Jim Smart
August 1, 2003
Photos By: Bill Erdman

Six-cylinder Mustang hardtops were never destined to be survivors, much less striking show cars. When excited buyers snapped them up nearly 40 years ago, these guys were pressed into service in a utilitarian way. They hauled the kids and the groceries, and they did pavement duty for the daily commute downtown. As they aged, they got passed down to second-car status before being traded in, sold in the classified ads, or given to the kid for that journey to college.

Anyway you look at a six-cylinder Mustang, its history has been more about function than form. We've used the daylights out of them, with not much thought given to future restoration. In dry desert environments, six-cylinder Mustangs remain daily transportation for a lot of people, with their headliners and worn upholstery flapping in the breeze. Beneath their hoods are all kinds of 200ci sixes borrowed from Mavericks, Comets, Econoline vans, Fairmonts, and-yes-even other Mustangs. Few of them have the original inline sixes, which were quickly replaced to get them back on the road. Any 200 six would do.

William Norton of Reading, Pennsylvania, found one such Mustang hardtop in his travels. It had been a daily beater in a northern environment more harsh than the desert Southwest. The floors were gone, the original 200 six remained, but it was expired, and the outside had a faded red finish with a smattering of rust.

"You've got to be kidding!" William said at the time. Despite his gut instincts and protests from his wife, he decided to buy the car anyway. Three years and eight months later, the Mustang was ready to haul to the shows on a 20-foot Haulmark trailer.

William took on a challenge most would run from. A tremendous amount of sheetmetal work was necessary, requiring that the car be completely gutted. If you've ever worked with a northeastern rust bucket, you understand what William experienced-rust and grinder particles in the hair, eyes, and clothes, along with sheer exhaustion from holding a welder in position for hours on end and carefully massaging the body and working the steel to achieve a perfect finish. William will tell you his Mustang's paint job was 99.9 percent preparation. Laying down the Silver Blue finish was the easy part.

Across these pages is a typical '65 Mustang hardtop with a 200ci six. It has a C4 Cruise-O-Matic; economical 2.83:1 cogs; four-wheel manual drum brakes with 14-inch, four-lug wheels; and wire wheel covers. Inside, the hardtop has white vinyl upholstery with blue appointments.

Thousands of Mustangs like this were produced in Silver Blue with white sidewall tires, full wheel covers, standard interior, and automatic transmissions. What makes this one extraordinary is its concours restored status. When it comes out of the Haulmark trailer, people stop to watch in awe and remember that 200-mile journey upstate to college several generations ago in a buzzy little six-cylinder Mustang.