A Ford Mustang Doesn’t Have to Have a V8
Six-Cylinders & Six-Strings
When the original Mustang was introduced in April 1964, it offered a wide variety of drivetrain options. There were two six-cylinder engines, 170 ci and 200 ci, and two different versions of the V-8 engines displacing 260 ci and 289 ci in two- and four-barrel versions. While we don’t have production numbers handy for six- and eight-cylinder versions, it’s safe to say that a substantial number of 1965 Mustangs running up to the end of production in July 1965 were six-cylinder models. It was Lee Iacocca’s desire that the Mustang would offer a model for every potential customer.
Over the years when attending car shows with hundreds of classic 1965-1966 Mustangs, even big events like Fabulous Fords Forever, it’s fairly rare to see six-cylinder versions of those early models on display. Ford built tens of thousands of six-cylinder Mustangs in that first generation, but very few seemed to have survived the past five decades. Some simply rusted away. Others, the lucky ones, gave their bodies for restomod projects. There are also some national Mustang clubs devoted to six-cylinder cars, so some of them are being restored like their V-8 brethren.
This story is about one of the rare, restored six-cylinder 1965 Mustangs that has been preserved the way it was driven off the dealer’s lot. This Mustang was driven away from Garner Ford in San Bernardino, California, back on June 6, 1965, by the first of its two owners. This is verified by the original owner’s manual that has stayed in its glovebox for 54 years. It should be noted that San Bernardino’s Garner Ford was once one of California’s largest Ford dealers and throughout much of its history that dated back to before 1920, it sold more Ford trucks than any dealer in the state of California.
Back in October 2015, current owner Gerrit Verhagen purchased this 1965 Mustang hardtop from that original owner through a classic car dealership. At the time the odometer showed just 61,950 miles, and it had benefited from an extensive restoration just before Gerrit’s purchase. In the four years since it has covered another 5,000 miles, and he’s enjoyed every minute behind the wheel.
Growing up in Southern California and attending high school in the 1970s, Gerrit recalls that his friend had a 1965 Mustang V-8 fastback. They would cruise locally at night while living in West Los Angeles and also to nearby Venice Beach and up to the mountains. Enjoying those times in his friend’s Mustang remains one of his fondest memories of growing up. It’s matched by the recollections of his own first car, a 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 station wagon, handed down by his father.
But how did this particular car end up in his garage? Gerrit explains, “In 2015 I went to the Murrieta Rod Run and when I got home I explained to my wife Karen that I was ready to buy a classic car. Next day we drove to a nearby classic car dealership. They had three Mustangs on the lot. When I first saw the Poppy Red hardtop, I was hooked. The salesman said it was a one-owner car that the original owner started its restoration on March 19, 2010, and was completed 20 months later in November 2011, with 61,460 on odometer.”
As we know, most people who own an early Mustang often prefer V-8 cars with manual transmissions. Not having a V-8 didn’t matter much to Gerrit—he was taken by its overall presentation, condition, and the striking Poppy Red paint. “Initially I didn’t realize the Mustang had a six-cylinder engine,” says Gerrit. “I was surprised when I open the hood, expecting to see a 289 V-8 engine. But after taking a testdrive I found the three-speed on the floor to be very fun to drive, because it puts you back in touch with the road. It’s an original California-built (San Jose) and sold car, delivered at long-closed Garner Ford in San Bernardino, about 40 miles from where I live. The car came with extensive documentation from the restoration, including a photo album compiled by the car’s original owner.”
When asked about the car’s most unique attributes, Gerrit commented about it being a base-model, unmodified Mustang, and the 13-inch wheels stand out. And that the car is equipped with a single-reservoir master cylinder, an odd sight these days. Sitting in the driver seat and looking at the simple instrument cluster, it’s not hard to imagine that it’s 1965 all over again.
Almost everything on the outside is factory stock, save for the under-the-hood aftermarket battery. On the inside, we found an aftermarket analog AM/FM cassette radio installed in place of the factory push-button AM radio. An interesting touch was found in the trunk, where the previous owner had a toolkit made from vinyl matching the trunk mat.
Gerrit loves displaying his Mustang at local and regional shows as well as the annual Murietta and Temecula Rod Runs. More than the awards he’s won, it’s the great feelings the car generates that he cherishes. It seems that everyone owned a classic Mustang growing up or knew a friend or relative that did. “If you attend the classic car shows, you will see many Mustangs of all years, colors, and designs. Virtually everyone thinks of the 1965 Mustang as a V-8 or fastback. This base-model six-cylinder version is just as you would have most likely purchased it if you traveled back in time to 1965. That in itself makes it unique.”
As we were photographing Gerrit’s Mustang, he suggested some props. Since he’s an accomplished guitarist, he brought along his classic Gretsch guitar for the shoot. If you’re of a certain age (as your author is), you can easily recall George Harrison’s appearances with The Beatles, holding his Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar—especially on those early appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. What could be a more perfect match than cars and guitars?
It seems that Gerrit has found himself very much attracted to six-cylinder Mustangs. As we finished up our photo shoot we asked Gerrit if there was space in his garage for another Mustang. His answer surprised us. We thought he might say a modern Mustang, maybe a V-6? But when it came down to answering honestly, he said, “I think that I’d like to find a companion six-cylinder 1965 fastback to go along with the hardtop. I haven’t seen one for sale locally, but I’m sure they’re out there. Maybe I need to start a wider search? And yes, I’d like it in Poppy Red, making it a perfect match for my hardtop.”
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Photography by Richard Truesdell