Jim Smart
July 25, 2006
Photos By: Chris Richardson

The ordinary classified ad in the Detroit newspaper read, "1965 Mustang once owned by the Ford family." At under $1,000, the asking price was a deal, even by 1974 standards, so Art Cairo went to take a look at the Hi-Po hardtop, which was worse for wear with its original-but-faded black finish. Art also noticed some unusual components. For example, the roof was leather instead of the usual textured vinyl, and the wheel-lip moldings were die-cast metal instead of the anodized aluminum found on production Mustangs. The Mustang also had leaded seams at the door jams and trunk opening, along with GT foglights in the grille, exhaust trumpets, and Styled Steel wheels: items not offered to Mustang buyers when the car was built in early 1964. What's more, it had an alternator charging system, something available only on Lincolns at the time.

Inside was a wealth of black leather upholstery instead of the usual vinyl, real teakwood where Mustangs never had it, chrome door strikers and latches, a factory reverb unit and rear speaker under the package shelf, and molded-leather door panels with pistol-grip door handles. When Art raised the hood, it had an insulation blanket, something never available on a Mustang. He also found front disc brakes, a Top Loader four-speed, and a 9-inch rearend with 3.50:1 gears.

It wasn't until Art spotted the 5F07K100148 vehicle identification number that he was hit by a flood of urgency to buy the car. Obviously, it was an early production '6411/42 Mustang hardtop with the 289 High Performance engine and plenty of unusual features. In the glovebox, Art discovered a '65 Mustang owner's manual inscribed with Edsel B. Ford II's name and Grosse Pointe address. But oddly, the vehicle identification number listed in the manual didn't match the hardtop; 5F09K721789 indicated a '65 fastback.

Art bought the car anyway, not realizing its true significance. For years, he assumed the Raven Black Mustang had been owned by Edsel Ford, who would have been in high school at the time. It wasn't until 1983, during an interview with Edsel for Mustang Monthly, that Art learned the truth about his Mustang when Edsel revealed the hardtop had once belonged to his father, Henry Ford II (HFII). In the interview, Art showed the owner's manual to Edsel, who said he had indeed driven the Hi-Po fastback. Somehow the owner's manual for his fastback wound up in the glove compartment of his father's hardtop.

It is easy to assume that the Ford family owned their unusual, special-order Mustangs, but that's not the case. Both 5F07K100148 and 5F09K721789 belonged to Ford Motor Company and were built for Ford family use. Afterwards, the cars were returned to Ford and sold.

Art's HFII hardtop was a preproduction unit, one of approximately 180 Mustangs assembled prior to the official March 9, 1964, start-up date at the Dearborn Assembly Plant. Research by Bob Fria, who owns 5F07U100002, has revealed that all preproduction units were actually Pilot Plant units bucked at Body & Assembly in Allen Park, not far from Dearborn. All were shipped to the Dearborn plant and assembled there.

Because it was going to Henry Ford II, 100148 received special attention due to requested equipment, such as the alternator charging system. That meant a one-off wiring harness unique to Mustangs. This was learned the hard way during the restoration. A conventional '65 wiring harness required modifications to work with the '6411/42 electrical components. A steel-plate scatter shield was also welded to the transmission tunnel to protect Mr. Ford from possible clutch/flywheel failure. The 289 High Performance engine was a one-off with experimental cylinder heads, undoubtedly hand-built for the earliest K-code Mustang unearthed to date. Even the steering gear was specific for unknown reasons.

When 100148 was completed at Dearborn, it was delivered to Ford Design for the kind of treatment you might expect for Henry Ford II. The conventional Mustang seats were clad in knitted-style leather with unique chrome and teakwood appointments. The instrument panel and glove compartment door were dressed with real teakwood. A custom-fabricated leather headliner was installed, and chrome door latches and strikers were added. A one-of-a-kind AM radio with die-cast chrome buttons was installed, along with reverb and a rear-seat speaker.

Ford Design also borrowed developmental parts for 100148, including the GT foglamps and exhaust trumpets (not available on the Mustang until a year later), die-cast wheel-lip moldings, and more. When Art bought the car, it had '66 Styled Steel wheels, which he is convinced weren't there when the car was delivered to Mr. Ford. It remains unknown what the car had for rolling stock when it was new.

Through the years, Art has touched base with Ford employees who remember the hardtop. One Ford executive garage mechanic recalls Mr. Ford's concern over fuel economy. Granted, most people who ordered a 289 High Performance Mustang weren't concerned about fuel mileage, especially in the fuel-plentiful '60s. But nonetheless, fuel consumption concerned Mr. Ford. The mechanic, baffled about how to improve the car's mileage, decided to swap speedometer gears so the speedometer would read higher and Mr. Ford would drive slower. He never heard anymore from Mr. Ford.

When Art bought the car, he didn't take its history all that seriously. It was just an old Hi-Po Mustang, so he loaned it to his brother, who had a ball with the car until a valvetrain failure shut down the engine. Art performed a top-end overhaul and took the keys away from his brother. While he was at it, he performed a mild restoration and repainted the car, driving it on rare occasions.

