1964½ Mustangs 289 High Performance Engine - Original Owners' Stories
In 1964, These People Bought New Mustangs. They Still Own Them Today.
At the Mustang 45th Celebration in Birmingham last April, a special group of owners and their Mustangs convened in front of the Barber Motorsports Park motorcycle museum. Forty-five years ago, these ten people purchased brand-new '641/2 Mustangs during the height of Mustang mania. Through divorces, children, accidents, job relocations, and overseas military service, they have held on to the car that reminds them of their youthful swagger. Today, they are a unique group who remember the thrill of taking delivery of a new Mustang and can still walk out into the garage to relive the experience.
Here are their stories.
Phil Florio has the perfect answer for people who ask why he keeps his old Mustang: "When I get in, turn the key, and drive away, I'm 25 again."
It was March 1964 when Phil read about the new Mustang's 289 High Performance engine in Hot Rod magazine. "I knew I had to have one," Phil says. "I went down to my local Ford dealer on Long Island and asked him to order one. He said he didn't have any information about a Hi-Po Mustang. I just told him to order the car from the description in Hot Rod. I also told the salesman to call me when the car arrived at the dealership so I could be there-or they could keep the car. So I was there when it arrived, shipped covered in a bag. I wanted to keep all the paperwork because I knew I was going to keep the car a long time."
Forty-five years later, Phil still has his Hi-Po Mustang hardtop. He has driven the car 65,000 miles and it still has its original sheetmetal, powertrain, and most other components. He says the front bucket seats have been recovered and the door panels replaced.
"A lot of people tell me the Hi-Po engine wasn't available in the '64½, but then I show them the paperwork," Phil explains.
Phil and his wife, Sharon, currently live in Summerfield, Florida, where they are charter members of the North Central Florida Mustang club.
When Edgar "Alex" Alexander purchased his '64½ convertible on the day after his 28th birthday, he never thought he'd still own it 45 years later. "It was special ordered when my first wife decided she had to have a Mustang convertible," Alex says. "I had a company car so I had no intentions of keeping it." But after a divorce, Alex took possession of the Mustang and still owns it today.
"The Mustang was terribly abused by my first wife while I was overseas in the military," Alex says. "She never changed the oil so the engine needed a rebuild at 70,000 miles. It wasn't garaged until 1974, but has been garaged ever since, sometimes for years at a time while not being driven." Alex says the car shows well today although a poor repaint from the 1990s is apparent.
Alex recalls two minor accidents that required body repairs, including passenger door replacement, and damage from tire chains while driving through a North Carolina snow storm. The seats had to be recovered after Alex "stupidly" left wheels and tires on the back seat during a long storage period.
Alex remembers the reaction to the new car during the first couple of months of ownership. "Whenever we parked it, there was always a group of people standing around and looking at it when we returned."
After years of moving around with the military, Alex and his wife of the past 30 years, Carolyn, now reside in Midway, Georgia.
Marc Snyder was only 15 when he took delivery of his Wimbledon White hardtop. "I was like most teenage boys in those days with only thoughts of my first car," he tells us. "My Dad loved cars and he could identify anything on wheels. In the spring of 1964, I could feel the clock ticking towards my 16th birthday, and the car question was yet to be settled. Bemis Motor Company in Byron, Illinois, received only one Mustang, a Poppy Red hardtop, during the third week in April. I was in the showroom that first day, but the Mustang had already been sold. I can't remember when negotiations began for my Mustang but it didn't take long to get an order in. On April 22, at a total cost of $2,710.75, I joined the stampede."
Two days before his 16th birthday, on June 18, 1964, Marc was the proudest kid in Byron when he took delivery of his new Mustang. "I watched it roll off the transporter and vanish into the shop for new car prep. I had to wait over the weekend for my driver's license test on Monday. The test administrator was totally absorbed in the new Mustang and barely thought about the novice driver behind the wheel."
The Mustang was perfect for a first-time driver-170ci six-cylinder, automatic transmission, tinted windshield, and AM radio. It even had a 6,000-rpm Rally-Pac. Marc eventually added dealer accessories like a rear-seat speaker, back-up lights ($20.18, including labor), and a universal outside mirror on the driver's door.
Marc, who now lives in Enterprise, Alabama, has plenty of memories with his '64½ Mustang. "For nearly 45 years, the Mustang and I have aged gracefully together through high school proms, college fraternity parties, marriage, raising a son, and military service. But the future holds new opportunities for adventures in a Mustang-just as it was in the beginning."
