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1964 1/2 Ford Mustang Convertible - Rolling Reference
Gordon and Helen Vokey's 1964-1/2 convertible still documents its assembly-line genetic code.
What was to become the world's favorite and most collected ponycar debuted to an immedi-ately adoring public on Friday, April 17, 1964. Only three days later, the assorted and somewhat eclectic bits and pieces of what would become this handsome convertible were coming together on the Dearborn production line, the only plant at that point producing Mustangs. Proceeding along the line, the Raven Black ragtop also gathered a plethora of scrawled letters, numerals, markings and paint daubs, each of which had specific meaning-like mechanical DNA-in the complicated process of assembly.
That was on Monday, April 20, 1964. It's been said you should avoid Friday- and Monday-built cars because on those days the good folks of the UAW are perhaps more focused on looking forward to, or recovering from, the pursuits of their weekends, rather than the mundane but generously compen-sated chore of bolting cars together. But, 27 years later in 1991, the possibility of less-than-perfect original-assembly quality wasn't enough to scare off Gordon and Helen Vokey, who had been seeking just such an early convertible. Their ultimate plan was to take it all apart and reassemble it themselves anyway.
The Vokeys, who reside near Toronto, Ontario, first heard of the convertible for sale from their friend Buster Spriggs, owner of Mustangs of Atlanta. After receiving photos of the car, the couple headed to Georgia and were thrilled to find not just any first-year Mustang, but one still owned and driven by its original purchaser, and in rust-free, unrestored condition. Hopelessly smitten, the Vokeys soon towed the new toy home to the safe, but cramped, confines of their two-car garage, where it would share space with their partly restored six-cylinder '65 fastback. Not only would they bring back the car, but also reams of invaluable supporting documentation, including the original title card, bill of sale, owner's manual, warranty card, and even the original bank book detailing monthly payments of just ninety dollars for this spanking-new V-8 Mustang convertible.
They also brought back the original dealer window sticker of Collins Motors in McDonough, Georgia, showing a total list price, including transportation charges, of $3,120.80. But the sticker also confirmed the unexpected rolling stock that was on the car. Here was a well-equipped convertible optioned with the '64 1/2-only 260 V-8, Cruise-O-Matic transmission, and other sporty options to go along with its striking black-over-red color combination, yet it still wore the puny 13x4.5-inch wheels we sometimes forget were the standard fare for both six and eight-cylinder '64 1/2 models (14x5-inch would become standard on V-8s for 1965). These tiny rims wore 6.50x13 tires and had a five-lug bolt pattern, whereas six-cylinder cars got by on four-lug wheels.
Not much happened for the next five years, as Gordon and Helen focused on completing the detailed restoration of their fastback (which we featured in our Aug. '96 issue, pg. 60.) But, commencing in the spring of 1997, it was the convertible's turn. Because it was so original, Gordon was extra careful during disassembly not to disturb any factory markings, leading him to the unusual approach of stripping the 1/8-inch-thick Georgia red clay off the car's underbelly with GoJo hand cleaner, with excellent results. The same approach was used to degrease the engine compartment.
It's difficult for us to adequately stress how meticulous the Vokeys were as they took the classic apart, piece by piece. Their efforts to document and replicate all assembly markings border on the fanatical. Gordon took no less than 146 rubbings of the various factory stampings he found on disassembly, and documented these with accompanying explanations and notes. He also has an inch-thick stack of handwritten notes and sketches on 8 1/2x11 paper, and took more than 700 photographs during teardown to ensure accurate reassembly. As if that weren't enough, six onion-skin tracings were made of the factory scribblings found secreted away in places such as the front right radiator support. Each and every grease-penciled or painted marking was exactly replicated upon reassembly. This car was a rolling reference when they got it, and the Vokeys were bound and determined to keep it that way.
While the 260 was undergoing rebuild by Toronto's Affordable Performance, the C4 automatic went to K-D Transmissions in Belleville, Ontario, and the disassembled body was trucked to Greer Restorations, of Cobourg, Ontario, for refinishing. In the meantime, the Vokeys were spending those devalued Canadian dollars on as many N.O.S. parts as they could find in preparation for final reassembly, which, like the teardown, was all done by the couple in their little garage-well, OK, except for reupholstery, which they did in their dining room. In all, approximately 4,000 hours were invested in the project.
Those familiar with early convertibles will have noticed the lack of the long cowling-to-fender-apron braces (not to be confused with the normal export braces) that were standard on later ragtops (built after 11/11/64) in an effort to eliminate cowl shake. Because Ford Technical Service Bulletin No. 5, Article 86, made these braces available for retrofitting to earlier cars, Gordon has managed to locate some originals and will soon install them, since he has noted the shake on the car's good-weather cruises.
The Vokeys did make a couple of other minor diversions from the window sticker as their hard work neared completion. They located an N.O.S. set of the optional and rare 13-inch Rotunda simulated wire wheel covers for use in place of the original knock-off spinner-type covers, and added an N.O.S. luggage rack. Gordon is also a fan of the hard-to-find Foxcraft fender skirts that were often dealer installed back in the day. Hey, this may be a rolling reference, but it's their rolling reference.