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Ford Mustang (1964-1966)

Article by Mark Trotta

Aimed squarely at America's youth market, the Ford Mustang was compact, stylish, and offered great performance at an affordable price. Debuting at the New York World's Fair in April of 1964, over 22,000 orders were received on the first day of sales. First-year projections of 100,000 units were surpassed in three months.

1964 Ford Mustang coupe

"Mustang-mania" quickly sparked a whole new breed of cars, and soon the new pony car market was off and running. Many worthy opponents followed, such as the AMC Javelin, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Mercury Cougar. The Plymouth Barracuda had debuted two weeks before the Mustang.

Ford Mustang History

As success is always measured in dollars at a corporate level, the low sales experienced with the original Thunderbirds influenced Ford Motor Company to switch from Mustang's original two-seat concept to 2+2 coupe and convertible versions.

By borrowing chassis, suspension, and drivetrain components from the Ford Falcon and Fairlane models, costs were kept low, allowing the projected sale price of under $2,500 to be met. Although primarily engineered from existing parts, the Mustang's good looks and long hood/short deck body proportions gave it an identity all its own.

1964 Ford Mustang

Commonly referred to as 1964 models, Mustang sales began in April of 1964, starting at a suggested retail price of $2,368. Buyers were given a long list of options to choose from, unusual at a time when only higher-priced models were given so many choices.

Ford Mustang history

Standard engine was a 170-cid six-cylinder engine. Base transmission was a manual three-speed with a floor shift, nestled between standard bucket seats. A 260-cid V-8 engine, four-speed manual or three-speed "Cruise-O-Matic" automatic were optional. In June of 1964, a 4-barrel 289-cid V-8 engine was added to the options list.

1964 Indy 500 Pace Car

Ford's full-size Galaxie was originally chosen for the honor, but due to it's unprecedented popularity, the Mustang became the 1964 Indy 500 pace car. All pace car Mustangs were painted white and came with special striping. Interior choices were either red, white, or blue vinyl. The special Indy 500 door graphics were installed at Ford dealers.

1964 Ford Mustang Indy 500 pace car

Convertible pace car replicas were equipped with the 271-horsepower 289-cid V-8, with coupe versions getting the 260-cid engine. Transmission choices were the Cruise-O-Matic automatic or four-speed manual.

First-year Mustangs were produced from March to August of 1964, with 121,538 sold.

1965 Ford Mustang

The Mustang received several minor changes for the 1965 model year, which began in August of 1964. Alternators replaced generators, the oil-filler cap was relocated, and an integral power-steering pump and reservoir replaced the remote-mounted style found on most earlier models.

Other changes for 1965 included a 120 horsepower, 200-cid six-cylinder engine replacing the 170-cid motor as standard. A 2-barrel, 200-horsepower 289 V-8 replaced the 260ci version, and the 4-barrel 289 was now rated at 225-horsepower. Inside the car, Ford and Motorola jointly introduced the eight-track tape player.

1965 Mustang Fastback

In addition to the original notchback and convertible models, a handsome fastback was added to the Mustang line-up for 1965. The exterior lines were similar to those of the Jaguar XKE, with trunk space being traded for increased interior room.

1965 was the first year Mustang fastback

Other fastback cars offered at this time were the Plymouth Barracuda and Rambler Marlin. Neither of these were nearly as popular as the Mustang fastback.

1965 Mustang GT

The extra-cost GT Equipment Group was first offered in April of 1965, giving the buyer front disc brakes, quick-ratio gearbox, stiffer front coils and rear springs, heavy-duty shocks, and a larger front sway bar.

1965 Mustang GT

Exterior features included special stripes on the lower fender, doors and rear quarter panels, GT badging, and grille-mounted fog-lamps. Inside, the GT dash pod had five round gauges.

1965 Mustang dashboard

Base motor with the GT package was the two-barrel 289-cid V-8. Optional engines included a 225-horsepower 289, or the high performance K-code 289.

K-Code Mustang

The K-Code 289 engine, rated at 271-horsepower, was first seen on Ford models in 1963. The motor featured smaller combustion chamber heads, a solid-lifter camshaft, 10.5:1 compression, dual-point distributor, and low-restriction exhaust manifolds. Chrome valve covers set off the motor visually, with "289 High Performance" lettering atop the chrome air cleaner. A 595-cfm carburetor was fitted with a manual choke.

Read: Best Oil For Classic Cars

K-Code equipped models wore special badging on the front fenders, reading "High Performance 289". Dual-exhaust pipes exited below the rear fender through the rear valance panel. First year K-Code Mustangs came with a 4-speed transmission only, and were not available with air conditioning or power steering. Buyers received a three month/4,000 mile warranty instead of the standard Mustang 12 month/12,000 mile plan.

A total of 559,451 Mustangs were produced for the 1965 model year. Model breakdown was 77,079 Mustang fastbacks, 409,260 coupes and 73,112 convertibles.

1966 Ford Mustang

Among several cosmetic changes, a grille redesign had the Mustang emblem floating in the center, a new gas cap and wheel cover design replaced the originals, and side scoops were revised.

Ford Mustang history

The 260-cid V-8 was gone, replaced by two and four-barrel versions of the 289-cid V8. Also gone was the Falcon-based instrument cluster, all Mustangs now had the five-dial unit from the GT model. Buyers could select either an optional AM/8-track player or an AM/FM radio.

early Mustang history

Last year's optional backup lights were now standard equipment.

Mustang Assembly Plants

The first two years of Mustang sales were unprecedented. To keep up with demand, Ford opened two additional assembly plants. In addition to the Dearborn, Michigan plant, new facilities opened up in San Jose, California and Metuchen, New Jersey.

Mustang sales for the 1966 model year included 499,751 hardtops, 35,698 fastbacks, and 72,119 convertibles, adding up to a total of 607,568 units for 1966.

Further Reading:

1967-1968 Ford Mustang
1969 Ford Mustang
1970 Ford Mustang
Mustang II 1974-1978
1987-1993 Ford Mustang