Marilee Johnsen always had a passion for Mustangs. Her inspiration dates back to the '60s when she was in high school and couldn't afford one. Like a lot of us who remember the Mustang's introduction some 44 years ago, Marilee hung onto her dream of Mustang ownership for the better part of a lifetime.
Nine years ago, she saved enough money to buy a classic Mustang. She had looked at a lot of them but most needed too much work. When she found this one in Eugene, Oregon, it spoke to her. There was just something about the car that she connected with. It was Wimbledon White with a black standard interior-your basic Mustang hardtop. For years, Marilee dreamed of owning a red Mustang with a red interior, and that's exactly what she built.
For six years, not much happened with Marilee's Mustang purchase, as the timing wasn't ripe for starting a restoration project. Then, she and her boyfriend, Jim Harris, went to work on the car, getting it ready for shows. They stripped it down to bare steel, lovingly massaged its epidermis back together, and got the Pony back on its hooves. Choosing just the right red wasn't easy. Marilee and Jim looked at a lot of different hues until they came upon Sikkens Torch Red urethane. They chose Sikkens for its durability and exceptional performance. Getting bodywork and paint done wasn't easy, either. To make matters challenging, it took a year to get the car back from the body shop. When it came home, Marilee and Jim went to work on the interior, two-toning the doors and dashboard in black with red appointments.
Marilee's Mustang restomod isn't a blazing canyon cutter, but instead a glistening Mustang driver and weekend show car. It retains its original 911/42-inch nonpower drum brakes, which take a sizable amount of character and driving skill to master. The suspension system remains completely stock, right down to the skinny factory sway bar. To improve both looks and contact patch, she fitted her Mustang with 15x7-inch Styled Steel wheels from Specialty Wheel. Local brand-name Grand Am radials improve handling.
When it was time to rebuild the engine, Marilee wanted a bone-stock 289 with a pinch of pep. She and Jim had the original 289 V-8 rebuilt, freshening it up with new pistons, rings, and bearings. On top is a valve job with hardened exhaust valve seats for today's unforgiving unleaded fuels. An Edelbrock Performer 289 dual-plane manifold and 600-cfm carburetor give Marilee's small-block more oats when the butterflies are pinned. All in all, it's a nice cruiser ready to go just about anywhere. Ford's reliable C4 automatic works as sweetly as it did four decades ago. As you might imagine, there are 2.80 gears out back, ready for hours of highway time.
Marilee and Jim took a creative approach underhood, going with Cool-Flex hoses and plump 8mm ignition wires to dress up the place. They wrapped all the wiring in flexible conduit for both protection and good looks. The couple didn't go overboard with chrome-just the right amount-tastefully executed. It is an engine compartment that got our attention. Check out the underhood mural above Marliee's Ford powerplant.
Marilee and Jim have made this Mustang an institution, showing and cruising all over the great American West. Hot August Nights in Reno, Nevada, is a favorite venue, as is Restomods in Reno, where we found the duo applying abundant spit and polish. During their maiden voyage, they lost headlights, which caused a brief panic. With help from someone in a Pontiac GTO that was behind them, they managed to get home safely. You can bet the problem was a headlight switch with a bad circuit breaker, which startles a few of us from time to time. Lights begin flashing off and on as the breaker cycles in error.
You can imagine the euphoria Marilee must surely feel these days, living a lifelong dream she could only think about four decades ago. Restoring this car with Jim brought the two of them closer. The miles they drive together are the catalyst that creates ties that bind.
'64 1/2 Mustang Hardtop
Owner: Marilee Johnsen, Eugene, OR
289ci small-block V-8
Cast flat-top pistons
Hardened exhaust valve seats
Stock flat-tappet hydraulic camshaft
Edelbrock performer 289 dual-plane manifold
Edelbrock 600-cfm carburetor
Chromed "Power by Ford" steel valve covers
K&N air filter
8mm ignition wires
Made For You wire holders
C4 three-speed automatic
Silver Streak mufflers
Front: Stock coil-on-upper arm with gas shocks
Rear: Elliptical five-leaf with gas shocks
Front: 9 1/2-inch manual drum
Rear: 9 1/2-inch manual drum
Front: Styled Steel wheels from Specialty Wheels, 15x7-inch
Rear: Styled Steel wheels from Specialty Wheels, 15x7-inch
Front: Grand Am Radial, P235/70R15
Rear: Grand Am Radial, P245/70R15
Red and black two-tone with console, Custom Autosound stereo, and nostalgic fuzzy dice, Falcon horizontal sweep speedometer-a Mustang standard for 1965
Sikkens Torch Red urethane basecoat/clearcoat applied by Eagle Valley Auto Body in Eugene, Oregon