I’m trying really hard right now to remember if and when I’ve ever ridden inside one of the original 1965 or ’66 Ford Mustangs. With all the car shows I’ve attended over the years and inability to hide my automotive enthusiasm, I realize that I have probably sat in one at some point or another. However, the only firsthand experience I can recall with riding inside an example of what are collectively referred to as the “first generation” Mustangs was a minutes-long jaunt in the back seat of a second cousin’s ’71 Sportsroof fastback when I was an adolescent, while my older brother rode in the front passenger’s seat.
I remember it being a very dark, cave-like experience filled with the noise of full-throttle acceleration and the sensation of being pinned to the rear seatback. That ride was a multi-sensory experience, and awesome. I suspect in retrospect that cousin Andy had hopped up that bad boy with some substantial modifications by the way it went like stink. After that ride was over, I also remember marveling to myself just how little interior space that ’71 Mustang fastback seemed to have, especially in the back seat, relative to what appeared to be robust exterior dimensions. It was hot and funky in there, and there were also probably a few empty bottles of motor oil emanating their aroma from the floor of the rear passenger compartment, though I do actually like that smell.
All of this is to say the interior of that roadgoing rocket didn’t seem to have an overabundance of space for a car of its apparent size. There probably wasn’t that much more room in our featured ’66 notchback, based as it also was on the original Ford Falcon, though its more upright greenhouse and usable rear window would probably add to the illusion of being more spacious inside. With businesses currently starting to open up in phases in some parts of the country following quarantine related to the COVID-19 virus, I have started to think about what it’s going to mean to start physically being in places with other people and what that will entail.
I’ve stated before that I don’t have a car, which is still the case. My inability to go anywhere outside of a four-block radius of my house and concurrent abstinence from alcohol for over three months has led to an embarrassingly substantial improvement in my finances. Cars are always on the brain, and with my recent purchase of a used copy of “The Complete Book Of Mustang” by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, my mind again turns to fantasies of owning my own classic. This has lead to thoughts of “what if?” If this beautiful, non-pristine ’66 notchback (which is perfect, as far as I’m concerned) were mine, and without a proven cure for the coronavirus currently available, how would I handle the rules around social distancing that are gradually being relaxed both in Illinois and in other states, on a personal level?
Would I be offering to pick up three friends for a ride in my classic Mustang… but only after spraying all of them down with a full can of Lysol before letting them get in? And then, would we all be wearing face masks while inside the car as we tried to carry on somewhat muffled conversations without the benefit of being able to read each others’ lips as we spoke? (Until now, I never realized just how important it is not only to hear what others are saying, but to see it, as well.) “I missed you, too, but I can hear you just fine from over here. You still need to stay as far over there are you can.”
And then, how would it work once we got to the hypothetical restaurant for re-breakfast and coffee? The morning I had seen this navy Mustang in motion had also included browsing at a vintage home goods store and subsequent noshing at the nearby Golden Angel Pancake House, pictured above and below, which has since been demolished and replaced with an outpost of Lou Malnati’s, a pizzeria. There obviously wouldn’t be enough room in one of those vinyl-seated booths even a small group to distance six feet from one another.
I also revel in being the lone wolf and going places by myself just for the experience of it. Sitting solo at the counter at the Golden Angel would have been a great place to strike up a conversation with another diner or restaurant staff and get to know another human being for a few minutes. It makes me sad to think I might not get to do that kind of thing safely anymore.
Our featured car is smaller than current Mustangs, though not quite as much as the ’74 Mustang II was in comparison to my cousin’s ’71 Sportsroof fastback. Consider these numbers, comparing our featured ’66 with its modern, 2020 fastback counterpart, citing numbers from a 1966 Ford press release and The Car Connection: 108″ vs. 107.1″ wheelbase, 181.1″ in overall length vs. 188.3, 68.2″ wide vs. 75.4″, and 51.1″ tall vs. 54.4″. Since I’ve also referenced interior space, lets also look at these figures which differ significantly from car to car in only a few areas: 37.4″ of effective headroom vs. 37.6″, 41.8″ in maximum front leg room vs. 44.5″, 54.7″ in front hip room vs. 54.9″, 53.8″ in front shoulder room vs. 56.3, and 9.0 cubic feet of cargo space vs. 13.5.
