All-American Week: 1964½ - 1966 Ford Mustang Fever
Ya know, I can't believe we haven't done this car yet. After all, this may be the most lusted-after affordable and available car in American history. "Mustang Fever" overtook the USA in 1964, and it hasn't gone away yet.
I guess this post is a little late to the party to be included in our recent "Old Fords Week," but as timeless as these cars are, maybe they don't belong there anyway. I'll stay away from just a boring history of the car (We all pretty well know it anyway) and just try to explain why I think we admire these so much.
I think the main reason people first liked these Mustangs is because anybody could make a Mustang their Mustang, and on a reasonable budget. Each Mustang could be carefully built from Ford's options list, and would be truly unique to the customer.
Rather than today's mundane trim packages that let you constantly meet yourself on the highway, personalization was what these first Mustangs were all about. And I don't think that philosophy has ever changed.
At one time, there were over 500 dealer spon- sored Mustang Clubs across the country and around the world. 1970 was the peak year with over 200,000 Mustang club members worldwide. In addition to swapping information and stories about them, they are also a great source for parts, or maybe even to find the Mustang of your dreams.
So, do you want to keep it all original? Maybe make it look stock, but replace the suspension, brakes, and drivetrain with modern stuff? You can do anything you want to a Mustang to make it your car.
Sure, they lack the sophistication of, say, a Euro- spec BMW 635CSi, but anybody should be able to turn a wrench on one of these. And maybe that's also part of their appeal. Parts are common, relatively cheap, and easy to come by.
Other than a transmission tunnel and roof, I think I've found every piece of sheet metal (including the torque boxes) and every trim piece in a catalog or online. Rusty floorboards, no problem. Lost an emblem? Got it. Need glass? Just ask.
In fact, how about a complete new body shell? That's Part Number DC-MS65FB.
Like a Corvette, every Mustang (And Mustang II) ever made is a story unto itself. Is it a rare, high-performance, collector car? Or did it come with a 6-cylinder, an automatic, whitewall tires, and a front bench seat? Maybe somewhere in between? Whichever way, it doesn't matter... it's a Mustang!
Under the hood, a deep-throated V-8 seems most at home. Ya gotta have a 4-speed, or even an updated drivetrain with a 5-speed. But if you keep your baseball cap thrown over it, an automatic shift lever/handle down there on the floor might be acceptable.
Modern power-assisted (and non-assisted) rack- and-pinion steering units are available, as are 4-wheel disc brake kits. So is ABS. To restomod or not is your choice; if you're going to do it, here's a great car to do it to.
This isn't a post about restoring old Mustangs, but rather an attempt to show how people love these cars by keeping them on the road. Back when I was in high school, they were sometimes just regarded as "10-year-old cars." Many were wrecked and sent on to the scrapper; with today's techniques, they would be relatively easy fixes. But for the dollar, they just were not worth saving back then. Who would have known they would be so desireable today?
Sometime around 1973, my first brother-in-law wrecked his '65 Mustang; the passenger's head- light area got a good punch. I really wanted that car to fix, but everybody said to just junk it. Today, people would be bidding on the car for a rebuild project. It really wasn't hurt that bad.
This is not his car, but it does show how far people will go to restore an original Mustang. Be it a rare barn find, a wreck, or a rust bucket, as long as it's somewhat recognizeable, it seems somebody will buy the pony car and restore it.
A friend of mine bought an original Mustang GT a few years ago that looked, well, a lot like this one. He was ecstatic over his find. Personally, I would have fled from the project, as most every body panel was rusted, bent, or both. But the numbers matched, and it was a true GT. He moved away before I saw much progress; I hope it's finished by now.
Inside the Mustang is another place for personal- ization. The original interior was either the stock kit, or the optional "Pony" trim, shown here. Other factory offerings were under-dash air conditioning, gauges, the "Rally Pac" with tach and clock, a wood steering wheel, and some radio choices, including a then-fabulous 8-Track tape player. Then there's the full-length console, dash woodgrain, and do I see a remote control knob on the driver's door for the outside mirror?
The body of the car presents many options. What color? Paint or tape stripes or none? Maybe a luggage rack on the trunk lid? Hopefully avoid a vinyl roof? Do we go with mag wheels, hubcaps, or newer aluminum wheels?
On a side note, the best news story headline I've ever seen was "Ride, Sally Ride." The story featured Dr. Sally Ride, who was and is America's first female astronaut. Those words are from "Mustang Sally," performed by Wilson Pickett (and others). What an amazing coincidence that these two American legends intertwined.
Will I ever own one of these? I hope so. I've already built a scale model of what I want. Not surprisingly, it's a dark metallic green fastback with a black and tan Pony interior and high-back bucket seats, maybe from a '69 or later 'Stang.
I'd also like it to have the aforementioned power rack-and-pinion steering, power disc brakes, A/C, and a 289 or 302 V-8 with a 4-speed. And mag wheels, of course. Personally, I don't mind a few modern improvements on an older car... did Ford even offer steel-belted radials when these were new?
I hope that at least once in our lives, we all have Mustang Fever. Whether buying or restoring an old one or specing out and ordering a new one, there's just something special about driving a unique piece of American history.
And maybe that's what Mustang Fever is all about.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
Image Credits: The 1966 Mustang GT350 photo is from TheWallPapers.org. The auto show photo is from TheMustangSource.com. The Mustang frame image is from BuildThreads.files.Wordpress.com. The V-8 photo is from PopularHotRodding.Automotive.com. The rusty project Mustang image is from Forums. Vintage-Mustang.com. The Mustang interior is from MustangMonthly.com. The old & new Mustangs photo is from Image.CarCraft.com. The adorable Mustang pedal car image is from ECX.Images-Amazon.com.