The Classic Ford Mustang (1964.5-1973)

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When the Ford Mustang debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, it was clear by the
reaction of the public that the new pony car from Ford Motor Company was going
to be an instant success.  While the
Mustang has seen many changes over its long and prosperous history, there are
few cars on the roads today that draw the attention of enthusiasts or the
general public as a whole, like a classic Mustang.  While the definition of “classic” is defined
by many state departments as any car or truck over 15 or 20 years old, Mustang
and vintage car enthusiasts commonly consider the 1964.5 through 1973 model
years to be the classic Mustangs.


The first model year of the Mustang was 1964, but with the
mid-year release, it was only a half of a model year, and because of that, the
VIN numbers of the 1964 and 1955 model years have the same year identification
of 1965.  The first year offered no
different trim lines, but there were three engine options.  The base model engine was just a 101
horsepower inline six cylinder, but there was the option of one of two 289
cubic inch V8s, making 164 or 219 horsepower. 
There was also the option of a coupe or convertible, yet the coupe was
far more popular in the first year, as the soft top would set you back an extra
237 dollars.  While the original Mustang
was no screamer, the sporty lines definitely got the attention of the public,
and it helped to pave the way for its first full production year, and events
like the Indy 500 which featured a Mustang coupe as the pace car in 1964 made
sure that everyone got a good look at the new marvel.


1965 was a big year for the Mustang, as a new body style was
added in the form of a fastback, and this model year also brought about the
introduction of the soon-to-be-famous Mustang GT.  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
Mustang offered an inline 6 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 most
popular (over 400,000 sold) with the fastback being second (over 77,000 sold),
and the ragtop third (over 73,000 sold). 
Along with the Mustang GT’s entry into the performance car market, 1965
also market the introduction of the first high performance Mustang, the Shelby
G.T. 350.  They were all fastbacks with
no back seat, packed with a 289 beefed up to produce 306 horsepower.  All of the Shelby G.T 350s were Wimbledon
White fastbacks with black interior and Guardsman Blue stripes along the hood,
roof and trunk lid.  This was also the
first year to have a movie featuring a Mustang, as a white 1964.5 convertible
appear in Goldfinger, yet it did not fair so well against James Bond’s Aston


1966 had no major changes to the Mustang aside from the
minor interior changes, like the new gauge cluster, and exterior changes such
as the new 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 with read “Mustang
powered Sprint 200”.  The Mustang GT
engine options remained the same, and the high performance Shelby G.T 350 was
back, this time with a back seat, and an optional (and very rare) supercharged
289 cubic inch engine option, making 390 horsepower.  There were also several Shelby G.T 350
convertibles, but they are very rare, with a production of only 6 units.  One interesting first for the Mustang in 1966
was actually involving an outside company, when Hertz Rent-A-Car began offering
the Shelby G.T. 350H as a rental to the general public, and this program was
titled Rent-a-Racer.  One problem that
was discovered with this program was that Mustang owners who could not afford a
Shelby model,
would rent one of the G.T. 350H models, and switch their engine with the rental
engine, then return the rental.  This
would give a dishonest Mustang owner the opportunity to get a Shelby high performance engine for the cost
of $17 dollars a day, and 17 cents per mile. 
There was another special edition Mustang offered in 1966 named the High
Country Special, and this was an appearance package only offered in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska; and this rare
package, limited to only 333 units, came in Timberline Green, Columbine Blue,
or Aspen Gold.



