Jim Smart
November 1, 2000
Photos By: Mustang Monthly Archives

Step By Step

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At this range, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s an early ’65 or a post-July ’64–built car.
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Most ’64-1/2 Mustangs had this unimproved hood leading edge. The hood was coined the “’64-1/2 hood” by hobbyists, but not all ’64-1/2 Mustangs were fitted with this hood. Indy Pace Car hardtops, for example, weren’t fitted with this hood, and most promotional vehicles weren’t, either.
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Examine this sharp edge and you begin to understand that it is a hood lip that hasn’t been crimped (folded under). This was a stamping die issue for Ford’s Dearborn stamping plant.
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The unimproved hood leading edge created a clearance problem with the headlamp bezel, which is why ’64-1/2 Mustangs had this beveled bezel. Even ’64-1/2 Mustangs with the improved hood had these beveled bezels. And believe it or not, some borderline units had both—beveled on one side and nonbeveled on the other.
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Early Mustangs had their own lineup of engines, such as the 260 2V. The 170ci Falcon six with four main bearings was standard. The 164hp 260; 210hp 289 4V, low-compression; and the 271hp 289 Hi-Po, which first appeared in June 1964, were optional.
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A generator charging system came with the ’64-1/2-specific lineup of engines.
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lineup of engines. The generator system used a large voltage regulator with separate terminals.
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Early Mustangs had those big, ol’ honkin’ horns located inside the engine compartment above the strut rods.
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A relay (arrow) located beneath the voltage regulator activated these big guys.
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Eaton power steering pumps were a ’64-1/2 item. Some had an integral reservoir...
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...and others had an external reservoir mounted on the inner fender apron.
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Some, but not all, ’64-1/2 V-8 engines had cast-iron water pump pulleys, such as the one shown. Most had stamped steel pulleys.
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Most ’64-1/2 V-8 engines had Autolite distributors with this oil wick (arrow).
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All ’64-1/2 Mustangs had these battery cooling vents (louvers), due to the generator charging system, which made batteries run hotter.
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All ’64-1/2 Mustangs had the brake light switch screwed into the master cylinder. This is a pressure switch.
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Hood hinges were painted black on ’641/2 Mustangs.
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What’s missing here? Give up? The horns. For the ’64-1/2, they’re hidden inside the engine compartment. Use this for quick identification if the hood is closed.
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A lot of folks believe hood bumpers with visible screw heads are exclusively a ’64-1/2 item. But this bumper remained in production into the fall of ’64.
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Another popular misconception is door handles. These clip-style door handles were used in production until March 1965.
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Color-keyed lock buttons were sporadically used in early production. Ironically, Mustang No. 1, 5F08F100001 is equipped with chrome lock buttons. Like the unimproved hood, we don’t have solid answers on this one.
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Carpet didn’t meet the sill plate during 1964. Carpet ended at the rocker panel, and interior-color vinyl filled in the gap.
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Most, but not all, ’64-1/2 Mustangs had an “A” in the vent knob.
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The upgraded Mustang had an alternator charging system.
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The alternator system had a safer, smaller voltage regulator. It was safe because it had a quick disconnect plug that wouldn’t short out against the radiator.
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New, smaller compact horns mounted on the radiator support made the ’65 Mustang more civilized. These little guys produce a softer sound than the big beasties found on the ’64-1/2.
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Although this is a disc brake master cylinder, it shows us the absence of a brake light pressure switch. Ford moved the brake light switch underneath the dashboard for the ’65.
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A Ford power steering pump replaced the Eaton pump for the ’65.
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Hood bumpers could be found both ways into the fall of ’64.
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Here's the second style.
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Stamped steel pulleys became exclusive for the ’65.
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The improved hood became the norm after mid-August 1964.
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The nonbeveled headlight bezels also became the standard item at that time.
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Ford deleted the “A” on the vent knob for the ’65.
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Carpeting for the ’65 became molded and went all the way to the sill plate.
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Door handles weren’t upgraded right away.
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It wasn’t until early March 1965 that screw-on door handles entered production.
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The taillight harness changed for the ’65 with the deletion of pigtails...
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...and use of a weather-tight socket .
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The slotted spare tire hold-down of the ’64-1/2...
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...gave way to the J-hook of the ’65.
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We had to toss this one in just for fun. This is a Mustang convertible test mule. What’s wrong with this image? Do you see the accelerator (mounted on the floor) and the brake pedals (square)? Falcon headlamp and windshield wiper knobs are other obvious oddities on this preproduction unit. What else do you see?

We're amazed at the misconceptions ahoof about those early classic Mustangs; those classified ads worded "For Sale--1964 Mustang. . ." or enthusiasts boasting about their super-rare '64-1/2. Truth is, there has never been a '64 Mustang, ever. And honestly, whom are you kidding? The '64-1/2 Mustang isn't any more rare than one of its '65 counterparts. In fact, there are no '64-1/2 Mustangs at all; that title was coined by enthusiasts. The '64-1/2 Mustang is simply an early-production unit without the refinements that came later. And another thing, Ford never built a production '64-1/2 Mustang fastback.

Truth is, the '64-1/2 Mustang lacks some of the nice engineering refinements and features those post-July '64 steeds have, such as an alternator charging system, a better engine-to-bellhousing marriage, an adjustable passenger seat, and a host of other items.

A World of Difference

So what's the difference between a '64-1/2 and a '65 Mustang? Not much and yet everything. From 50 feet away, they look the same; close up, they host quite a number of differences. The '64-1/2 Mustangs have always been '65 Mustangs--always. As enthusiasts, we call them "'64-1/2" because it's easier to say, but it's also a cult thing. Early '65 Mustangs have the distinction of being the first block of Ponies ever produced. They were an integral part of the Mustang madness that swept the world in 1964. And if you have a "'64-1/2" built at Dearborn, that makes it even more significant in the relative scheme of things, because it was born in the motherland.

When the Mustang entered production early in March 1964, it didn't have many of the refinements it would have later on; call it a reskinned Falcon with bucket seats. To be a '64-1/2 at all, a Mustang has to be factory-equipped with a generator charging system, a 170ci six (U-code), a 260 2V (F-code), or a 289 4V (D-code) low-compression, large horns mounted down on the frame behind the radiator, a brake light pressure switch on the master cylinder, a center "off" heater fan switch, and a generator charge light, just to name the basics. These are features exclusive to Mustangs built between early March and July 31, 1964 (scheduled build date code only).