Ford Mustang: one of the most popular American cars of all time, even among non-car people. They may not know or like all of them, but probably a least the ones from the first few years. Among car enthusiasts, who can be very particular and cynical at times, the love is not quite so universal. But even most of us would have to admit there are some great Mustangs, many of which showed up during Scottsdale’s January auction week.
Ford’s brilliantly conceived original “pony” car was a hit from day one and, of course, it survives to this day in much the same concept. Barrett-Jackson had 84 Mustangs, not counting Shelbys, including 23 of the inaugural 1965-’66 editions. Obviously, Mustangs are very common at events, some might say too common. I don’t have that problem because, full disclosure, I’m a fan. I drive a 2011 Mustang GT and one wall of my garage is devoted to framed classic Mustang ads and scale models. However, some are naturally more attractive to me than others, so the following are some examples of my favorites from Scottsdale across the various years of the first generation.
You can click on the links to go to the auction house page on each car. As with previous articles, I’ll include a little basic Mustang history as we go through the progression as well as personal commentary on what I found interesting about each car. This is the longest of the three parts, so warmup your scrolling finger and settle in for some sweet ‘Stangs.
Fastbacks were introduced at the start of the official 1965 model year in the fall of ’64. They are generally more popular with collectors than hardtops, rivaling convertibles. This 1966 Fastback sold at Barrett-Jackson for $30,800. I like the color and clean looks with base hubcaps. I’m personally a big fastback Mustang fan. I think they added a crucial sportier option, adding to the Mustang’s mission of being able to be many things to many people. The fastback was essential to the “muscle” side of the Mustang’s personality and set the stage for the many beloved high performance versions to come. (Roger628 pointed out a couple errors on this car. See if you can spot them!)
This is the least powerful of three optional 289cid V8’s, putting out 200hp through a 2-barrel carburetor and automatic transmission.
Dark blue and white may be my favorite color combo on early Mustangs. This 1965 Convertible looks especially sharp with the GT stripes and fog lights and styled wheels. Trivia: approximately 85% of ’65-’66 Mustangs left the factory with the optional whitewall tires.
It was billed as a 37,000 mile car, but appears to have had quite a bit of work done to it. Dual exhausts exiting through the rear rocker panel look great. It sold for $44,000 at Barrett-Jackson.
Four engines were available for ’65-’66. A six cylinder and three versions of the 289cid V8. This one is the middle 289, with a 4 barrel carburetor and 225hp, as well as a 4-speed manual. I love the gold colored valve covers, though I’m not sure what the proper engine colors are. I’ve seen black block with gold covers and gold, black or chrome air cleaner and a blue block with blue covers and blue, black or chrome air cleaner. I am sure that the open air filter is not stock for this engine, but it is for the top 271hp 289.
Early Mustang interiors were simple but very attractive. Being many things to many people meant they were highly optionable. This one has the “pony” interior with upgraded upholstery, door panels, dashboard, pedals and steering wheel. About the only equipment it doesn’t have is the center console and the Rally Pac tach/clock on the steering column. A bench seat was even available.
Fortunately it was not all fastbacks and muscle cars at Barrett-Jackson. Mustangs are so popular that they had at least two 6 cylinder hardtops, including this 1966 Hardtop that sold for $33,000. I’m amazed that a six cylinder hardtop brought that high of a bid, though it was a restoration on a 40k mile car.
This car sports the base interior. The engine is a one barrel, 200cid straight six rated at 120hp. Though a small minority, six cylinder early Mustangs are not unusual to see and definitely have a cult following. Personally, I wouldn’t kick one out of my driveway, but I couldn’t see paying $33k for a hardtop one no matter how nice. The other one I saw at B-J sold for $14,300, and was just as clean, if a little plainer.
Here’s a 1966 Convertible at Silver auction (car and sales info not available online). Like the blue convertible above, this one just looks right. In a pretty color with styled steel wheels, this one would be welcome in my driveway anytime. It even has air conditioning. It’s probably just a coincidence that the color matches the shirt of the guy behind it, which I believe is Emberglo like the fastback in the top picture. (the amazing ’52 Cadillac in the background was featured in my first auction article, on unrestored originals)
This 1965 model looks like a nice stock GT fastback, but is actually a hardtop that was modified to be a convertible with a removable fiberglass hardtop. It sold for $42,900 at Barrett-Jackson.
Of course Scottsdale’s high end auctions had Shelbys. Barrett-Jackson had 14 including 5 (real) Cobras. One was a 1965 GT350R race car that didn’t sell because it didn’t meet its reserve. This is noteworthy because B-J is a no-reserve auction and they only occasionally allow a few very special cars to have a reserve. Russo and Steele had this 1965 Shelby GT350. The sale price was $310,000, which is typical. It seems exorbitant for a glorified Mustang, but of course any classic car, especially at this level, is best thought of financially as an investment. The good thing is that it’s an investment that would be expected to at least hold its value if bought at market prices and as a bonus, you can drive it (real fast if you want to) and it looks freaking sweet.