1967 was another big year for the Mustang, as this marked
the year was brought about the first redesign of the model.  The body lines were slightly changed, with a
new grille layout, and new non-functional body colored side scoops in front of
the rear wheels.  Also, the rear roofline
of the fastback was extended all the way to the back of the car, giving it a
full fastback look. While this redesign helps to set the 1967 apart from the
previous models, it was fairly subtle, and was actually not the big news for
1967.  The Big News was the introduction
of a new high performance model in the G.T. 500, and with it, the introduction
of big block engines options; the 390 cubic inch and 428 cubic inch V8s.  There were several special edition Mustangs
in 1967, such as the Mustang GTA and the Mustang Stallion.  While the GTA was simply a Mustang GT with an
automatic transmission, the Stallion was a very unique and very rare model with
only 8 built.  The Stallion came with
either a 289 Hi-Po, 390, or 428; the transmission options were either a 4-speed
manual or C6 Select Shift Cruise-O-Matic, , limited slip rear differential,
power steering, power disc brakes, Stallion logos, Cougar taillights, and
custom wheels.  The Shelby G.T 350 still
came equipped with the 289 Hi-Po, and the G.T 500 came packed with a 335
horsepower 428 cubic inch V8.  The Shelby models in 1967
received more aesthetic changes, with the grille being changed from the other
67 Mustangs to allow for better cooling, and along with a special rear spoiler,
Cougar taillights were fitted to the back end to give it a much different look
than the standard Mustangs.  The Shelby‘s sold to the
general public were al fastbacks, with a select few made as coupes strictly for
Trans Am racing.  The G.T. 500 also came
with a roll bar and the option of racing style harnesses.  The High Country Specials were still offered
with production numbers of only 400, and the rarest 1967 Mustang was the Shelby
Super Snake.  It was equipped with a
520-horsepower lightweight 427 cubic inch engine with aluminum heads, tuned
headers, 780 CFM Holley 4 barrel carb, aluminum intake, oil cooler, remote
filter, 4 speed trans and a 4.11 ratio Detroit locker rear differential.  This model was a record breaker, but
unfortunately, due to the price of $7,500, which was almost three times the
cost of a normal Mustang, it was never mass produced.  Sales numbers for 1967 dipped a bit due to
the influx of direct competitors, yet it was still the best selling car in its


This model year brought about the end of the 289 performance
engines, although a 289 was still offered, it was a lower performance engine,
as the 302 cubic inch engine which would become one of the most common Mustang
engines for the next 30 or so years was introduced.  The Mustang GT was now offered with beefed up
suspension, brakes, tires, and exhaust system, and it received some minor
changes to set it apart from the non-GT models. 
The standard engine in the GT was no a 302, with the option of a 302
Hi-Po, or the 390 or 428 cubic inch big block V8.  The 428 Cobra Jet Mustang debuted in April of
1968, and this high performance model featured a ram air induction with a large
hood mounted scoop.  The top of the line Shelby was the G.T 500 KR,
with KR standing for King of the Road. 
This trim line came equipped only with a 428 Cobra Jet engine, and like
all 1968 Shelby
models, it was available in either a convertible or a fastback.  The High Country Special was offered once
again, and another regional trim line, the California Special, was also
offered.  The California Special was
similar to the Shelby models, with the exterior
being much the same as the Shelbys. 



1969 brought about the second restyling of the Mustang, and
with that restyle came 4 headlights, as well as the addition of 4 inches in
length and       about a half an inch in
width.  There were three new trim
packages offered with the Boss, Mach1, and Grande, and with the GT, these were
all performance models, with the exception of the Grande which was intended as
a sort of luxury Mustang.  There was also
a special edition economy model with a 250 cubic inch six cylinder called the
Mustang E, but they were very limited edition with only 50 units made.  There were a wide variety of engines offered
in the different trim lines, such as the 302, 351, 390, 428, and 429; and the
horsepower of the various engines ranged from 220 horsepower to 376 horsepower
in the Boss 429.  The Shelby Mustangs
were back once again, with exterior changes to set them apart from the GTs, and
they featured similar high performance engines as the prior year.  The Mach1 was basically a higher performance
Mustang GT, with the addition of nicer interior and reflective stripes; and the
option of a rear wing, side window louvers, and a shaker hood scoop.  The Mach1 could be ordered with either the
302 Hi-Po, 351, or 428 Cobra Jet engine.  In some cases, the performance of the Mach1
was not enough, and that was where the Boss Mustangs came into play.  The Boss Mustangs were offered in two forms,
the first of which was the Boss 302, which was like the Mach1 in that it was
basically a high performance 302 equipped GT with exterior trim.  The second of the Boss options is a model
that has gone down in Mustang history as one of the most powerful factory
Mustangs ever built, and that is the Boss 429. 
The 429 cubic inch engine was straight out of the NASCAR race teams, and
these Boss 429s were actually built by a third party customizing company, for
Ford Motor Company.  Only 867 Boss 429s
were built, so getting your hands on one of these today will cost you quite a
bit, much like it did back then.