For many years, 100148 was a best-kept secret in Detroit as it rarely saw the light of day. Because Art has worked in Vehicle Operations at Ford for many years, he has spent most of his life on the road, charged with new vehicle launches at Ford plants all over North America. This kept 100148 in storage and out of circulation for the better part of two decades.

In 2002, Art became concerned about the hardtop because it was beginning to suffer the effects of storage, dampness, salt spray, and inactivity. When Art asked us how he should approach 100148's restoration, we suggested a thorough inspection to determine the proper course of action. What Art found wasn't good. Rust, decay, and even mice had taken a toll. It was then that he began searching for someone who could perform a spot-on restoration. It was going to be expensive, more expensive than he ever imagined. It ultimately took the coordinated efforts of Mustang Monthly, National Parts Depot, Mustangs Plus, and the discovery of Rustbusters in Redford Township, Michigan.

When Rustbusters went to work on Art's HFII car, they did so with extraordinary care. There was the leather interior to consider, and there was also a leather top and headliner to think about. Rustbusters disassembled the car one piece at a time, taking notes and shooting pictures to make sure it was put back together properly.

As Rustbusters removed parts, the news went from bad to worse. Rust had overtaken the body, floors, frame-rails, wheelhouses, quarter-panels, inner fenders, doors, and cowl vent. Had this been a garden-variety six or small V-8 hardtop, we would have advised Art to cut his losses and part the car out. But that wasn't an option with a historic car like 100148. In this case, a special find became a burden: a commitment to history Art would have to see through.

With parts assistance from National Parts Depot, Rustbusters replaced the damaged parts, obtaining a precision fit by setting the car up in a custom jig created especially for vintage Mustangs. Much time was spent massaging sheetmetal and achieving exceptional craftsmanship. Once the sheetmetal was welded in and ground smooth, Rustbusters laid down a self-etching primer/sealer along with professional-grade seam sealer to ward off corrosion. Art then had the car painted with Raven Black enamel, a vintage paint we weren't even sure you could buy anymore. Once painted, the body was color-sanded and hand-rubbed to simulate the original finish. The original wheel-lip moldings were too damaged to reuse.

Art struggled with which hood to use. When Art purchased the car, it had what enthusiasts call a "1965" hood, with the improved lip. Enthusiasts tend to embrace the theory that all '6411/42 Mustangs came with the unimproved hood with its sharp edges. But research has revealed that some '6411/42 Mustangs got the improved hood. When Art asked us which hood to use, we suggested he go with the hood that was on the car when it was purchased 32 years ago. Not a '6411/42 hood like you might expect, but a '65-style improved hood found on virtually all preproduction Mustang units (and Indy Pace Car hardtops) that have surfaced to date.

While Rustbusters was at work, Art was busy detailing the engine, transmission, and rearend. The original and undisturbed '63 vintage Hi-Po block was bored .030-inch oversize, with decks and line-bore checked for integrity. Remarkably, it was a virgin iron casting that didn't need any more than boring and honing. Photographer and Ford historian Chris Richardson discovered the experimental cylinder-head castings, which at a glance, looked like garden-variety Hi-Po heads. The engine was freshened to factory specifications with cast pistons, ductile-iron rings, oversize .010-inch bearings, and a Crane mechanical flat-tappet camshaft suited to a stock Hi-Po.

When Art inspected the narrow-bolt pattern Top Loader four-speed, it was like new inside, as was the 9-inch rearend. Both went back in the car the same as they came out: factory original except for new seals and gaskets.

Art's timing couldn't have been better. Rustbusters wrapped up the restoration just in time for Ford's 100th Anniversary, and Art rolled Henry's hardtop out for display in front of Ford World Headquarters, appropriately named the Henry Ford II World Center. In Ford's 100th year, Art had the good fortune of showing the completed restoration to Edsel Ford II, who was thrilled to see his father's Mustang for the first time in years. In August of that year, Art was invited to display his Mustang at Ford's exhibit at the Woodward Dream Cruise, drawing plenty of people who both remembered and admired what is undoubtedly one of the most significant Mustangs ever made.

5F07K100148: The Facts
* One-off Raven Black '65 Mustang hardtop built for Henry Ford II
* Preproduction unit bucked at Allen Park and assembled at Dearborn
* Earliest documented K-code 289 High Performance Mustang
* Show-car treatment with leaded seams
* DSO 89 - Transportation Services
* Date code of 05C, meaning preproduction unit
* All-leather interior
* Custom leather door panels, similar to Interior Dcor Group a year later
* Leather headliner and dashpad
* Teakwood appointments
* One-off AM radio with die-cast chrome buttons and knobs
* Factory reverb with rear-deck speaker
* GT foglamps and exhaust trumpets
* Die-cast wheel-lip moldings
* Chrome door latches and strikers
* Custom leather top
* Handcrafted by Ford Design
* Restored by Rustbusters and Art Cairo