You don't have to spend much time with Laki Malamatenios to realize that the native East African has a unique sense of humor. After purchasing his 289 Hi-Po hardtop on July 9, 1964, he says people were constantly asking him about his new Ferrari. "I told them, 'It's not a horse, it's a pony!'"
Built on June 8, 1964, the first day of Hi-Po assembly at the Dearborn assembly plant, Laki's hardtop arrived at the dealership as part of the first shipment of K-code Mustangs to Los Angeles. He recalls what happened the day his first son was born. "I drove the car to work so I could drive fast on the freeway to go see my wife and son in the hospital. I rushed out of work to see that my Mustang had been stolen. But I had installed an electric fuel pump and had turned off the safety switch. The car ran out of gas about one mile from work and the police recovered it"
Laki says the Mustang, which he named "Poppy" for its Poppy Red color, helped him buy his first house: "I used it as collateral for a mortgage loan."
There are no doubts that Laki used the car. "It's been cross-country several times, gone camping with a roof rack, got stuck in the snow and mud, and has been hit in the fender a couple of times," he says. "Poppy has always been a very reliable, fun car. She is in great condition for having been used as a family car for so long. She's never been restored."
Now a resident of Grass Valley, California, Laki says the Mustang became more appealing as the memories piled up. "My car is a chronicle of my life with my family, some happy, some sad, but always interesting. The old girl is something special."
Fred Glazier has been around the Mustang hobby since opening his Pennsylvania restoration shop, Glaziers Mustang Barn, in 1976. But he's been around Mustangs even longer, having purchased a Rangoon Red '64½ hardtop on May 16, 1964. The then-20 year-old Fred traded a '54 Corvette, which took $757 off the cost of his new Mustang.
Eight months later, Fred married Sue and the couple headed off on their honeymoon in the Mustang. Later, the Mustang brought each of their two children home from the hospital.
In 1978 with 138,000 miles on the odometer, the Mustang was parked. At the time, Fred envisioned restoring the Mustang in the near future, a project that was delayed for 25 years. Think of it like the plumber with leaking pipes; Fred couldn't get started on his Mustang because he had so many others to work on in his shop. Prior to the Mustang's 40th Anniversary (not to mention his own 40th wedding anniversary) in 2004, Fred and his team at Glaziers Mustang Barn went to work. It took a year to restore the hardtop.
Fred and his restored '64½ Mustang hardtop were featured in the December 2004 issue of Mustang Monthly.
You can't say that Jack Blakely hasn't gotten his money's worth out of his yellow '64½ hardtop. To participate in the Original Owner Display in Birmingham, he drove it from St. Helens, Oregon, a trip that saw the odometer flip over to 420,000 miles. "The duties have varied over the years, from fun car to family car to work car. I still drive it a lot. It has never been in a show until now."
Powered by the 260 V-8, Jack says the car has always been reliable, durable, and flexible. Now retired, Jacks refers to the Mustang as a "time machine," saying it has created many family memories. "There are too many to list. As 'senior moments' increase, some would be lost forever if it wasn't for family."
After all these years, Jack still has his priorities straight: "The credit goes to my wife Marie for buying the car in the first place. The credit for keeping it running goes to me."
The Graduation Gift
After graduating from Poland Seminary High School in Poland, Ohio, in June 1964, Kathy Miller had a surprise waiting for her when she arrived home with her parents, Ken and Lois Mitchell. "In the driveway was a brand-new Prairie Bronze Mustang coupe," Kathy says. "My mother had bought me a watch, but my dad had bought me a Mustang!"
Kathy says her base-model hardtop with the 170ci six-cylinder and automatic was the first Mustang sold at Gough Ford in Struthers, Ohio. "It didn't have power steering or brakes, air conditioning, or even a radio so I used some of my graduation money for an AM radio."
The oldest of eight children, Kathy would be the first in the family to attend college, leaving later that summer with her Mustang for Ohio State University, where she received a degree in Commerce and Business Administration in 1968. That same year, she married John Miller. Kathy entered into a real estate career and used her Mustang to chauffeur clients.
Several years ago, oldest son Nate restored the '64½ with help from his father in time for the Mustang 40th Anniversary Celebration in Nashville. The experience led Nate to open his own restoration shop, Buckeye Automotive Restoration in Berlin Center, Ohio.
Last year, Kathy's Mustang was invited to participate in the Willistead Classic Concours d'Elegance in Windsor, Ontario, where she won Best of Class for the '58-'65 American Luxury closed class. The car also won a Gold at the Mustang Club of America's national event in Indianapolis this past June, qualifying it for the Conservator Class.
Kathy never dreamed that she would still own the Mustang 45 years later, but admits that she's a pack rat. "I hate to get rid of anything," she says. "I still have my graduation watch too."
