Photography by Al Rogers
You have to wonder if, in early 1964, Ford brass had any idea what the public’s response would be to their upcoming sporty car, the Mustang. Was the new car a gamble that would pay off? After all, it was little more than a reskinned Falcon, Ford’s low-priced economy car. Yet the new Mustang had its own distinctive look and personality. In hindsight, it became clear the brass didn’t have to wait very long before realizing they had a surefire winner on their hands.
The first Mustangs rolled off the Dearborn, Michigan, assembly line on March 9, 1964. But it wouldn’t be until April 17 at the New York World’s Fair before the buying public got to see Ford’s “youth market” arrival. Timing for the launch was unusual since most new car announcements usually took place in the fall. But Ford’s marketing group believed they would have the automotive press all to themselves with a springtime launch. The plan worked and the press simply adored the Mustang.
Dealers took an astonishing 22,000 orders on the first day. Because of the incredible sales success, the San Jose, California, assembly plant was brought on board in July of 1964 followed by the Metuchen, New Jersey, assembly plant in February of 1965. Demand was so high that within one year, an unprecedented 418,812 Mustangs were in buyer’s hands.
On April 17, 1965, Mustang’s one-year anniversary, the GT option became available. This well thought out combination of styling improvements and performance upgrades was one-stop shopping for buyers to take an ordinary Mustang and turn it into a very special thoroughbred.
The GT was easily recognizable. Within the front grille were twin high-intensity fog lamps attached to chrome horizontal grille bars. A bright metal hood lip nicely finished off the grille opening. Special fender emblems and rocker molding side stripe were standard equipment. Chrome quarter-panel scoops and rear bumper guards, both standard on base Mustangs were deleted. In place of the rear bumper guards, twin “trumpeted” exhausts tips exited from the lower valance.
Powering the GT was a 225 horsepower, 289 cubic-inch V8. Compression was set at 10.0:1 and fuel was mixed by a 460 cfm Autolite 4100 series four-barrel carburetor. For those who needed additional power and didn’t mind adjusting solid lifters and living with abysmal fuel mileage, the “K” code 271 horsepower V8 could be had for an additional $276.34. Both engines required premium fuel. Transmission options included a three-speed manual, four-speed manual or three-speed Dual-Range Cruise-O-Matic. Non-power front disc brakes, optional on base Mustangs, were standard on the GT. Handling was firm and precise with quick ratio steering, heavy duty springs, shocks and a larger front stabilizer bar. An 8-inch rear axle put the power to the ground with axle ratios ranging from 2.80:1 to 3.50:1.
Considering its low price, the interior was comfortable and sporty. GT equipped vehicles included a five-gauge instrument cluster covered in an all-black “camera case” finish. Bucket seats were standard equipment although a bench seat could be ordered for those needing additional room. Apparently few needed the room as only 2,111 bench seat Mustangs left the factory in 1965. Those choosing the optional Pony interior received a woodgrain finish dash, stylish seat covers with galloping horses molded into seat backs and specially molded door panels with integral arm rests and pistol grip door handles. An optional steering column mounted Rally-Pak gauge package added to the sporty look and included either a 6,000 or 8,000-rpm tach depending on engine selection and a clock.
As the year went on, sales continued to grow. By the end of the 1965 model year, sales totaled more than 559,000 units. Ford’s gamble had paid off and paid off big.
Fuel For Thought
2.7% of Mustang sales were GT models.
Only “K” code engines had the VIN stamped on the block
1965 production ended on August 20, 1965
Ford executive stylist John Najjar is credited with suggesting the Mustang name
Number built – 559,451 total units – approximately 15,000 GT units
Construction – Unibody
Engine – 289 cubic-inch V8 (GT)
Power/Torque – 225 horsepower/305 lb-ft torque (V8 w/4 bbl), 271horsepower/312 lb-ft torque (Hi-Po)
Transmission – three-speed manual, four-speed manual, three-speed automatic
Suspension front – independent A-upper control arm, single lower control arm with coil springs
Suspension rear – leaf springs
Steering – recirculating ball and nut
Brakes – non-power front disc, rear drum
Length/width/height – 181.1/68.2/51.1 inches
Wheelbase – 108 inches
Weight – 2,640 lbs. shipping weight
0-60mph/quarter mile – 7.6 seconds, 15.9 seconds at 89 mph (January 1965 Motor Trend)
Top Speed – 114 mph (January 1965 Motor Trend)
MPG – 12-15 mpg EPA EST.
Price – $2,320 (2dr. hardtop) (additional $165.03 for GT option); Today – $ 18,925 - $36,600
Insurance cost is $271 per year based on a 1965 Mustang GT valued at $29,450 and 3,000 miles per year of pleasure driving.
*Based on a quote from Heacock Classic Car Insurance, www.heacockclassic.com.
From its humble beginning as an economy 221 cubic-inch V8, Ford’s thin wall engine grew to 289 cubic-inches and with help from increased compression and a four-barrel carburetor became a formidable race competitor. Its only downside was its limited breathing capability. The Hi-Po version easily revved past 6,000 rpm’s thanks to solid lifters, dual point distributor and low restriction exhausts.
For its time, the Mustang handled better than most Detroit iron thanks to its quick steering box, heavy duty suspension and large front sway bar. Stopping was more than adequate with its standard front disc brakes.
1965 Plymouth Barracuda
Number built – 64,596
0-60/quarter mile – 8.0 seconds, 16.1 seconds at 87 mph
Top speed – 110 mph
Price – MSRP – $2,535; Today – $10,080 - $26,640
1965 Chevy II Nova SuperSport
Number built – 9,100
0-60/quarter mile – 11.3 seconds, 18.0 seconds at 75 mph
Top speed – 100 mph
Price – MSRP – $2,550; Today – $10,214 - $28,800
Only pony car to be continually built with no interruption in production
Aftermarket parts galore
Room for five
Unrestored vehicles typically have rust issues
Not a unique classic car
Restoration costs could exceed value of a Mustang
It’s a safe bet more vintage Mustangs are regularly driven than any other classic car. Owner enjoy showing off their rides at local and national events.
What to Pay
1965 Mustang GT
MSRP – $2,485.03
Low – $18,925
Average – $29,450
High – $36,600
*Prices courtesy of NADA
Pony seat cover set $319.95
GT exhaust system $219.95
Door shell $249.95
Upper control arm $69.95
Woodgrain steering wheel $319.88
Mustang Dynasty by John Clor
Mustang by David Newhardt
Ford Mustang by Brad Bowling
Ford Mustang: The Legend Lives On by Duke International
Collector's Originality Guide Mustang 1964-1/2-1966 by Colin Date
Perhaps no other car brings more joy to their owners than a vintage Mustang. They continue to be easily available and affordable to the average enthusiast. The icing on the cake – replacement part prices and availability giving owners the choice to own a “driver” or an MCA show winner and neither will set you back anything close to a vintage Corvette.