Jim Smart
August 1, 2003

Proper vintage-Mustang engine color seems to be a matter of opinion. But there is only one right answer for each situation. Too many of us are getting our engine colors wrong during otherwise outstanding restorations. Engine color is a lot more important than most know-and when it's wrong, it's apparent to those who understand what proper engine color is, most importantly show judges, who decide whether or not you drive home with a trophy.

Seasoned show judges and restorers know the proper shade of Ford Blue for a given model year. How many of you have seen the '64 1/2 Mustang's 260-2V V-8 in dark Ford Corporate Blue? And how many of you have seen a '69 302 in the light blue common to the earlier 260 V-8? Few things are more out of character than a '70-'73 351 Cleveland in '64 1/2 light blue. It just doesn't work because our Ford engines need to be painted the right color for the model year.

We're going to show you the correct engine colors for '65-'73 Mustangs. Plus, we're going to show you how to achieve a perfect paint finish when it's time to lay down the proper color. When you're finished, you can feel good about a job well done.

1964 1/2

Confusion abounds from the start with Mustang engine color because the first model year-1965-was more involved than the rest. Think of the '65 model year as two model years in one-1964 1/2 and 1965. We call '65 Mustangs from the first five months of production '64 1/2 Mustangs. These were the Mustangs fitted with a generator charging system and a choice of four engines-170ci six, 260-2V V-8, 289-4V Regular Fuel V-8, and the 289 High Performance. Each of these engines had black blocks, cylinder heads, and oil pans. Most of these engines had natural metal color hardware (nuts, bolts, and screws). Valve covers and air cleaners (except 289 High Performance) were specific colors that helped identify engines at a glance.

The 101-horse 170ci six had a bright red valve cover and air cleaner. The optional base V-8, the 260-2V with 164 hp, had a Light Ford Blue air cleaner and valve covers. The 210hp 289-4V was a low-compression small-block with a gold air cleaner and valve covers. Like the 170ci six and the 260ci V-8, the 289-4V had a black block, oil pan, timing cover, water pump, and cylinder heads. The 289 High Performance with 271 hp sported a black block, oil pan, timing cover, water pump, and cylinder heads, with the chrome dress-up kit that included valve covers and an open-element air cleaner.

One important issue to consider with air-cleaner color is the intake snorkel. Instead of being blue or gold, the snorkel is gloss black for 1965.

’64 1/2 Mustang Engine Color Quick Reference
Engine/Part Color Brand
170ci valve cover Red Duplicolor 1605
170ci air cleaner Red Duplicolor 1605
170ci block, head, oil pan Black Duplicolor 1635
(semigloss black)
Duplicolor 1613
(gloss black)
260ci valve covers Light
Ford
Blue
Duplicolor 1606
260ci air cleaner Light
Ford
Blue
Duplicolor 1606
260ci block, heads,
intake manifold,
oil pan
Black Duplicolor 1635
(semigloss Black)
Duplicolor 1613
(gloss black)
289ci valve covers Gold Duplicolor 1604
289ci air cleaner Gold Duplicolor 1604
289ci block, heads,
intake manifold,
oil pan
Black Duplicolor 1635
(semigloss)
Duplicolor 1613
(gloss black)
289 High Performance valve covers Chrome N/A
289 High Performance air cleaner Chrome Open Element N/A
289 High Performance block,
heads, intake
manifold, oil pan
Black Duplicolor 1635
(semigloss black)
Duplicolor 1613
(gloss black)

1965

Beginning in August 1964, the Mustang's engine lineup changed. Gone was the generator charging system; in its place was an improved alternator system. Standard power was the 200ci six with seven main bearings. Like the previous 170ci six with four main bearings, the 200ci six was fitted with a red valve cover and air cleaner. And like the 170ci six, the 200ci six had a black cylinder head and block castings. Everything below the valve cover was black.

The 289-2V V-8 replaced the 260-2V V-8 engine. Instead of the 260's light blue valve covers and air cleaner, for 1965, the 289-2V had gold valve covers and air cleaner. The 289-4V engine, with higher compression, four-barrel carburetion, and 225 horsepower, also received gold valve covers and air cleaner. If you have trouble remembering this, think of the 289 engine as the gold standard of Mustang power for 1965. The 289 High Performance for 1965 continued unchanged, with the exception of the alternator instead of a generator.

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