Just like the Brochure
At Birmingham, Harrel McKinney forgot to set his alarm clock, so he missed our Saturday morning photo shoot. However, you couldn't miss Harrel's Wimbledon White '64½ hardtop that was featured in the middle of the Original Owner circular display.
Purchased in March 1964 when Harrel was 24 years old, the Mustang was his first new car. "I had a wife and 2½-year-old daughter and needed a new car because the one we had was about used up," Harrel recalls. "I had a good job in Montgomery, Alabama, so we went to Hartford where I knew one of the owners of the Ford dealership. I drove a Fairlane 500 and wasn't impressed. Then the owner said he had just gotten some brochures about a new car that Ford was introducing. When I saw the brochure, I salivated all over myself as I ordered a Wimbledon White hardtop with Palomino interior, just like one of the cars pictured in the brochure."
Harrel's Mustang, ordered with a 260 V-8, was built on May 14 for a May 21 delivery. The sticker price was $2,660 but because the dealer knew Harrel and his brothers, he discounted the invoice to $2,440.
Harrel still lives in Montgomery. "The Mustang drove out perfectly when I got it and I've loved it ever since. I had it restored in 1989 and now drive it on special occasions."
Always the Right Car
Marvin Walter was finishing his degree at Iowa State University and had been looking for a new car when he spotted an auto transport truck loaded with new '64½ Mustangs. "One look was all it took to decide what I was going to buy," Marvin says. With graduation looming and his wife expecting, he postponed his purchase. But in June as he drove to his mother-in-law's home after his son's birth, Marvin heard a Ford radio commercial. "They were advertising a promotion of '64 Fords at a local shopping center. The radio announcer advised that they had two Mustangs that had been shipped in by Ford to add attraction to this sales event."
Marvin headed straight to the shopping center. A white Mustang was still on the truck, but beside it sat a red hardtop with black interior, 289, four-speed, and no optional equipment. "It was exactly what I would have ordered," Marvin says. "I bought it on the spot."
The next day, Marvin picked up his wife and son at the hospital in the new Mustang. Two weeks later, he drove it to Seattle to start a new job and career. "The Mustang took me to work every day and also did all the shopping trips and family weekend outings. It served us well over the years, always seeming to be just the right car to meet our changing needs. Both our children learned to drive in it and drove it to high school."
Marvin says the Mustang was repainted in 1984 and the engine rebuilt at 140,000 miles. When he retired after 35 years of service, he drove the Mustang to his last day on the job. After moving to Lawrence, Kansas, Marvin restored the Mustang himself. "It was a relatively easy job because the car had never had any significant body repair work and very little rust. I did much of the body prep work but the paint was professionally done."
A Fun Ride
Original '64½ owner Mike Zwirlein made it to Birmingham but was unable to bring his car, a Caspian Blue hardtop that he bought on August 15, 1964, because he is currently putting the car back into driving condition.
"I visited my local Ford dealer on April 17, 1964, for the Mustang's introduction," Mike tells us. "There was no question that it would be my next car. I placed an order on April 21 for a Caspian Blue hardtop with a 260 because the 289 Hi-Po wasn't available until June 1. The scheduled delivery date was an overly optimistic six to eight weeks, so I planned a summer cross-country drive in late July. The delivery date, along with my vacation plans, was delayed twice."
While still waiting for his ordered Mustang, the dealer called to say that a shipment of new Mustangs had just arrived. "One was Caspian Blue. I got there just as it was coming off the truck. Three people were arguing over who was first in line if I didn't take it. It was just like the car I had ordered, plus it had the D-code 260 and a four-speed, which I hadn't ordered to save money. The dealer said he wouldn't charge for the 'extras,' so I took delivery the next evening for $3,158."
Mike drove the Mustang for 10 days before embarking on his trip from Connecticut to California. "That was a good thing because a rear axle seal had to be replaced."
The Mustang was Mike's daily driver until 1978 when he got a company car. Placed in storage with 124,000 miles, the Mustang was only recently pulled out for refurbishment.
Mike sums up his 45 years of ownership: "It sure has been a fun ride!"
Editor's Note: We'd like to thank Marc Snyder and Kathy Miller for their efforts in pulling together the Original Owner group for the 45th Mustang Anniversary Celebration, and for helping us compile photos and information for this article. As Kathy explains, "It was a wonderful opportunity to learn the history of each of these Mustang owners. It was a chronicle of our lives and how and why we kept our Mustangs. We would like to establish the ability to leave a legacy with our cars and pass it on to our children to maintain the Mustang's unique place in the American auto industry."