Jim Smart
June 1, 2005
Photos By: Courtesy Of Rick Mitchell

When Ford introduced the Mustang on April 17, 1964, it had no idea what a phenomenal sales success the new nameplate would be. Original projections were for 100,000 units the first year. More than 600,000 were sold. The Mustang story continues to wow historians and enthusiasts today.

With sales outstripping production capacity at the time, Ford had a serious but enviable problem: how to meet production demand without investing in greater manufacturing capacity. As you might imagine, everyone wanted a Mustang in the mid-'60s. Most buyers wanted the 289 V-8. The challenge for Ford dealers was showing potential buyers the V-8 Mustang, but selling the more plentiful six. For some salesmen, the task was easy. Many buyers were happy with the sporty persona of the Mustang combined with the economy of a Falcon. But many also wanted the 289.

As the '65 model year ended, Ford realized it had a manufacturing and sales dilemma. How could it maintain Mustang's high sales figures without losing buyers to other brands that could give them a V-8? Because Ford knew it would never be able to meet the demand for V-8 Mustangs, it had to find a way to make the six-cylinder Mustang more appealing.

So "Six and the Single Girl" was born, with Ford, determined to keep Mustang sales high, creating a springtime sales promotion designed to sell a lot of cars. It would be twofold: great pricing on six-cylinder Mustangs, along with a special-edition six-cylinder called the Sprint 200.

An integral part of the Millionth Mustang Celebration, the '66 Sprint 200 Mustang was a rather clever combination of luxury appointments and the economy of a six-cylinder engine. For just under $2,400, you could drive off your Ford dealer's lot with a peppy, striking six-cylinder Mustang with a lot of nice appointments.

The Sprint 200 was classy and elegant without being expensive. For just $39.63 over the base sticker price of $2,398.43, you got the Sprint 200 Option Group, which consisted of the Mustang's standard 200ci six, body side accent stripes, chrome air cleaner with Sprint 200 air-cleaner decal, wire-style wheel covers, and a center console. These were sporty options that cost a lot more if purchased separately. The Sprint "A" package included a three-speed manual transmission for $39.63. Sprint "B," for $163.40 more, got you the C4 Cruise-O-Matic transmission.

Sprint 200s were also equipped with the Safety Equipment Group that included a padded instrument panel and sunvisors, an outside rearview mirror, four-place seatbelts, backup lights, an emergency flasher, and a windshield washer. While the Safety Equipment Group sounds like a generous option package from Ford, most of it was standard equipment for 1966 anyway. Padded dashboards were federally mandated. So were seatbelts, backup lights, and the outside rearview mirror.

The Sprint 200 was available only with the hardtop and fastback until March 1966, when it was made available in a convertible model for $2,952.86 base, plus $39.63 for stick or $163.40 for the automatic. Although the Sprint 200 was available with the fastback model from the very beginning in January 1966, few of them were produced. No one knows for sure how many. Some Sprint 200s were ordered with deluxe options, like the Interior Dcor Group, AM/FM radio or AM/eight-track, and more, which surely makes them unusual today.

It's commonly believed the Sprint 200 Mustangs were Millionth Anniversary Celebration models, but that isn't true-they were but a part of it. A handful of Anniversary Gold units were produced during March 1966 with six-digit DSO codes and no color codes. It's believed one was produced for each sales district. Not much else is known about them, but we're doing our homework on this one.

Sprint 200s, also known as Springtime Sprints, were purchased right off Ford dealer lots as part of the Millionth Mustang Success Sale. Very few, if any, were special-order units with six-digit DSO codes. An interested buyer could order the Sprint 200 in the color they wanted, optioned any way they liked, that arrived with the standard two-digit DSO code.

Whatever Happened To Rick?During a recent trip to Baltimore, I decided to look up an old friend, Rick Mitchell. Back in the '80s, Rick conducted a census called the "1966 Sprint 200 Registry," later known as the "Early Six Mustang Registry." He purchased an Arcadian Blue '66 Sprint 200 hardtop in the early '80s and restored it to concours standards. It was a striking Sprint 200 that made most of us take a second look at six-cylinder Mustangs.

Rick met the goal he set many years ago. He educated us on the finite details of Sprint 200 Mustangs. He showed us the percentages-how many were hardtops (most of them), how many were fastbacks, and how many were convertibles. He kept the Sprint 200 spirit alive.

In the years since Rick did the Sprint 200 and Early Six Mustang registries, he's written some terrific military aviation books and raised a wonderful family with his wife, Dorothy. On a cloudy spring evening in May of this year, I sat down with Rick and talked about old times. If you'd like to catch up with him and chat about Sprint 200s and other classic six Mustangs, write to him at 730 White Oaks Ave., Baltimore, MD 21228, or call 410/788-2101.