I can’t imagine a cooler looking Mustang. The changes from the regular Mustang are pretty minimal but highly effective. It has a hood scoop (functional, of course), new grille, lowered stance, new wheels and stripes. Shelbys came with plain steel wheels standard, with handsome wheels from Crager (like this one has) or American Racing optional. The side stripes were standard, but the blue up and over (LeMans) painted stripes were optional. A majority of cars were shipped from Shelby without them, but often dealers added them. Very few don’t have them today, since they are pretty much a hallmark of the Shelby look.
Interior was no-nonsense base Mustang, with a wood-rimed steering wheel from the Cobra. There was a button for the horn on the dash, as that steering wheel didn’t have one. Shelby also included a tach and oil pressure guage in a pod on the dashpad, competition 3 inch seatbelts and no radio. Shifter was stock Mustang on an aluminum-cased Borg Warner T10 4 speed transmission, plus a Detroit Locker rear axle. Rear seats were replaced by a fiberglass deck, with the spare tire mounted on it.
The ’65 is the most prized and valued Shelby Mustang not only because it had the lowest production, but because it is the only year that the car was all about speed and handling, with no consideration given to creature comforts. Future versions may have had more power, but they diluted their focus to include luxury interiors and flashier styling elements. On the ’65, most every modification was about improving performance.
Engines started life as the Mustang K-code 271hp 289. Shelby added new intake, 715cfm 4-barrel carb, oil pan, exhaust headers and mufflers with side exit pipes and cast aluminum finned Cobra valve covers. They were rated by Shelby at 306hp and 329 lb-ft torque.
Then there is this 1966 Shelby GT350, the first factory prototype for the ’66. The 1966 model started having a few aesthetic enhancements in the interior and they were apparently at least considering a vinyl top to snazz up the exterior. Carroll Shelby, having a sharp eye and great wisdom, is said to have hated it and this is the only car made with one. Its status as a factory freak drove the bids to $605,000. At about 400k above the typical price for a ’66 GT350, it might be the most expensive vinyl top ever!
Engines were the same as in 1965, but production versions had stock suspension height and less harsh ride, as well as available C-4 automatic.
I found this 1968 Shelby GT500 at Russo and Steele where it sold for $85,000.
The ’65-’66 Fastback is a nice design, but I think the fastback greenhouse looka a little short, with a rather sudden dropoff from the rear of the front doors. This gives it a little bit of an awkward look from some angles, in my opinion. It looks great from the side and rear 3/4, but not as good from the front 3/4. You can see this on the ’66 Emberglo fastback in the second picture from the top of the article. Ford corrected this on the ’67 facelift, extending the bottom of the fastback towards the rear of the car just enough to give it a little more gradual slope and flow.
The 1965-’66 models will always be the the quintessential classic Mustangs, but I really like the ’67-’68 years. I think Ford did a fantastic job filling out and modernizing the styling while keeping all the important elements that people loved.
Shelby’s interior philosophy obviously changed completely from 1965, as they now had the most luxurious interiors you could find on any Mustang and starting from 1967, available A/C.
Shelby expanded to two models for 1967, the small block GT350 and the big block GT500, which had power from a 335hp 428 for 1968. The convertible with its unique roll bar was introduced for 1968.
Here’s a 1969 Shelby GT350 to represent the end of the line for classic Shelby Mustangs. Russo and Steele sold it for $50,500, which doesn’t seem bad except that the big-block GT500’s often sell for about double. GT350’s were powered by the 290hp 351cid (Windsor) small block. The ’69-’70 models were the most visually changed from regular Mustangs of the Shelbys. The ’69 GT350 is about as far in concept from the ’65 GT350 as it could get, but I still like them both. I like the ’69’s unique look, and ’65’s unique raucous character. Obviously I’d be a lot more likely to be able to afford a ’69, but I doubt you will find either in my garage anytime soon.
The rest of this article will feature muscular versions of regular Mustangs, like this 1969 Mach I. In 1969, you could get five different V8 engines in any model: standard, GT or the new Mach I, including the top 360hp Super Cobra Jet 428 (great engine name!).
Engines don’t get any bluer. This sharp, good looking Mach I had the 290hp 4-barrel 351 (Windsor) and sold for $34,100. The reasonable price no doubt reflects its lack of a big block engine.
This 1969 Boss 429 sold for $206,280, which was the top sale at the Silver auction, by over 100k.
The Boss 429 was a ’69 and ’70-only homologation special. Ford’s new semi-hemi 429cid big block needed 500 public sales to qualify for NASCAR, though Ford decided to put the engine in the popular Mustang rather than the Torino that was actually used for stock car races. The engine was very conservatively rated at 375hp.
Though it brought really good money, this is by no means the upper limit on Boss 429’s. B-J had a white 1969 Boss 429 that sold for $330,000. It was not obvious to me what separated this Silver car by $124k from the top echelon of rarefied Boss value but I didn’t look at the undercarriage. The underside and engine compartment seem to be where the differences between #1 and #2 cars are most easily seen. I think this car looks better in red than white, but I’m really partial to Grabber Blue on these. Adorned only with a hood scoop, chin spoiler and Boss 429 decal, the mean and clean Boss 429 is really one of the best looking muscle cars out there, in my opinion.
