Jim Smart
March 18, 2015

The New York City metropolitan area is the most densely populated area in the United States. Whether you fly in or drive up, the Big Apple is an overwhelming experience not to be outdone. The best view of the Manhattan skyline from a jetliner is a seat on the lefthand side approaching Runway 4 into LaGuardia Airport. The most spectacular view of New York is crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island, which puts you in Brooklyn. Of course not everyone is going to agree so we’ll label that personal opinion.

Drive two hours out on Long Island and it is impossible to believe Suffolk County could be so close to New York. Rich Carlson calls Suffolk County along the North Shore of Long Island home in a striking place known as Port Jefferson. Winters are tough and the air becomes damp and cold when leaves hit the sidewalks. However, warm months along the North Shore make up for bitter cold winters, especially when you consider Rich’s intense passion for this Sunlight Yellow ’64½ Mustang convertible.

Ease out of the garage, lower the top, warm the oil, and hit the road in just about any direction for a dreamy ride around Long Island’s richness. Rich tells Mustang Monthly his “first of the first” generation convertible has been an experience unequalled. It has been a golden opportunity to relive his youth as a pump primer, then, an incredible succession of events for the 13 years he has owned this car.

Rich has been intimately involved in the Mustang & Shelby Club of Long Island for as long as he can remember. The friendships made and accomplishments secured along the way have been nothing short of amazing. The Long Island club’s roots date back to the Long Island Mustang Owners Club, which was founded in 1982 and featured in Mustang Monthly as “Mustangs of the Big Apple” some 30 years ago.

Rich’s Mustang experience didn’t begin with a Mustang, surprisingly. He wanted a mid-century American-made convertible—one of those nostalgic rides he fondly remembered from decades ago. “The search for a classic car took about a year,” Rich reflects. “My search was initially confined to a ’60s convertible without being brand or model specific.” He went on to say, “I kept the search as close to home as possible because I wanted to drive and inspect the vehicle.” By 2001, having exhausted all options in the local classifieds, he decided to check eBay. One of the first picks to pop up was this convertible. It was through raw tenacity he managed to score this ragtop and haul it home from Southern New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia.

Talk about pay dirt. Rich had snapped up some of that original classic Mustang magic with a convertible like few others. The Ford warranty plate yielded a DSO 89 “Transportation Services” sales district code, meaning the car was ordered for Ford’s use before finding its way into private hands. Because the warranty plate sports an “09D” (April 9, 1964) scheduled build date code, this is a solid indication it was an integral part of the Mustang’s introduction. Ford undoubtedly used the car for promotional purposes. Yet without factory documentation, it will likely never be known why Ford ordered this convertible nor where it was sold when Ford put it up for sale.

When Ford ordered this convertible, it spared no imagination considering what was available on the option sheet early on. That’s a D-code 210-horse 289-2V low-compression regular fuel V-8 with Autolite 4100 carburetion and single exhaust. Down river is Ford’s C4 Dual-Range Cruise-O-Matic transmission, which debuted in the ’64 model year. A nice compromise between acceleration and good driveability is Ford’s 8-inch rear with 3.00:1 peg leg cogs. On the ground are four-wheel power drum brakes with white sidewall radial tires to make the drive safe. We like the ’64½ 14-inch wire-style wheel covers that gave Mustang a touch of elegance. During the ’65 model year, backup lights were optional and not ordered on this car. Because this is a very early production model bucked at the Dearborn Assembly Plant in April of 1964, it has color-keyed door lock buttons. An optional Rally-Pac keeps track of time and engine revs.

“There’s a large gap between the original Ford sale and my purchase of the car in New Jersey,” Rich comments. “What I do know is Darrel Silver of Eudora, Kansas, restored the car in 1987,” Rich adds, “Then, the car then wound up in San Diego, California, before it was later transported to Philadelphia and ultimately sold to me by its last known owner.” Rich believes he is probably the fourth owner but is unable to confirm. He learned of Darrel Silver through some detective work and communication with the Vintage Mustang Club of Kansas City. The Kansas City club knew Silver but had no idea where he was.

Once Rich had the Mustang parked in his garage, he poured a tremendous amount of time, talent, and energy into the car. It was important for Rich to remain faithful to the Mustang’s authenticity, opting for components designed to improve its appearance and safety. “I have enjoyed this car for more than 13 years and entered it in many shows. It has been a crowd pleaser,” Rich tells us. “The most prestigious award it has ever taken was a Mustang Club of America Gold at the club’s National Show in 2011.”

In April of 2014, Rich elected to ship the car to Charlotte for the MCA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Speedway for the greatest Mustang birthday party of our lifetime. Rich was astonished at all the attention his convertible received at Charlotte. Most unsettling for Rich was exposing the Mustang to conditions he never had before. When it was time to take a crack at the Guinness World Record and the greatest car cruise ever undertaken, North Carolina’s skies decided to open up aggressively drenching everyone with heavy rain and challenging driving conditions.

Because very few vintage Mustangs were equipped with air conditioning, the high humidity and foggy windows during the cruise were stifling for many in North Carolina, including Rich who had to endure the rain. Rich had to make several stops and stock up on paper towels to keep his windows clear during the cruise. Charlotte would wind up the most memorable Mustang event Rich would ever attend with his convertible. What’s more, it would become his last.

Rich turned down one offer to buy his convertible at Charlotte. He just couldn’t live with selling the car he had labored so feverishly over and protected for more than a decade. When he returned to Long Island and the dust settled on a once-in-a-lifetime event, Rich began thinking about both his age and the Mustang’s. At 73, he came to the conclusion there was a huge difference between a ’64½ Mustang and a ’14. Like a lot of us with graying temples and wrinkled backsides, Rich knew it was time to part with his American classic and settle into something more comfortable. That’s when he popped for a ’14 Mustang with the Pony package and let his ’64½ go. It wasn’t that Rich had lost his Mustang heart; it was that life evolved as it has for so many people. However, for Rich, his ’64½ convertible will always be an affair to remember.

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