1965 Ford Mustang Hardtop - That Mona Lisa Smile
Despite Its Many Variations Throughout The Past 43 Years, The Original '65 Mustang Hardtop Remains An American Classic
When the '65 Mustang was introduced on April 17, 1964, at the New York World's Fair, its Mona Lisa profile stunned the masses. The silhouette made Americans fall in love with the elegant Mustang hardtop. By the way, we're guilty of calling these notchbacks "coupes," but they're hardtops-all windows down, void of a pillar or post, and clean in execution. That's what inspired Dave and Kasla Cain to purchase this Twilight Turquoise '65 hardtop some 22 years ago.
In 1985, the Cains' Mustang ride wasn't much to write home about. It was a typical 20-year-old automobile with rust around the edges, as well as all the other age issues you'd expect from a suburban St. Louis daily driver. Kasla employed this Mustang as her everyday transportation until 1990 when the couple decided to put it away for safe keeping.
"The restoration was slow," Dave says. "We were trying to raise four daughters, and money was tight." So Dave and Kasla did what many of us have done and kept the garage tied up with a long-term restoration project.
One of Dave's first significant purchases was a welder. Because he wanted the car to be factory original, he purchased N.O.S. Ford parts whenever possible. Original components, such as the Autolite 2100 two-barrel carburetor, starter, and distributor, were saved and rebuilt. Instead of buying reproduction door handles, he had the originals rechromed. Other parts were sent out and refinished. Dave went to extremes because he wanted the original feel and sound.
He carried his originality mindset throughout the restoration. Where sheetmetal had to be replaced, he opted for N.O.S. or used Ford steel. Mike Swindle can be credited for the magnificent bodywork and paint. Dave did the rough-cut structural work that got the body sound. Mike massaged the sheetmetal and laid down the Twilight Turquoise PPG paint to achieve just the right amount of factory orange peel.
Across the Mississippi, One-Step Engine Rebuilding in Edwardsville, Illinois, knocked-down the Cains' 289 to perform full-scale machine work. It punched the bores to 4.030 inches and got the heads and block ready for Dave to assemble, which he's proud to admit he knows how to do. The 289's vintage demeanor takes us back in time with an original Autolite starter, the sound of hydraulic lifters pumping up and consuming valve lash, a soft thumping of the fuel pump eccentric, and the buzz of an old X-blade fan. We like the golden shoulders of a classic '65 289 engine. It was dressed in black with gold appointments before Ford's bean counters could streamline production costs and paint them all Ford Blue a year later.
Inside, 5F07C785035 is just as you expect, with a Falcon-style instrument panel and its horizontal sweep speedometer and engine vitals lights. No matter how great these '64-'67 bucket seats are, they're uncomfortable on a long trip.
Who can forget slipping that confusing C4 Dual-Range shifter to the large dot detent and hearing First gear wind up into Second and final drive? Was it the large dot or the small dot? All you had to remember was to move the shifter until it stopped and clicked. For '65-'66, Mustang sound deadening was such that you could hear every tooth in those First-gear planetaries. This is the most common Mustang axle/transmission combination: a C4 with 2.80:1 peg-leg gears, good for highway cruising on vast stretches of new interstate in the '60s.
As the Cains approach midlife, their Mona Lisa Mustang is a pleasant reminder of where they came from.