1965 Ford Mustang Hardtop - Here, There...Back Again
Vintage Mustang Iron Pulls Hard On This Enthusiast's Heartstrings
Like most dyed-in-the-wool Mustang fans, Jim Reynolds of Knoxville, Tennessee, has favored Ford's little ponycar from the get-go. In Jim's case, he was an impressionable teenager (just barely) when the long-hood/short-deck wonder rolled onto the American road in 1964. In time, Jim worked his way up to owning a Gold-winning '68 convertible, which has been featured in this magazine, as well as the MCA's Mustang Times.
In 1990, Jim shifted gears and dove into the restoration of a '65 hardtop. The project proceeded at a respectable pace, but as with many vintage Mustang fans, the lure of the just-released fourth-generation Ponies proved strong. Jim soon joined the ranks of his fellow early-car buffs who discovered that owning a new Mustang for daily-driving fun was a trip in itself. The hardtop was sold to finance the purchase of a '94 GT.
For three years, Jim enjoyed tooling around in his spicy late-model. However, a slight twist of fate returned him to the vintage fold when a friend asked him to help sell his Mustang.
"I agreed," Jim said, "and asked him to tell me about it. I wrote down all the things he told me about the car. The more I thought about it, the more I didn't want to help him sell his car."
The car in question was a '66 GT fastback. Sporting a Nightmist Blue topcoat, the GT featured the A-code 289 4V engine, four-speed manual tranny backed by a 3.00:1 limited-slip rearend, and of course, all the GT goodies.
"I wanted it for myself," Jim readily admitted. "I talked to my wife about it and made an appointment to go by his house and see it the following Saturday. We went to see it and liked what we saw. After a short negotiating session, we purchased the car."
According to Jim, the GT was all-original and in fair condition. What's more, only 84,000 miles were posted on the odometer, as the car had been in storage for the last 20 years. Even so, the decision was made to restore the fastback to Concours-Driven status.
The first step was to pull the engine and tranny-a job aided by the help of Jim's stepson, Mike Campbell, and neighbor, Eric Jones. The car then moved to Strip Technologies in Knoxville, where the undercarriage and engine compartment were media-blasted and primed. After this, Jim transferred the fastback to Roane Classic Mustang, where friend Bill Vermillion removed the glass and chrome and gutted the light-and-dark-blue vinyl interior. From there, the Mustang was rolled next door to Mike's Body Shop, where Mike Brown stripped the old paint and applied a new coat of Nightmist Blue, while Bill installed new seat covers. Jim, meanwhile, went to work polishing and buffing all the chrome and stainless steel. Following the paint and bodywork, Bill rolled the car back into his shop to rework the interior and install new glass. The small-block and transmission were simultaneously being rebuilt (with an 0.030 bore) by Earl Cagle of Claxton Auto Machine Shop.
Finally, all the professional work had been completed, and Jim brought the GT home to his backyard garage to reinstall the drivetrain, suspension, brakes, fuel tank, and new brake and fuel lines with the continued help of Mike Campbell, Eric Jones, and friend Paul Engle.
"About this time," Jim explained, "I got a call from James Antrican of Hilltop Muffler in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who told me that the TNN television show Shadetree Mechanic wanted to use my car on its show to install a factory-style bolt-on exhaust system. It did, and my car was featured on one of the Shadetree Mechanic shows. It was very interesting to spend the day at the TV studio watching the filming of the show."
A mere eight months after the project began, Jim's GT was back on the road and in excellent form.
Jim immediately hit the MCA show circuit, where the fastback began to haul in First Place and Gold awards in the Concours-Driven class, as well as taking First Place in an AACA national show. In keeping with their Concours-Driven status, Jim now drives both his '66 and '68 Mustangs to all shows and whenever weather permits.
The late-model ponies are, perhaps, a marvelous blend of modern-day technology and the original spirit of the Mustang, but for some folks, the first models will always be the pinnacle of the breed. Jim appreciates both ver-sions, but his heart will forever hold true to the veterans.