1964-1966 Ford Mustang: Classic Musclecar Born (Part 1)



The Ford Mustang debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair to great public excitement, and the Ford Motor Company knew it had an instant success.  While the Mustang has seen many changes over its long and prosperous history, there are few cars on the road today that draws attention like a classic Mustang.  The definition of "classic" is defined by many state departments as any car or truck over 15 to 20 years old, but Mustang and vintage car enthusiasts commonly consider the 1964.5 through 1973 model years to be the true classic Ford Mustangs.


1964 was the first model year of the Ford Mustang, but because of its mid-year release the VIN numbers of the 1964 and 1965 models have the same year identification. The first year offered three engine options but no other trim lines.  The base model engine was just a 101 horsepower inline six cylinder, with an option for one of two 289 cubic inch V8's making 164 or 219 horsepower.  Between the coupe and convertible, the coupe was far more popular that first year -- the soft top would set you back an extra $237. While the original Mustang was no screamer, the sporty lines definitely got the attention of the public and helped to pave the way for its first full production year. Events like the Indy 500, which featured a Mustang coupe as the pace car in 1964, made sure everyone got a good look at the new marvel.

1965 was a big year for the Ford Mustang: a new body style added in the form of a fastback and the introductions of the soon-to-be-famous Ford Mustang GT and Shelby GT 350.  The first Mustang GT was available in any of the three body styles (coupe, fastback, or convertible) and came packed with either a 225 or 271 horsepower 289 cubic inch V8.  The GT package cost an additional $165.03 and, along with the engine upgrade, it included a special gauge cluster, a stripe package, grille mounted fog lamps, dual exhaust tips, and the chrome GT badges on the fenders.  The base model Ford Mustang offered an inline six cylinder or a 200 horsepower V8, also available on all body styles.  While all of the styles of the 1965 Mustang were very popular, the coupe was once again the best-selling one (over 400,000), with the fastback second (over 77,000), and the ragtop third (over 73,000).

The Mustang GT and the Shelby GT 350 were all fastbacks with no back seat, packed with a 289 beefed up to produce 306 horsepower.  The Shelby GT 350's were Wimbledon White with black interior and Guardsman Blue stripes along the hood, roof, and trunk lid.  1965 was also the first year that a Mustang appeared in a movie, Goldfinger featured a white 1964.5 Ford Mustang convertible that did not fare so well against James Bond's Aston Martin.

The 1966 Ford Mustang showed only minor changes like the new gauge cluster, gas cap, grille, and side trim.  Ford Motor Company attempted to make the base model Mustang more popular by offering the Sprint Mustang 200, which was just an inline six cylinder packed Mustang with a chrome air cleaner cover and a decal that read "Mustang powered Sprint 200".  The Mustang GT engine options remained the same, and the high performance Shelby GT 350 returned with a back seat and an optional, very rare, supercharged 289 cubic inch engine option, making 390 horsepower. There were several Shelby GT 350 convertibles, also very rare, with a production of only 6 units.

One interesting first for the Ford Mustang in 1966 actually involved an outside company. Hertz Rent-A-Car began offering the Shelby GT 350H as a rental to the general public, titled "Rent-a-Racer".  One problem that was discovered with this program was that Mustang owners, who could not afford a Shelby GT 350H, would rent one and switch their engine with the rental one before returning it.  A dishonest Mustang owner could get a Shelby high performance engine for the cost of $17 dollars a day and $.17 per mile.  There was another Ford Mustang offered in 1966 named the High Country Special, an appearance package only offered in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. This rare package, limited to only 333 units, came in Timberline Green, Columbine Blue, or Aspen Gold.

-- by Patrick

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