Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
December 1, 2012
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

By his own admission, Fran Cosentino likes oddball cars. His Pennsylvania collection of Fords includes a ’68 Cougar XR7-G, a rare ’67 Indy Pacesetter special edition, and the first ’08 Bullitt. But it was a chance encounter with an eBay seller that led Fran to his most unusual find.

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While chasing oddball parts for his oddball obsession, Fran ran across an eBay listing for NOS parts from the grandson of a Canadian parts dealer. One of the parts for sale was a “Branded Mustang kit.” It piqued Fran’s interest.

“It was a crazy-looking black and white vinyl top with white stripes, emblems, and various other pieces in a shipping tube,” Fran says. “I did quite a bit of research on the internet to see if any information was available. I found bits and pieces, but no actual Branded cars. I ended up buying the kit, although I had no idea what I was going to do with it.”

Through his research, Fran learned that the Branded kit was originally a Ford promotion that allowed dealers to dress up ’65-’68 Mustang hardtops, primarily to help with used car sales but also available for new ’68 Mustangs or for customer upgrades through the parts department. Fran thinks the kit became available in late 1967, a time when many ’65-’67 Mustangs were finding their way onto Ford dealer used car lots as trade-ins. The kit, distributed by DSI Corporation, included a pre-cut vinyl top, screw-on chrome moldings, a set of “Thoroughbred” side stripes, and a pair of “Branded” running horse C-pillar emblems in either gold or silver finishes. An “A” kit was available for ’67-’68 Mustangs; the “B” kit was for ’65-’66. According to Fran, the main difference was the shape of the moldings.

The vinyl roof patterns fit the era, a time of flower power and, by January 1968, the popular TV show “Laugh-In.” Fifteen different tops were offered in a variety of colors and designs, including Paisley, Sculptured, Tweed, and Leather. The side stripe decals were available in five colors—red, white, black, blue, or gold.

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After acquiring his first kit, Fran was able to locate and purchase five more, all with different tops and still in their original three-foot long shipping tubes. At first, he considered purchasing a ’67-’68 hardtop so he could use one of the kits to convert it into a Branded Mustang. Then he decided on an even tougher challenge.

“I wanted to see if I could find an original Branded Mustang, even though I had never even seen a picture of one,” Fran says. “After searching for a year, I found a ‘67 in Texas. It had been sitting out in the sun—and the occasional hail storm—for years, but it was all there, including the bleached out top, partial stripes, and emblems still attached to the C-pillars.”

Fran purchased his rare find, then had it delivered to Russ Turack at RST Restorations in Wyano, Pennsylvania, for an 18-month “nut and bolt” restoration. According to the Marti Report, it’s just the type of Mustang that would have benefitted from the Branded dress-up kit in 1967—a basic Burnt Amber hardtop with the 289 two-barrel engine, C4 Cruise-O-Matic, and a handful of options, like console, power steering, and wheel covers. Turack noted that the vinyl top material was top quality; even after 40-something years in a tube, the vinyl was still soft and pliable. Fran debuted his freshly restored Branded Mustang at the 2012 Ford Nationals in Carlisle, where it was part of a special display in Building T.

Fran credits Mustang special edition expert Don Hughmanick (www.limited600mustang.net), along with John and Jeff Klein (www.mustangattitude.com), for helping him uncover facts about the Branded Mustangs. In addition to the actual kits, Fran has also collected various newspaper ads, dealer order forms, and Branded advertising from dealer merchandising magazines.

Fran admits that he’s likely the only member of the “Branded Mustang Club,” but thanks to his interest in this unique program, we now know a lot more about the ’65-’68 Branded Mustangs.

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