The real whopper is the difference in the base curb weight between the two cars. We’re talking about 2,610 pounds for the ’66 notchback and the 3,705 for a new fastback, an increase of 42%, though it’s also true that the 2020 version includes a host of standard equipment some of which hadn’t even been invented at the time of the first Mustang’s “a la carte” introduction. To be clear, though, neither Mustang has a truly spacious interior suitable for more than two adults, which has always been one of its defining characteristics. My beloved, former ’88 Mustang LX hatchback was no exception to this, though it was a much less objectionable experience to ride in one of the two rear seats as a young adult than I suspect it would be for me as a forty-something.
Much like is often my experience of listening to music, maybe my enjoyment of my hypothetical, classic Mustang would have to be a private thing, though it’s true that I have enjoyed playing the role of jukebox DJ often enough in the past (and to great success, judging by feedback I’ve received). I may not be hitting my favorite watering holes anywhere as often as I used to before the current pandemic started once restrictions are lifted, but a few things are certain.
I may never again look at eating and/or drinking in certain types of places in the same way, for the rest of my life. Also, the necessarily restricted access from such places, and the people with whom I would enjoy them, has made me appreciate the existence of such venues all the more, especially as so much has changed since only the beginning of this year. Through it all, one thing remains comfortingly the same: the eternal appeal of the original closely coupled, just-right Ford Mustang.
Ravenswood, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, July 27, 2013.
I agree with your description of “what are collectively referred to as the “first generation” Mustangs” – I’ve never understood how the ’71-73 ‘Stangs could be considered of the same generation as the ’65-66. Yes, I know they both ride atop the same Falcon platform, but since when was that a consideration? The boxy ’82 Thunderbird and aero-look ’83 model are universally considered to be different generations, although they both share the same Fox platform and have few mechanical differences. I’m convinced the “II” appellation on later Mustangs is the culprit; without it I’m convinced the “first generation” Mustang would be considered two, three, or even four generations. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ridden in an early Mustang either, though I did sit in one on display at a new-car dealer not that long ago, eager to find out if the rear seat was any roomier than subsequent cars, since it looked so and the roofline seemed to allow for it.
I too have abstained from alcohol during the pandemic and intend to stay that way. Abstaining from people has proven to be much harder.
Bummer about the Golden Angel Pancake House being closed and demolished; I don’t know how good the food was but I would totally go there just to look at the place. Awesomest decor ever; I’m especially enamored of the lighting; I want those ceiling lights over the booths. I suspect those pics are quite old though; when was the last time “we accept credit cards” was an inducement to choose a particular restaurant? Anyway, I love places that have those individual counter stools for when I have to eat alone for the same reason; shooting the breeze with the random stranger next to me is often more memorable than the meal.
I have been verbally “taken to the wood shed” by automotive purists (including one of this site) for not including the 1971-73 Mustang in the “first generation” group, for the same reasons quoted by you.
I think you’re right, about the “II” suffix being the reason many consider ’74 to be the start of the next generation, being much different than the ’73 than any of the previous four consecutive designs were from each other.
Those ceiling light fixtures were great. I had been a part of a small art collective for a few years that used to meet in a storefront across from the Golden Angel. We eventually disbanded when the store closed, but it wasn’t until then that I actual ate at the Golden Angel. I had found a great, new breakfast spot for weekends… and then they closed to make way for a Malnati’s. That was disappointing. I think I remember reading that the restaurant had originally opened in 1973, and from the way the interior seemed to be awesomely frozen in the ’70s, I would believe it. These pics are almost seven years old.
I had quit drinking a couple of weeks before I knew I would be quarantined during the pandemic, so I was used to hanging out with friends at parties or social settings without drinking. In isolation, it has been shockingly easy. I’m sure I’ll be ready for a beverage at some point once there’s a vaccine for COVID or something, but I’m happy as a clam teetotaling for now. 🙂
I can accept the ’65 through ’70 being one generation; the changes, though substantial, were evolutionary. But 1971? It’s an entirely new body that was considerably longer and three inches wider than the (already lengthened and widened) previous models that looks completely different than previous, with an entirely new interior to boot. In every other car I can think of, that constitutes a new generation.
Ravenswood, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, July 27, 2013.
Joseph always tags his posts with the time and place he captures a CC.