1970 brought about some shocking news, in that the Mustang
GT was no longer offered. The Mach1, Grande, and Boss Mustangs were still offered
and very little changed with these trim lines or with the Mustang as a whole in
1970.  Similar engines were offered to
those that were available in 1969, with the exception of a new cylinder head
design on the Boss 429s, with a hemispherical head added in an effort to keep
pace with Chrysler’s 426 Hemi, but with over 50 less horsepower than the
Chrysler Hemi, it was a constant uphill battle for Ford.  There were, however, 2 specially built Boss
429 Lawmen with around 1200 horsepower, built for tours of US armed servicemen,
but they were never offered up for public sale, and only one still exists.  This is owned by ex-NFL and ex-WWF member,
and major car collector Bill Goldberg. 
There no actual 1970 Shelby models, but
instead the remaining 1969 Shelbys
were re-titled at 1970 models.



The restyling effort for the 1971 Mustang brought about a
Mustang that was bigger than the 1970 in every aspect.  The width, length, height, and wheelbase were
all enlarged, as well as the weight. 
There was still no GT (and there would not be a GT for some ten more
years), but there was the fastback Mach1 offered with both a 302 or 429, as the
Boss 302 and Boss 429 were dropped to make room for the Boss 351.  There was no American Market Shelby model
offered, so the Mach1 packed with the 429 was the most powerful model sold in
1971 with 375 horsepower. 


In 1972 there were big changes, but none of them were very
good ones from a performance minded point of view.  There were only 2 V8 engine options, the 302
and the 351, and the horsepower range dipped to 140 to 275.  There was actually no real change in power
output, but it was a government mandated change in performance testing which
accounted for the drop in listed output, and that caused major sales loss for
the Mustang, as well as the rest of the performance car market.  The drop of the big block also caused the
drop of the Boss Mustang, and the Mach1 was once again the premium performance
model.  The luxury minded Mustang Grande
was still offered, and in addition to those trim lines, the Mustang Sprint was
added to commemorate the 1972 Olympics. 
These Sprint models were all white, with blue rocker panels, blue hood
stripes, blue seat inserts, and a USA logo on the quarter glass.  Even with this special edition, sales dipped
to just 125,813, the lowest of any year during the classic Mustang era.


1973 would be the last year of the classic Mustang, as the
following year would bring about a redesign like the country had never seen (or
wanted) due to the looming fuel crisis and influx of economy cars from Japan.  The Mustang was offered as a convertible; the
last of the sort until the mid 1980s, and there were some minor alterations to
the 1973 model such as realigned turn signal lights.  The Mach1 was packed with the biggest engine
for 1973, the 352 Cobra Jet engine building just 266 horsepower, and it was
available only as a fastback. 
Considering the “market direction” which brought about the end of the
pony car era Mustangs, the high performance Mach1 was the second best selling
Mustang in 1973, second only to the base model coupe.  Considering the fabulous introduction and the
years of ultra high performance engines, it was a disappointing end to this
era, and the federal regulations can be blamed for that.  There were no special edition Mustangs
offered in 1973, although the Mach1 was featured in a 40 minute chase scene in
a 1974 release of Gone in 60 seconds. 
Even with the public notice of this low budget release sales were not
very good, mostly due to the constant drop in advertised horsepower.  In its last year as a pony car, the Mustang
sold almost as few units as were sold in the partial 1964 model year, but 1973
was a full model year.



While the classic Mustangs are still heavily sought after by
collectors, the gradual decline in performance models and horsepower output
caused the earlier years to be more desirable. 
However, in comparison to what was to become of the Mustang in 1974, the
last mini-generation of the classic ‘stangs, ranging from 1971-1973, may have
been more popular had Ford have released more information about the upcoming
restyling prior to the release.  There
are few cars which receive more attention at a car show or just driving down
the street than a classic Mustang, whether it’s a base model inline six
cylinder model, or a mighty Boss 429, the Mustang is still revered as one of
the most popular cars of the pony car era.


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