 to 1966 Mustangs, the desired ones usually are well equipped cars especially the convertible and fastback models. The favored engines are the high performance K code V8 and C code four barrel 289. The Dï¿½cor interior option is very desirable with Pony upholstery, padded rear seat arm rest panels and deluxe dash and interior trim. The Rally Pac, air conditioning and floor console complete the list of most favored options. For 1967, the 390 GT engine option seemed exotic, but the -K code 289 was better for usable horsepower and was very rare in its final year. The inline sixes are reliable and very affordable Mustangs.
Desired options include a/c, rally pac and Pony Interiors.
What to Look for: When buying a Mustang, most of your attention will be on checking the body and the rest for the drive train and number checking to verify it has what you want. Since Mustangs are unibody cars without separate chassis and body, the structural integrity is very important. The key areas to check are the front floor torque boxes, the rear frame rails alongside the gas tank including the leaf spring perches, the front frame rails and engine saddle, the rocker panel and door sills. All of these areas are notorious for rust. It sounds scary, but in a well cared for car they usually are in sound condition. There are reproduction pieces now and they're good enough that proper installation will remove any threat to structural rigidity.