3,705 pounds? Wow, never would have suspected it was that much for what most would consider a smallish car. Even more surprising as manufacturers are obsessive these days over shaving a pound here and there to keep weight down. As Raymond Loewy once said, “weight is the enemy”. I know today’s cars have standard A/C and gobs more content, but 1,100 pounds more is a lot.
A new Mustang is also a bit bigger than an original. My mom and dad drive a 2018 Mustang, and when I park my ’65 next to it, it’s almost funny how much smaller mine looks. Couple that with air bags everywhere, miles more wiring, door beams, etc., and it’s no wonder they have to resort to more exotic materials to keep the weight down.
I’ll agree that even with that being considered, 3700 pounds for a Mustang seems to be pushing it.
I did have to double-check that figure, because as masterful at the 10-key that decades of practice has made me, the difference in base weight figures did seem like a lot. It’s possible that someone will weigh in further.
No Joe, you’re right. Even with the manufacturers doing everything they can to keep weight down, modern vehicles have so many air bags, door beams, safety features etc. to push them over two tons. Not complaining, mind you. I feel far safer in a new vehicle than one of this vintage.
Also needs to be said the core platform is simply larger than the older ones. The original was derived off the “narrow” falcon, the II was derived off the Pinto and the Fox(and SN95) the Fairmont, all legitimate compacts and subcompacts. The S197 was derived off of the DEW98 platform used by larger cars like the Lincoln LS and Jaguar S type, obviously its mechanical elements completely changed through development but the larger footprint remained, and the current S550 is an offshoot of it as well, but with a heavier IRS
And realistically, I’m not sure a safe car by modern standards can even be made at the weight levels of the originals without incorporating very expensive materials for construction. As light as the 65s were, they also had no trunk floor, no front torque boxes, a front suspension made from rebar, a rear suspension from an ox cart and absolutely zero insulation or sound dampening. They were beautiful tin cans. Lightness in sporty cars was a luxury for a bygone manly man era.
As others have stated, it’s true. When I park my 2012 next to the Falcon-based first generation Mustangs at club events, the size difference is obvious.
Prior to this one, I owned three Fox-bodied Mustangs over the years, and the weight difference is also very apparent, as well. The S197 feels more solid and substantial, and the difference is downright startling when you consider that my ‘12 is a convertible, while my Foxes were a coupé and two hatchbacks.
Over the years, the Mustang seems to have moved upmarket. When I bought my first new one in 1980 it felt like a glorified economy car, and somewhere along the way – I’m not sure if it was when it adopted the SN-95 or S197 platform – it became a “real car,” and felt less disposable.
Way late to the party here, but I’ll agree with the others here regarding size. I pulled my 2007 into a store parking lot next to a 1967, which at least as far as the interior goes, was the retro inspiration for my Mustang.
Yeah, my 2007 is quite a bit larger, almost PLC size in comparison. Since PLC(s) were eliminated by Ford, it was the reason I picked this car back in 2008 to replace my Grand Prix GTP*, which was a replacement for my last Thunderbird (both of these were 1997 cars).
I was so paranoid the first time I drove it in the rain, recalling how my post high school friend’s 1966 was terrible to drive in the rain (so yes, I’ve had the experience in one of these, as a passenger at least anyway). Yeah, my car is just fine. It must be that nearly 3500 pounds of road hugging weight compared to his 2600 pound car. ;o)
* Oh, and for weight comparison, using a scale, with a full gas tank, that Grand Prix GTP coupe weighed 3500 pounds even, so the PLC comparison with my 3461 pound Mustang is appropriate here.
The new GT500 is apparently closer to 4200 lbs! Wow, that’s heavy…
It’s funny how you read old reviews of MN12 Thunderbird’s and Cougars being overweight. Last time I had my 94 Cougar on a scale it weighed about 3680lbs subtracting my weight.
My fat cat and Clydesdale Mustangs roll their eyes to modern “pony”cars.
That is pretty close to the weight of my 2012 Boss 302. I would have preferred the MN12 chassis, independent rear axles, plus the double A-arm front suspension, I’m not a fan of strut suspension. The prototype S197’s were built on the MN12 platform.
