Rod Short
October 1, 2000

While Pontiac's GTO option for the '64 Tempest LeMans is generally acknowledged as being the first musclecar, it didn't win that title by much. Just two months after the Mustang's introduction, Ford introduced the K-code option in June 1964. Although the Mustang didn't offer as much horsepower as the 389/325-powered Pontiac, it did offer more power per cubic inch with a platform that was much lighter and more nimble than the GM intermediate. No doubt, that's what Marine Corps pilot Nick Kirby saw back in 1964 when he was ready to buy a new performance car.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be, as the young pilot saw his dreams of getting a brand-new K-code crash and burn. "I had one ordered in 1964 with a gray exterior, but the dealer sold it out from underneath me," Nick said with a twinge of bitterness still in his voice. "I ordered it, it came in, I testdrove it, then came back to get it the next day, but the dealer had sold it to someone else. Because of that, I kind of got soured on Mustangs for a while."

Still, it wasn't enough to make him forget what he almost had. As he and his wife, Luana, moved around the country while raising their family, the couple remembered their attraction to the car and made the decision to try to get a replacement for the one that got away.

"When our daughter bought her first car, it was a '67 Mustang hardtop," Nick said when asked what reignited his passion for Mustangs. "After working on it, I decided I wanted some more. The rest is history. I was still in the Marine Corps flying an A4 Skyhawk, and Luana spent that time going through the classified ads until she found something she liked. Then she drove all over the Los Angeles basin for two or three months looking at cars. I think she wanted the car more than I did!"

The couple finally hit pay dirt when they found this '65 K-code at a specialty dealer's lot. After being originally titled in Idaho Falls, Idaho, the car had been sold and moved toward the San Francisco area before finally winding up in Los Angeles. Overall, there had been only three registered owners. With the car already in good condition, the couple enjoyed driving it a lot.

With 271 hp resulting in a 0.93 horsepower-to-cubic inch ratio, Mustangs with the Hi-Po were definitely fun cars to drive. Ford got the most out of these engines by building them with a beefed-up bottom end, a four-barrel Autolite carb, a long-duration cam, high-rate valvesprings, and a higher-than-normal compression ratio. Gear ratios ranging from 3.50:1 to 4.11:1 had these Mustangs moving with a four-speed Top Loader providing plenty of excitement. With its high-revving engine, upgraded driveline, disc brakes, and 6.95x14 redline tires, the K-code Mustang was a terrific car for an extra few hundred dollars.

After Nick ended his military career, he and Luana relocated to the St. Louis area and decided to completely restore the car. "It took us four years to get it all done," Nick said. "It wasn't a steady thing, but we decided that we wanted to show it yet still drive it, so we made up our minds to do a street-driven concours restoration. It was a lot of work, but I think it was worth it."

With results like these, we have to agree!