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All-American Week: 1964½ - 1966 Ford Mustang Fever

Mustang_Shelby_GT_350 1966 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.

Mustang show 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.

Mustang frame 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!

Mustang engine swap 2 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?

Mustang rusty being restored 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.

Mustang interior 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.

Mustangs Old & New 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?

Mustang pedal car 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.

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Excellent post. One other reason (I think) the original Mustang made such a splash is that it finally bridged the gap between sports cars and full-size cars, AND did it at an affordable price. Previous to the Mustang, you could pretty much either buy a pricey 2-seater that wasn't terribly practical, or get a boring old sedan (unless you had the money to get a nice car with a big engine in it). Here, you got a fairly sporty coupe for not a whole lot of money. . .capturing the youth market quite nicely.

It was built off the Falcon so it wasn't that expensive to build and the options -- which, incidentally, also put more money into the pockets of dealers so they had lots of incentive to sell them -- as you say, allowed anyone to make their car pretty unique. It captured the youth movement of the '60s beautifully.

People like to rag a bit on Iaccoca these days for giving us the K-car and minivan, but the Mustang was such a brilliant stroke of business and marketing acumen (as was the minivan if we're honest) he deserves a long round of applause for it.

These are the Mustangs I like. Usually I am not a fan of mustangs because they are so common lol but cool for racing.

I LOVE The Mustangs. The Only Ones I Dont Like Are The '94-'04. I Love The II's (especilly yours Anthony)And The '80s Fox Bodys. Ive Always Loved The Orginals, Before The Got All Fat ex.'73s Iacocca's 1st Book Has some Good Info On The Devolpement on These.

My dream car in high school was a Mustang and I never did get one so I have held that dream ever since... guess I still hear my dad saying "You'd have to park it and walk in the winter cause that car wouldn't get you anywhere in a foot of snow".

Every red-blooded American car guy should have a Mustang at least once (unless you're a diehard GM fan...just like Coke vs Pepsi, somethings will never be settled).
My first two new cars were Mustangs. Red Mustangs.
they got me through college and my first few working years.
Eventually, I moved onto a European car, largely because I didn't want to spend twice the money for basically the same car I bought in 1979. Still the Mustang will always have a place in my heart.

If you want a collector car but don't have Leno money, buy a Mustang.
Keep it stock, custom, modify it, street rod it, race it.
You can do anything with them.
Parts are out there and just about anyone can work on them.
Want to restore it? Get a creditcard and catalog.

So if you're one of the guys that goes to car shows but doesn't have a car to show, get one.

When I was in high school, the family next door built a second garage in their backyard and the father and one of the boys, Larry, used it as their workshop for restorations. Their first two projects were Model As, then came a 1950 "straight eight" Pontiac . . . and then one day Larry called me over to see his latest project car: a '65 Mustang convertible. I could remember seeing '65 Mustangs in 1965 and up until that moment, I'd never imagined they could be the sort of cars anyone would bother restoring.

I know better now.

Oh, and when Larry got done with it . . . sweeeeet little ride.

If I ever win the lottery I will buy two mustangs. An original Eleanor style Mustang and a new modern Mustang Gt.

Seems we're focusing on 1964-66 model year.

My brain almost went on the fritz trying to think of my ideal Mustang. There's SO MANY ways to build one!! Let's cast aside my personal preferences (1971-73 'Clydesdale' Mustangs and Fox-bodies, including the Capri and a couple of new ones) and obvious lust candidates (Eleanors, Bullit 390 GT, Shelby and Boss hierarchy).

Either a coupe or fastback. I'll take the fastback because there are too many coupe and convertibles at shows (only overshadowed by the '57 Cevys in numbers but not by much!).

Whatever I get, I'll change the front alignment specs (Mustangs with factory specs understeer like pigs) fix the broomstick-in-a-barrel feel of the manual transmission, move the battery to the rear (weight-bias), swap for disc brakes with feel, and fix any handling odds-and-ends.
Functional scoops all the way, but I'll keep it vintage-looking. No Pro-Touring/G-Machine extremes for me!
The engine? If I get the I-6 I'll tune the hell out the thing (multiple carbs FTW!!!) and see what the Maverick guys have done in terms of better air flow. Aluminum radiator will replace the brass one. Either electrical fans or a low-drag mechanical one.

Or I could turbocharge the thing and scare the 5.0 guys when I open the hood, thinking they'll see their favorite engine swapped in!

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