Curbside Classic: 1965 Ford Custom 500 – A Cut Above?

An admission:  This 1965 Ford was like bulk meat in a storage case.  I could see it from afar but it required specific effort to procure it.

There was an unbelievable amount of new content in the 1965 Ford full-sized line.  With coil rear suspension, a new frame, a new six-cylinder engine, and various other significant upgrades, this was one of the newest cars Ford ever built.  While we have discussed some of these elements previously, this Custom 500 is significant and deserves a meaty discussion.

Not everybody procures their meat at a grocery store.  While Mrs. Jason and I aren’t hunters in the traditional sense, there have been numerous times over the years we have hunted deals from various meat lockers for purchasing a half or quarter beef (or hog) for our use.

Using meat lockers has been a periodic thing in my family for eons.  As a child I vividly remember accompanying my maternal grandfather to visit Maurice, the owner of the meat locker down the road from their house.  Maurice (although everyone pronounced it as “Morse” in that part of the world) was a perpetually busy man, processing all varieties of livestock for people in the area.

My grandparents would raise the cows Maurice butchered for them.  While my grandfather was perfectly capable of butchering, he drew the line at bovines.  Hogs, yes; I have helped him butcher hogs.  Cows were a no-go.  As he said “they’re big and a hell of a lot of trouble”.  So when the time came he would haul the cow to Maurice for the dirty work.

Maurice’s meat locker had a terrific smell, which seems to be universal among such establishments, along with what seemed like acres of stainless steel.  When purchasing from a locker, the unit price is tough to compare with typical grocery store fare as it’s a flat rate regardless of cut.  It takes the same effort to process the animal, much like the design and engineering costs are similar on cars be they large or small.

The only real downside of purchasing from a locker is the higher degree of planning involved with pickup and storage.

When making the purchase, the processor will ask what percentage of the meat we want ground and what cuts we want ground.  This also requires planning as our decision will dictate how lean, or fatty, the ground meat will be.  Naturally the fattier meat tastes better but a lot of grease is created when cooking it.

The choice is a dilemma.  While steaks are great, ground beef can be used in a seemingly countless number of dishes.

The 1965 Ford, like most Ford products, is the ground beef of the automotive world.  Like ground beef, the 1965 Ford allowed for a variety of uses (family sedan, taxi, police car, business transport, etc.) and could be obtained at a relatively more attractive price than many of the other cuts, uh, competitors.  Think of Ford as the Hereford of automobiles; it’s easy to find and relatively cheap to procure.  Think of more premium brands as being, say, Black Angus or even Wagyu.

However, this comparison of Ford to ground beef is compromised.  Why?  This Custom 500 is on the leaner side.  In the beef world, more lean ground beef generally dictates a higher price as it contains more desirable cuts.  So what’s the opposite of ground beef?  Veal?  Bison?  Calamari?

Our featured Custom 500 with a V8 had a unit price which was much less than the related Galaxie 500 and LTD.  At a price of $2,573, this V8 powered Custom 500 cost $0.75 per pound.  In comparison, a Galaxie 500 cost $0.788 per pound with the LTD setting one back a whopping $0.904 per pound.

We all pay more for lean meat, but Ford was doing the exact opposite in 1965.

The base Custom with a six-banger was the leanest of all the four-doors at $0.706 per pound.  However, a person needs a little fat in their meat as otherwise it will be too tough to enjoy or it will scorch when cooked – which encapsulates my concern about a Custom with a six-shooter.

The LTD was obviously the fattiest cut among Ford branded automotive meat.  With a standard V8, automatic transmission, more thickly padded seats, walnut appliqué all over the interior, and courtesy lights galore (even in the ashtrays), along with its vinyl roof and fancy-shmancy panty cloth seat upholstery, the fat certainly made for a fantastically fine tasting Ford.  Ford’s decision to dip the LTD into the tallow bucket paid off.  The LTD, in four-door guise, sold just over 68,000 copies for 1965.

There’s no argument the LTD was tastier than the other Ford branded offerings, but put a little heat to it and a lot grease will be cooked right out.

Here’s a trivia nugget.  Just like how not everyone knows a cow has four sections in its stomach, not everybody knows our Custom 500 four-door outsold the four-door LTD by around 3,700 examples.  The two doors were a different story but we need to compare ground beef to ground beef, not Kansas City Strip to beef tongue.

Charging more for something with a much higher fat content was rather shrewd on Ford’s part.

Logically, the Galaxie 500 was somewhat less fatty than the LTD but Ford still offered plenty of garnishments on this burger.  For many it was the optimum blend of lean and fatty cuts as it outsold everything else in Ford’s lineup and not by a small margin.  Often when one finds the right recipe, they stick with it.

In the big scheme of things, Ford found a very good breed for use in their ground beef for 1965.  Full-sized sales, excluding wagons, were just over 800,000, up around 20,000 from the year prior.  In comparison to the 1965 models, the 1964 Fords looked oxidized.

With all this talk about beef, let’s discuss pork for a minute.  We all know while Ford makes good ground beef they have certainly dabbled in ground pork over the years.  Case in point is the 1964 Ford Custom 500 in comparison to our featured 1965 Custom 500.  The 1965 model, with a V8, was well over 220 pounds lighter than a comparable 1964 model.  Weight was now on par with Chevrolet with the lightest 1965 Ford being the six-cylinder Custom two-door sedan pegging the scales at a modest 3,278 pounds.

This particular Custom 500 is not the leanest 1965 Ford to be found, but it is flirting with it.  Our featured car certainly looks nifty in black with its red interior but this girl is plain.  Steel roof, basic seats – hell, it’s even got a three-on-the-tree.  There is nothing fatty about this Ford.  However, the cuts ground up for this example had some nice marbling as there is a 289 under the hood, not the new for 1965 240 cubic inch six.

No doubt some likely prefer the 240 six over the prior 223 as it seems to have more moo in its juice.

Many people prefer lean meat.  That’s fine as in 1965 Ford had a person covered from all angles.  If a shopper was hyper-concerned about cholesterol from red meat, there was the ground chicken Falcon.  It was very lean but a little spiciness could be added, yielding what was called Mustang.

There are roughly 1,000 breeds of cattle worldwide.  Ford didn’t provide such variety in their full-sized line as they offered only six series and seventeen models.  Regardless, there was still enough variety to provide a degree of taste and leanness for most any palette – whether you had your bovine butchered by someone or bought it at the store.

Found October 2020 at a dealership in Jefferson City, Missouri