As for the early Mustangs 65-66, 67-70 and 71-73 is how I see the groupings. 67-70 chassis was widened to fit the FE big block engines. 71-73 wider yet for 429 engine and pretty much a Torino chassis. Have rode in all three types. Crappy tires and shocks, suspension needs work, all fixable in the modern era. I have a ’68 XR7 428 Cobra Jet Cougar, handling improved by swapping on some 15″ wheels with G-60 Polyglas tires. It had H78-14’s on it when I bought it in 1972. I don’t recall if this was the stock spec tire or not but the wider lower tire sure helped. Steering linkage is a major cause of sloppy steering/handling on these cars. Loose ball joints rotten bushings on the lower control arm strut bar and the one piece mosted over looked is the idler arm.
That’s a nice looking one. I’ve only ridden in two and driven one for a short distance – the first was a dorm-mate’s of mine my first year in college, so ’87 – he had a 1966 Shelby in very presentable but not perfect condition, it was clearly a driver but oh boy did it go and sound good doing so, that’s the one I drive, I still clearly remember the huge wooden steering wheel and the extremely notchy shifter along with the power! Back then the Shelbys were a big deal, but not quite the BIG DEAL they would become a few years later…Lucky guy, but he bought it as a bit of a basket case in high school and got it going again so good on him.
The other was a 1964.5 blue on blue car notchback owned by a college fraternity brother whose mother had ordered it new. That was a 6-cylinder with a 3speed manual transmission. I rode in that for several road trips in ’90-’91, it was quite the difference in performance compared to the Shelby but a sweet little car nonetheless. He had gotten it handed to him when his mother decided to buy one of the first Miatas in the US after driving the Mustang for 25yrs. She apparently didn’t mess around when it came to getting the biggest things in automobile-dom…
Jim, it’s funny to put into perspective how your friend owned Shelby GT350 before their values took off. I wonder sometimes if and when the various Chrysler products of the ’80s with Carroll Shelby’s name on them will ever appreciate, though it’s true that they were based on donor cars that weren’t as exciting as the Mustang was when it was new. Even the Shelby Charger (which I do like among ’80s Dodges).
I’ve never ridden in a first gen Mustang either, which seems odd to me considering how the landscape was littered with them during my childhood. I had a brief (and very fast) ride in the passenger seat of a ’70 Mach 1 owned by a high school friend, and all I can remember is how low the seat was in comparison to the high dashboard, and how comparatively sloppy the handling felt as we bombed down a back road. Being a control freak I don’t remember that ride fondly.
I guess I hit the age group where riding in these was expected. My father swapped his company Chevy wagon one weekend in the summer of 1965 with a guy who had a new dark green Mustang fastback with a 4 speed.
He also got a 67 or 68 coupe as a weekend loaner when his 66 Country Squire was at the Ford dealer for some work. Then there was a cousin who had a 68 6 cyl/auto coupe that he had for high school and college.
Close is the many hours I spent in a good friend’s 68 Cougar – everything a Mustang was, only with sequential turn signals and more rust. And then my own 68 hardtop, a 6/3 speed. If I had hung around with more normal friends, I surely would have ridden in more Mustangs. 🙂
JP, if my math is right, it makes sense that the first-gen Mustangs (and Cougars) would have been plentiful as used cars around the time you described. As much as I love the slightly more substantial-looking ’67 and ’68 Mustangs, if I was my current age and in the market for a new car, the Cougar’s extra length, class and more “adult” feel and appointments probably would have called to me more strongly than a Mustang.
Learned to drive in my Brother -In-laws 66 Mustang convertible. Springtime yellow with Black interior and top, 289 and Auto. I was 15 in 66. Several friends have owned one or another of the 1st gens. I am of the age that as a young man a lot of Mustangs were available. Closest i owned back in the day was my 68 Cougar XR7. We did own a 72 Grande a decade or ago. And yes the rear seating is always a challenge. Still like the originals.
These cars actually feel roomy inside, with a nice greenhouse, except that you sit way down in them on low mounted seat cushions. Note how low the driver sits in the headline photo. The lack of seat back headrests or any dangling shoulder belts, and no “B” pillar when the side windows are down, all add to the effect. I say this as one who has owned one or another of the ’65-’66s for almost all of my driving days, and still own one.
Note, also, that the driver sits just aft of the exact center of the car. In a typical car, one sits forward of the center, and in a C3 Corvette, it is like driving in the back seat of anything else. Driving one of these, you always feel a bit like a boat pilot, as the front of the car is doing what you tell it to do, a bit before you arrive there.
If you are going in a straight line, it’s no sweat. These don’t like to turn unless you are very smooth and deliberate about it, again, like a boat. Brakes, even discs, suffer as the narrow tires and severe forward weight transfer on braking make a quick stop an exercise in getting it right.
At the end of the day, you are driving a 55 year old car with a lot of 60 to 70 year old technology (don’t even think about the solid non-collapsible steering shaft or the unreinforced fuel tank that makes up the trunk floor). It drives like cars of its era, which need much more nuanced inputs, and are less forgiving of miscalculation or ham-fistedness than today’s cars. That said, it is a classic of its time, and it can function as a daily driver, depending on the route and depending on the driver. After driving one of these for a while, a journey in a modern Accord or a Camry is a revelation.
Thank you so much for this. These are exactly the kind of real-world details that someone like me would appreciate about use and ownership of such a car as this.
About driving position, I remember test driving a ’79 Camaro Berlinetta that was 12 years old at the time. Compared with the ’84 Ford Tempo I was used to driving, sitting in the Camaro was literally like sitting in a sled with my feet forward in front of me. I imagine that a C3 has a similar feel.
Perfect appraisal of a first gen Mustang. I owned my 66 coupe 25 years ago. A pleasure to guide down a straight road with it’s 6 cylinder and Cruise-o-Matic, just don’t make any abrupt moves. The gas tank/trunk floor combo is a manufacturing cost savings but a death trap.
Before you (and Dutch 1960 and XR7Matt) had mentioned the gas tank/trunk floor thing, I hadn’t been aware of that. Most of us take for granted that modern cars are safer than older classics. I’m sure, though, that many others like me don’t think about some of the dangers of older cars.
I’ll also say this, though: I wouldn’t purchase a car from the ’60s with the expectation of it being even a semi-regular driver. The decrease in risk / exposure would correlate to less time on the road, even if the consequences of an accident might potentially be more serious.
Darn it. I’m underwriting again, but off of work hours. LOL These are all points well taken, friends.
I remember these well. My memory of their handling is not as bad as yours. Because my mind compares them to other cars of their era. Not to modern cars. The ones I experienced had the 289 with mild horsepower upgrades, upgraded swaybars added, drum brakes, no A/C, and no power steering. They might have been sans power brakes too i dont recall. They had lap belts only, that were always on the backseat floor and never used. If they came equipped with separate shoulder belts they were removed due to always being in the way. Exteriors were always red paint faded to dark orange. Windshield glass was alway hazy from sun exposure and with at least one groove from a wiper blade that wore through.
They were quick and nimble little cars for their day and fun to drive. Jumbo sized go-carts with no safety whatsoever. Its amazing we all survived the little death traps.
I can’t believe that 1964.5 thru 1973 are the same car underneath. I think of them as three generations. 1964.5 to 1968 are the same car, with a refresh in 1967. The 1969-1970 are a little chunkier. The 1971-1973 just got long and fat. No wonder they were not able to compete during the gas crisis of 1973. The first gen car probably would have faired better and maybe we could have avoided Pinto based heresy.
They weren’t the same. A 428 motor would fit in a 67 but nothing bigger than the 289/302 would fit in a 66. So there’s a huge difference.
I also have never ridden in a first-generation Mustang – my closest experience is have sat in several of them at car shows.
But I’ve written on this site a few times that my wife virtually grew up in one. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Her parents bought a ’67 Mustang (with a 289 and 4-spd.) when new, and shortly afterwards were surprised at having twins. Though far from the ideal family car, they kept the Mustang… and kept it, and kept, and kept it. My wife was driven home from the hospital in that Mustang, it was their primary family car all the time she was growing up, she drove it to high school graduation, drove it while commuting to college, drove it to law school, and then used it as a commuter car for her first jobs. She reluctantly gave it up when it was 27 years old, and had about 280,000 miles. By then it was too badly rusted to be saved.
Anyway, she insists that the Mustang was a perfectly good family car. Close quarters is sort of like looking at a modest 2-bedroom house and thinking it as small, but then realizing that a big family lived there for years. Times, and expectations, have changed, and so have folks’ space demands… after all, back then, kids didn’t require car seats, people didn’t pack huge amounts of luggage for trips, etc.
And as far as buying a classic Mustang, I have a feeling that if we were to happen by a good one for sale, my wife would have a hard time saying no.
Eric, you bring up some good points about the perception of available space being relative. My home has enough space for me, and I think it’s ample. But for two people? It’s possible it happened in the ’40s or ’50s, but not a good idea in 2020.
Even if I could afford a bigger place, I’m not sure I’d want one. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ditching my housecleaning service for good, now that the pandemic has reminded me that cleaning my own house is easy to do if I just focus on it and just get it done.
I remember when I rode in my first Mustang. It was the summer of 1965 and the family made a visit from Maryland to Pennsylvania to visit someone lost in the fog of time now. The man’s daughter had a brand new Mustang convertible, white with red interior, and the 289. I was 10 and she was 17 and took me for a drive in it. My first Gen 1 Mustang and first convertible. Been in a few others since then. What is rarer is how many convertibles I have actually ridden in which is only two. That Mustang and a 66 Impala.
I had a 64 1/2 Mustang with the rare bench front seat with a fold down center armrest. It was possible to have three riding up front and three in back but I never tried it. I sold the Mustang 16 years later to a collector with 147,000 miles on the odometer. It was a fun car to drive. I sold it because I had no where to store it.
Thomas, when you referenced your car being 16 years old when you sold it, it called to mind an old test comparison I remember reading about a then-new 1980 Mustang (it was from an old magazine at the library) compared with the original. I wish I could find it now, though it’s probably on-line somewhere. I can imagine your ’64 1/2 still being a very desirable car in 1980 when you sold it.
We’ve been through so much this last while, It’s a good time to reset what we really want. Ive always laughed off the possibility of having my own classic, somehow it always comes down to ‘you don’t really deserve it, or need it’. Maybe its time to re-calibrate. Joe, I think early Mustangs are the best, they are so relatable, everyone loves them.
For the obligatory CC Effect photo — I saw this ’68 Mustang driving around about an hour ago:
Thanks for this fresh take on the timeless classic, it brings up a lot of interesting questions. I’ve actually had similar experience to you, as I’m pretty sure the only “first” generation Mustang I’ve ridden in was a 72 or 73, which was in high school in the 80’s. 65-73 may technically be the same generation, but like many, I think of 65-66, 67-68, 69-70 and 71-73 as being distinct generations. This may be why people don’t commonly refer to Mustangs by numbered generations (like Corvette people do).
Personally, I think our recent experiences may make this virus situation loom larger in our thinking now than it will in hindsight. Whether it is an effective vaccine or just the natural course that viruses take, one way or another it will be in the rearview soon. How soon is soon? That’s the big question, but certainly in a few years it will be a distant memory. Heck, in my part of the world, many restaurants are already open at 50%, soon to be 75%, so one could take that hypothetical Mustang trip for a social meal and depending on one’s personal philosophy of virus risk, most places don’t require you to even wear a mask.
Like others, I’ve noticed that when you put an old Mustang (even a Fox) next to a late model one, it looks really diminutive (or the new one looks huge, depending on your perspective). I own a 2011 model and the interior, while comfortable, doesn’t seem expansive by any means. I have sat in old ones and as your measurements showed, width is the biggest difference. First gen Mustangs have very narrow cabs. The newer ones you sit higher up off the floor and many have power seats so it’s adjustable. Rear seats are tiny, even my 6 year old needs to have the front seat moved forward some to have enough leg room back there!
I agree with Pikesta, you sound like a man who’s ready for a classic car. The fact that you don’t need to depend on it for daily transportation is perfect. My only caveat is that one really needs to have sheltered parking to own a nice classic, it’s car abuse if you don’t! Question is, would you want a 65-66 or a Fox?
You know, I’m thinking Fox – but this time, I’d do it right, with a nice, charcoal gray LX 5.0 hatch with low miles. I know they’re out there at decent prices right now.
I have a relative who has two 1965s sitting in his rather large shop awaiting resto. I did have a ride in one of them, the convertible, about twenty years ago. To me, my recollection is that it felt wandering on the road, the steering seemed unsure, the ride was loose, but was not to be unexpected of that of a then thirty some year old car. I look forward to the day he gets one or both of them road worthy once again so that I can once again partake.
A neighbour about a block down has a ’65 in his garage, I have snapped but one photo of it, in obligatory red. The one you captured in blue is not a colour I have seen frequently on these.
I do notice your skill in pan photography, keeping the subject centered and in focus takes skill. Thanks for sharing these shots.
The front ball joints on these do suffer from wear and too much free play. Replacement tidies up the wandering. Radials instead of bias ply tires (do they still even sell bias ply?) will help things as well. A typical tire on these is a C-78 (old school tire nomenclature). Go to an E-70, wider and with a shorter sidewall, and that will help. Still, concepts such as tire slip angle and driver-induced terminal understeer, all coming from turning the steering wheel too quickly for conditions, become real things in a car as old as one of these. The trick is to learn the dynamic limits and work with the car as you drive it, and not force the driver inputs beyond what the car is capable of delivering. True with pretty much any old car that is in close to factory configuration, and certainly applies here.
I got my driver’s license in late 1965 so I grew up in the early Mustang era. I rode in and drove many of these cars. The first Mustang to arrive in our small Midwest town was a Tropical Turquoise coupe with black interior and the 200 six/automatic. I washed it for the owner a few times a month. Car washing was my side business in high school and it gave me the opportunity to drive a lot of new cars when 24-payment books were common.
I came from a Ford family that at one point owned three early Falcons, including a Ranchero, so I vaguely understood that the underpinnings were the same but the dramatic differences in styling largely concealed the fact. The Mustang was so stylish and the design and trim details so perfect. And the genius of Ford to initially include full wheel covers, carpeting, bucket seats, floor shift, etc. as standard equipment made even the lowest model look like a glamour puss compared to the Falcon or the now dowdy, badly restyled 65 Fairlane. Also the standard engine quickly changed from the 170 to the much torquier 200 and it felt considerably quicker (in the context of that time) and absolutely a bomb compared to the early Falcon 144.
The low, aft seating that Dutch 1960 so aptly describes made everyone driving a Mustang look and feel cool. And its compact size appealed to a driving cohort that was continuing to rebel against the Belchfire size of the average American automobile. It’s funny today to watch on YouTube the factory comparison videos denigrating first-gen Mustangs for being smaller than the new Challenger as the attitude changes in the 70’s and the Pony cars compete to gain in size (of course in part to stuff in bigger engines).
These cars felt reasonably well built for the time (true also of the three early Falcons we owned; our 1964 Fairlane Sports Coupe exhibited sloppier build quality), especially for the price. Of course they were all tinny compared to cars of today. My cousin got a new 1967 coupe in Frost Turquoise. She didn’t really like to drive so when we went around together I got behind the wheel. It felt even tighter, quieter, and better built than the 1965-66 models I had driven – I liked it even with the six and automatic.
My favorite of all the early Mustangs was a 1966 GT coupe in Vintage Burgundy with a black vinyl top owned by a good friend. Everything about that car felt just right in terms of the added trim details, and the four-barrel 289, disk brakes, and full gauges made it a more enjoyable car to drive than the lower-end, early models.
Good times, fun cars. But I agree with Joseph that I’d not want to spend much time in one today – much prefer the safety standards of modern cars.
I (and others, I’m sure) enjoyed reading this. Thank you for taking the time to recount your experiences with early Mustangs. (And I had to look up “Belchfire”… my vocabulary continues to expand with each day spent here on Curbside.)
Joseph, we need George Lichty around today. His hilarious cartoons often were more political than some realized at the time but he made fun of all sides. I finally found an image of a Belchfire showroom to post for those unfamiliar with the brand.
I realized after my initial post that my first gen Mustang memories are so different from many who post here. I drove most of them when they were brand new or nearly new and have virtually no experience with driving or riding in one that was more than a few years old. There certainly were a lot of them still running around LA when I moved here in 72 to go to grad school – you could hear their upper control arms squawking from a distance…
Word of the day: “re-breakfast”.
Maybe I don’t actually need it in lockdown, but I love the concept. 🙂
Breakfast is just one of those things that is often even better the second time in the same day. I’m just saying.
I’ve driven one Mustang II, and several Fox Mustangs (plus one Fox Capri) and one SN95. But I’ve had quite a few stints both behind the wheel of ‘65-66 Mustangs, as well as riding shotgun and drawing the short straw for the back seats. Of them all, the 5.0 Foxes and the ‘65 289 3 speed convertible were memorable. The six cylinder 3 speed ‘66 was one very small step up from the six cylinder 3 speed Maverick owned by the same friend’s family. I think without a V8 or a soft top, an early Mustang isn’t too special to drive. But they sure look nice.
