First Love – 1965 Mustang 2+2 Fastback
Article and photography by Richard Butschi
It was tabbed “Mustang I” as a 2-seater concept car in 1962. Other names had been proposed, such as “Cougar” and “Torino.” Henry Ford wanted to call it “T-Bird II.” A public poll was taken and the overwhelming choice was Mustang, as it had an American feel to it. Some say it was named after the WWII P-51 Mustang fighter plane, while others believe it came from one of the chief designers who owned quarterhorses. The name did help coin the term “pony car”- sporty cars with long hoods and short rear decks, like the Camaro, Firebird, AMC Javelin, Barracuda and early Challengers. Formula One racer, Dan Gurney, formally debuted the car with a demonstration lap at the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, NY, in October of ‘62. Its lap time was just slightly slower than the F1 times.
The Mustang concept car was based on the platform of the 2nd generation Ford Falcon, and production would use many parts from the Falcon and the Fairlane. This would lessen the training time for assembly line workers, and dealers wouldn’t have to stock as many new parts. This led to a very affordable base price of $2,368. In ‘63, the new “Mustang II” concept car was given a rear seat, but it was much smaller than most cars.
Early production started on April 17th of ‘64, and although these first units were officially VIN coded and titled as ‘65s, there were enough changes made in the fall production models that warranted a distinction for the first 121,538 units. Purists still refer to them as “1964 1/2s.” The sales forecast of 100,000 units for the first year was surpassed in only three months, selling 418,000 units – a record year! One milllion Mustangs were sold the first 18 months.
Although the first models were all “square-backs,” on August 17th of ‘64, the first “fastback” roll off the line. It was love at first sight for Dan Knight, still in high school at Cresco, in 1967. He bought a used ‘65 2+2 (2-door, dual exhaust) in Ivy Green, with a 289cu.in. engine (a factory upgrade from the original 260 V8). In ‘69, Knight was involved in an accident, totaling the Mustang, which sent it to a wrecking lot in Shell Rock, where it was later purchased by a guy from Decorah. (Time-forwarding to 2012), Knight spotted a Mustang identical to his ‘65 green beauty, rekindling his desire to own it again. He tracked down his high school ride to the “guy from Decorah,” where Dan discovered that he knew this guy. He also discovered that the reason this guy bought the wreck was that he was the original owner and wanted it back. It was sitting on a semi-trailer bed and even after a hefty offer from Knight, the owner refused to sell.
But the fire was lit and Knight on a mission to own a ‘65 at least similar to his high school car. In 2014, he found one in Rockaway, New Jersey via Mustang Trader, a website. He called, had photos sent, and soon flew there with his wife, Karen. The car and the price were both right, the deal was made and the car was resting in Knight’s garage in just a few days.
The Mustang had many former owners, but never left the state until then. One of the owners was a Cobra fan, and had made some changes, turning it into a Cobra clone. The 289 had been replaced with a 302 with aluminum heads and headers added. Hooked up to a Tremec 5-speed transmission, Knight estimates horsepower at 300. New sheet metal had been placed in the floor of the trunk. Knight later discovered some electrical issues which were handled by Lincoln Highway Auto Restoration, while Bob’s Auto Interiors, of Center Point, did beautiful work on the interior and trunk. There are also possible plans for new paint and other minor changes. As we all know – cars like this are never really done.