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1964-1/2 Ford Mustang Convertible - As Luck Would Have It
One man’s desire to avoid the ordinary created a rarity in the Mustang world
Many of us are born with the gene for the disease. It surfaces at different times. Sometimes it’s triggered when we are young, sometimes as teenagers, and occasionally, it waits until adulthood. It’s safe to say that Tom Dinkins is sick with the fever—Mustang fever that is. When asked why he chose the Mustang to replace his ’63 Falcon (equipped with the 260ci V-8) he replied, “It was the neatest thing I ever saw; I don’t know any other way to put it. As soon as I saw it, it had to be my car.” Tom says the Mustang was being talked about everywhere; it became an amazing phenomenon.
Tom is one of those lucky people who were able to experience the beginning of the Mustang phenomena. Fifty years ago Tom went to McMahon Ford in St. Louis and ordered his first Mustang. He had such a good relationship with the dealer that they even let him fill out the order form himself. Knowing he had to have a Hi-Po and a convertible, he also knew he did not want a white or black convertible top. Tom went with blue, the third available option at the time, which left Guardsman Blue as his choice for paint.
He submitted his order five weeks before the Mustang officially came out and took delivery of his Guardsman Blue ragtop in early August of 1964. Interesting to note, when you ordered a car in 1964 the only order status updates you received were by phone. Tom said that Ford and their dealers were so swamped with orders that informational updates were nearly impossible to get, certainly a real shift from the instant access of information available to us via the Internet today. Sticker price on the K-code ’64½ convertible was $3,615.30, Tom paid $3,253.77. Hi-Po ’64½ convertibles are notably quite rare, as the ability to build such a combination was only open for about two months.
He happened to be at the dealership the day the truck rolled in with a load of cars, including one Mustang gleaming with Guardsman Blue paint and a blue convertible top. Because of his connections, Tom and his friend from the dealership were able to jump in the car as soon as it was rolled off the transport, and take it on a drive. This was a daring move, considering the dealership hadn’t checked the Mustang in. “I guess I was lucky there was enough oil in it,” Tom says.
Since muscle cars and hot rods were invented, there have always been favorite hangouts for owners to show their cars off. In 1964 in St. Louis Tom went to every cruise-in at the local Steak ’n Shake and Chuck-A-Burger he could go to. He also began hitting all the local car shows he could make it to, picking up trophies almost everywhere he went. He has kept a scrapbook of photos that thoroughly documents his car’s entire journey and was part of the first Mustang club formed at McMahon Ford. He even still has two club jackets hanging in the closet.
Tom’s desire to further personalize his Mustang kicked in as well. Pursuits of better performance from his 271hp Hi-Po 289 led him through four carburetor configurations, including the stock setup, two Carters on a low-rise, a single four-barrel Holley on a high-rise, and finally two four-barrel Holleys on a high-rise intake. Exterior changes included new wheels, a cowl hood to accommodate the high-rise intake, and three different custom taillight conversions. The final taillight assembly was fabricated by Tom himself and comprised of taillight panels from three ’65 Thunderbirds.
Upon his return from military service in 1970 Tom decided to pursue a career and start a family, which meant parking his beloved Mustang in his mom’s garage. Knowing that he would one day want to restore the car, Tom began to set aside money for the project. The only question would be when would be the right time to undertake the project? He moved the car in 1997 to a storage facility in North St. Louis. The former Packard dealership had become a storage house for many cars, including Tom’s, because of its affordable rates and relative security. After 14 years of secure storage, bandits broke into the facility and made off with three cars, none of them Tom’s beloved Mustang. As luck would have it, Tom’s car was located on the second level of the warehouse and at the time of the break in, the freight elevator was broken, so the criminals had to settle with what they found on the first floor. The criminals were later caught and the stolen cars recovered. A decision to close the warehouse by the owners accelerated Tom’s timeline for restoration.
Tom reached out to Lonny and Jason Childress at Gateway Mustang in Bourbon, Missouri, for help with the restoration. The blue beauty had set in solitude for 42 years; so much work had to be done to return it to its former glory. Before the restoration began though the research had to be done. Knowing that Hi-Po convertibles were rare for ’64½ models, Lonny turned to multiple resources. In gathering data about the car, not only did the blue top continue to mystify those who were consulted, but the pinstripe option provided for lots of conversational opportunity as well. The Gateway Mustang staff performed a detailed and complete restoration, returning Tom’s convertible to the glory when the Mustang was not only the next big thing, but the start of an automotive legend.
The first time Tom saw the car after the restoration was complete, his eyes filled with tears; confirming that there is indeed a serious love affair with the Mustang for some people. He said the way the Guardsmen Blue paint gleamed with perfection told him he not only had chosen the right shop for the work, but also reminded him of that day when he first saw his car coming off of the transport trailer.
His car was on display in Charlotte at the Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration under Gateway Mustang’s awning. It was carefully examined by the many passersby, including a Ford executive and an MCA national judge. They both speculated that because of Tom’s selections when ordering his Mustang, his car could likely be a “one of one.” Whether it is or not, Tom Dinkins is proud to be a part of the Mustang legacy. According to Tom “there has never been another car that has had the widespread appeal of the Mustang over half a century,” and I think we would all tend to agree.
Early Hi-Po Figures
Ford produced just 7,273 K-codes in ’64½-’65, of which most were ’65s. The ’64½s were only produced for about two months. The High Performance Registry has only 126 of these ’64½ cars registered, of which only 36 are convertibles (only 20 percent of all Hi-Pos were convertibles).
Always trying to one-up fellow car show contestants, Tom started off with a common ’60s upgrade—doubling the taillights. He added a second set of taillight lenses and bezels to the taillight panel first, as seen here. The modification was simple, yet effective. Later he added the standard Shelby look with Thunderbird taillights. Not satisfied with a bolt-on approach and wanting something completely custom, Tom used several Thunderbird lenses cut and glued together with a custom-made trim/frame to retain it all in the taillight panel. As you can see by the last photo, the custom touches really brought home the hardware!