I’m glad you brought up the Mustang II. Yesterday evening when I was reading through some of the comments, something did occur to me. For as big a reduction in size that the ’74 Mustang II represented over the ’73, I though a “mere” 300 pounds in weight savings seemed smaller than I would have expected.
I’m sure that compared with an original ’65 Mustang, the ’74 also had a lot of safety equipment and sound deadening, etc. (and that rubber-mounted sub-frame) which contributed to its weight.
Stated more simply, I used to think that because the II was so much smaller than the original, it would have weighed a whole lot less.
I got my drivers license 3 months before the Mustang was introduced. I remember going to our Ford dealer to see the first one, a white coupe with red interior. The next year I had my first ride in one, a white convertible. It was driven by a girl I knew and her friend who liked my brother. They invited me to ride around with them and I found out the hard way how little padding is in the back seat over the driveshaft hump! The first one I drove was a ’66 convertible with the 271 horse 289 and a four speed. That was a fun drive as the owner, a friend of my brother let me have it alone!
I have lots of other experiences with early Mustangs as well as later ones. I owned a Frost Turquoise ’67 coupe for 23 years and it served as family car, second car, and finally as a toy. I finally sold it to finance a street rod project. Now I have the red ’66 coupe in my avitar. It is a well equipped car with a lot of options. I have owned it for 12 years and don’t intend to ever part with it. I ocassionally take it to car shows but mostly just enjoy driving it. My daily driver is a 2009 Mustang. The driving experiences are markedly different as you can imagine. I can do things with the newer one that I wouldn’t even attempt with the older one. I like “spirited driving”. However, when I haul more than one of my grandsons I drive the ’66 because it is easier to get in and out of the back seat. I park them in different garages but once in a while I swap parking spaces. It is amazing how much smaller and trimmer the ’66 looks when parked in the ’09’s usual space.
Another difference between the two is how you feel when sitting inside. The ’09 has kind of a closed, intiment feeling , where the ’66 has an open, airy feeling. My son in law had never ridden in an early Mustang when I took him for his first ride. His first comment was ” You can actually see out of this one”.
As to the virus, this , too shall pass.
Rick, even though my last four cars have been black or some version of silver, I loved Ford’s use of Turquoise back in the day. Besides the two Mustangs I mentioned above, another friend much later on had a 65 Thunderbird in Light Turquoise. I think my favorite of the three was the 67 Mustang in Frost Turquoise – that color mix was just perfect.
Glad you enjoyed your 67 for so long. Unfortunately my cousin’s new 67 only had a lifespan of about five months until it was totaled beyond recognition by her brother and replaced with a 68 Javelin in red with a black vinyl top. It was actually a very fine car with the AMC 289 and lots of options, unlike her Mustang six. Great memories of both cars.
I bought mine in 1971 and it had just 13000 lady driven miles. It was like a new car and something I could afford. I traded my ’64 Galaxie fastback for it. That Galaxie was the worse piece of crap that I have owned but it sure was pretty. I liked the turquoise, too on that car. It had the deluxe interior in black. Right away I added chrome reverse wheels and did away with the whitewalls. My late first wife was very short, so this was a good choice for her to drive. Later on I installed styled steel wheels. Where I went wrong was when I decided to put a performance cam and overhaul the engine. It never was as good a car after that. I took it to a lot of car shows and was usually good for 2nd or third place against trailer queen Mustangs. I shocked some other owners when I would tell them about hauling fire wood in the trunk or running it in a road ralley over dirt roads. I rather enjoyed the looks on their faces. After all, it was a daily driver most of the time.
Later I remarried and we got into street rods. The only accident it was ever in was when our oldest daughter hit it with my then new ’86 Mustang in our driveway right after she got her license.
I finally sold it to complete the street rod project.
Now the street rod is long gone and we have Red the ’66 Mustang. Funny thing is, I do all the same things with it that I did with the ’67 except the rallys and a couple of runs at the drag strip. I guess Mustangs are in my blood.
By the way, every new vehicle I have bought since 1979 has been black.