Somehow I neglected to take a photo of Silver’s Boss 429 engine, so here is the engine from Barrett-Jackson’s Boss. It’s worth showing the engine if only to marvel at how large of an engine they stuffed into the Mustang’s bay, though I think it is a really nice looking powerplant. Ford had to move the shock towers out an inch to make it fit, giving the car a wider front track.
For a different take on purposeful, muscular looks, Barrett-Jackson had a 1970 Hardtop sporting front and rear spoilers, big stripe on a shaker hood and dog dishes. The standard upright roof style is not commonly as seen on muscular Mustangs and at $26,400, this car seemed like a great value. It has the 300 hp (Cleveland) 4-barrel 351 and 4 speed, as well as A/C. Perhaps bidders weren’t as interested since it’s not a big block car.
More commonly seen is the 1970 Boss 302. The Boss 302 was also a homologation special, but for the Trans-Am series. The 302cid small block was heavily modified for racing duty with new heads, manifold, camshaft, solid lifters, 780cfm carb and more, putting out 290hp and 290lb-ft torque. It was similar in concept to the Camaro Z/28, which was rated at the same 290hp from its 302 (though both were underrated). Ford sold over 7000 302’s for 1970 compared to just 499 429’s (plus 1628 and 859 respectively for 1969). It sold at Barrett-Jackson for $55,000.
Another interesting auction note, indoors in Barrett-Jackson’s marquee tents, they offered a nearly identical 1970 Boss 302, in the same color even, which sold for $137,500. What do you get for the additional $82k? I’m still trying to figure that out. I invite you to click on the links and compare the photos. #1140 has definitely been more thoroughly restored, with every nut, bolt, stripe and chalk mark perfectly attended to, ready to score close to perfect at any concours event. I think they even waxed the chassis. But #770.1 has nothing to be ashamed of. It would be one of the nicest cars at just about any show it would go to. Worth the extra money? Let me know what you think.
The final iteration of the original Mustang platform was the polarizing 1971-’73, well represented by a 1972 Mach 1 Fastback at Barrett-Jackson. If the front of the car resembles the ’69 Shelby, it’s not a coincidence. Bunkie Knudson, Ford president, liked the Shelby so much, he ordered the upcoming new Mustang to incorporate its look. Barrett-Jackson sold this for $33,000.
The 1971 model still offered serious muscle era engines, giving customers 8 engine choices, including two 429’s and a 330hp Boss 351 (Cleveland). Choices were trimmed to 5 for 1972, with a 275hp (net) 351 H.O. (Cleveland) being the top choice. This 1972 has a 200hp (net) 4-barrel 351 (Cleveland) with 4-speed manual transmission. Yes, Mustangs still came standard with a 1-barrel inline six, now 250cid making 98hp, in a car weighing about 500lb more than it did in 1965 despite still being built on the same basic platform.
Mustang interiors became even more bunker-like. I’m surprised the military didn’t buy these and mount machine guns on the dash. The interior is not without its charm, but I agree with people who said at the time, and ever since, that the Mustang had grown too fat and strayed too far from its original spirit.
The styling looked kind of cool from some angles on some cars. The fastback SportsRoof with its practically horizontal backlight is so extreme, I can’t help but admire it. To the extent the front resembles the ’69 Shelby, I like it, but I think it would look much better with a Shelby-style sunken grille. The flush grille and headlights don’t work too well to my eyes.
When I think of this generation Mustang, I think of this: Eleanor, the ’73 model from the original Gone in 60 Seconds.
Actually it would be more like this. If you somehow have never seen this movie, you should rectify that as soon as possible. It has probably the longest car chases of any movie, which was its reason for being. It’s not trying to be a real dramatic movie like Bullitt or the Nicholas Cage remake, nor did it win any acting Oscars. It just has a car chases for about half the movie. Plus it has lots of CC’s, needless to say.
Or I think of this: James Bond’s modestly-named girlfriend’s ’71 Mach I in Diamonds Are Forever. The wider and longer ’71 Mustang is apparently adept at driving on two wheels. I think the ’71-’73 Mustang looked as good in this movie as it ever could.
The ’70’s would be hard on the Mustang, as it was for most all sporty cars. Ford tried to get back to the size and spirit of the original with the Mustang II, also spearheaded by Lee Iacocca. He succeeded in the sales department, but the car was rather homely and slow even by the standards of the time. It has received almost no love in the collector hobby, but Barrett-Jackson actually had a 1976 that sold rather well. This is notable as its only the 5th one they’ve had in all their auctions for the last 15 years, though it may be the finest Mustang II in existence.
Well, that’s it for Mustangs in Scottsdale…or is it? Stay tuned for one more article on flashy Fords. Meanwhile, let us know what you think about these cars in the comments below.
Other articles in my 2018 Scottsdale auction series: