1965 Ford Mustang

1965 Ford Mustang

The 1965 Ford Mustang was a hit the instant it came out on April 17, 1964. It turned out to be the right car at the right time for the right price. From the very late 1950s, there was an emerging market for compact and mid-sized sized cars, which Ford capitalized on handily with its Ford Falcon. GM soon followed with the Chevy II. There was also a burgeoning “youth market”, as it came to be called, who wanted sportier cars than the stodgy old boxes being built at the time. Ford saw a market and filled it. The Mustang provided decent performance and handling in a stylish, lightweight, low-cost platform that could be optioned in endless combinations. You could get if with a lowly 101hp 170ci six and a 3-speed manual transmission for as little as $2,320.86, or you could load it up with a K-code 271hp 289 V8, 4-speed, and umpteen other bells & whistles, and have a seriously fast car. There were also 3 body styles, with the Hardtop and Convertible available at launch, and the Fastback or “2+2” arriving in September 1964.. And, on the high-performance end of the spectrum was the Mustang GT. So, there really was a Mustang for everyone.

1965 FORD MUSTANG, OR IS THAT A ‘64-1/2?
From the very first Mustang ever to roll off the assembly line in March of 1964, all Mustangs were titled and coded as 1965 models. Thus, technically speaking, there is actually no such thing as a 1964-1/2 Ford Mustang. However, there are several differences between cars built prior to August 1964, and those built after. The early cars have come to be referred to, in the common lexicon as 1964-1/2 models, and the later cars as 1965s. However, the detail differences alone can be confusing as some later 1965 Mustangs rolled off the assembly line with parts that were specific to the earlier cars, referred to today as 1964-1/2s. As is often the case, the manufacturer will try to use up whatever parts they have leftover before they become obsolete.

Again, those Mustangs we often call 1964-1/2s were actually originally titles and coded as 1965 models. However, those early-‘65s that were produced prior to September 1964 had some marked differences from those made after, and that’s where people separate the ‘64-1/2s from the ‘65s. For the sake of this article, we’ll refer to them as ‘64-1/2s and ’65. The ’64-1/2 came standard with a 170 ci six, whereas the ’65 got the more powerful 200 cubic inch six. The 64-1/2s were supposed to come with 4-lug 13-inch wheels, whereas only the 6 cylinders got them in ’65, all the V8s got 5-lug 14-inchers. ‘64-1/2s had 2 optional cloth interiors that were eliminated by September ’64. The base V8 option in the ’64-1/2 was a 164hp 260 cubic inch small block with 2-barrel carburetor. This engine disappeared by ’65, replaced by a 200hp 2-barrel 289 V8 as the base V8. But perhaps the two biggest differences were the introduction of two significant option packages for the ’65 that weren’t available on the ’64-1/2. The first was the Interior Decor Group, commonly known as “Pony Interior”. The other is the Fastback or “2+2” body style which didn’t become available until September ’64, so they would all be considered ‘65s. Early cars had generators while later ones used alternators. The passenger seats were non-adjustable on early cars. Later cars had allen screws securing the window cranks where early cars had clips. Early cars had 2-speed blower motors, later cars had 3-speeds.

The base Mustang came standard with a 101hp 170 cubic inch straight six mated to a 3-speed manual transmission with floor shifter. The unassisted steering had a very slow 27:1 ratio & there were 9-inch drum brakes all around without power assist. The 6 cylinder cars ran smaller 4-lug hubs & wheels than the V8s, with 6.50 X 13” rims running blackwall bias-ply tires. Actually, even the V8s had these tiny 4-lug wheels until September ’64, when they moved up to 14” wheels with 5 lugs (one more difference between the so-called ’64-1/2 and a ’65). All Mustangs came standard with front bucket seats with vinyl upholstery, although a bench seat was optional, although few chose it. Molded nylon & rayon full carpeting was standard

Early Mustangs, 1964-1/2s built prior to September 1964 had the option for 2 interiors that included cloth and vinyl inserts, in black and palomino, but these were eliminated on the later cars, known as ‘65s. Early and late cars came standard with a vinyl interior in 5 colors, and molded Rayon/Nylon carpeting. Starting in March 1965, later cars had the option of the Interior Decor Group, which today is referred to as “Pony Interior”. This included deluxe door panels, special seat upholstery with embossed galloping Mustangs (hence the “Pony”), a woodgrain steering wheel, woodgrain appliques on the glove box door and elsewhere, and a special 5-dial instrument cluster. If it was originally equipped with Pony Interior, the body code on the data plate will have a “B” after it. Standard interior cars will have an “A”.

The Mustang was nothing if it wasn’t versatile. Designed from the outset to appeal to a broad slice of the market by making an endless array of options available, Ford encouraged buyers to order it up any way they liked, to truly “personalize” their car. It wasn’t a totally new concept, but no one had ever done it to such an extent before, and it worked. Engine options, already discussed, included one 6-cylinder and 3 V8s. Transmissions could be a 3-speed manual, a 4-speed manual, or an automatic. You could get power brakes (drum only), or manual front disk brakes (no assist). Power steering was available with a quicker 22:1 ratio, and a neat underdash air conditioning system. And for the performance-minded, a limited-slip differential, styled steel wheels and the Rally-Pac. The Rally-Pac option package included a new instrument cluster with a combination tachometer and clock mounted to the steering column.

There was a wide variety of engines and transmissions to choose from in the Mustang, as part of its whole strategy of encouraging people to “personalize” their own car. Early cars, known today as 1964-1/2s (built prior to September 1964) came standard with an anemic 101hp 170ci six, that itself was an evolution of the 144ci six that powered the 1960 Ford Falcon. Base cars built after September, called ‘65s in the common lexicon, got the more powerful 200ci six, based on the same engine architecture, but with 7 main bearings instead of only 4. The base V8 option for early cars was the 164hp 2-barrel 260 small block, which was replaced in the later cars with a 200hp 289 V8 with 2-barrel. For more performance, early cars could option up to a 210hp 289, whereas ‘65s got a 225hp 289 with 4-barrel carb known as the “Challenger 289” (I guess Dodge wasn’t using the name at the time). In the lightweight Mustang it was good for an 8.5-second 0-60 run, and around a 16-second quarter mile. However, the real performance came with the K-code 271hp 289.

Check out our Small Block Ford V8-section.

The K-code gets its name from the designation in the VIN for this engine. Look for the K on the data plate. There are a lot of clones out there, base V8 cars where someone swapped in a K-code. Nothing wrong with that as long as you’re not paying a price commensurate with an original, authentic K-code Mustang. These engines were superlative, and very advance for the time. The K-code 271hp 289 came only one way: with 480 cfm Autolite 4-barrel, solid lifters, 10.5:1 compression, a dual-point distributor, screw-in rocker arm studs, bigger connecting rod bolts & a larger harmonic balancer. These engines were screamers, meant to work in the 7000rpm-range. With help from a low-restriction air cleaner and high-flow dual exhaust the K-code made 271 hp at 6,000 rpm gross, with a net of around 235hp at the rear wheels. All K-codes got a 4-speed manual transmission and a heavy duty 9-inch rear end with either 3.89:1 or 4.11:1 axle ratios. 0-60 times were in the mid-7’s, and it would run the quarter in the high-15s. Based on Ford’s brilliant small block dating back to 1958, itself a response to Chevy’s highly successful small block, the 289 was both compact and light at only 450 pounds complete, thanks in part to new lightweight thin-wall casting techniques. All K-code cars got the Special Handling Package that included stiffer springs and shocks, and bigger wheels & tires, early cars getting 5.90 X 15s, and later cars 6.95 X 14s.

The GT Equipment Group became available as an option package from February 1965 through August 1965, and thus will have a date code of P through V on the data plate if it is a true GT. Beware of clones. Mustang GTs are one of the most copied cars, and one of the most easily-copied cars, on the market. Some engine work, some stripes, and you’ve got a GT clone. Again, nothing wrong with that as long as you’re not paying genuine, authentic GT prices.

Even if the date codes are correct and the options seem right, there is another way to make absolutely certain your Mustang GT left the Ford factory as a GT. Lift up the trunk mat, and remove one or both of those oblong-round rubber plugs. Put your finger in the hole in a way that allows you to feel around forward of the hole. Is there a bulkhead there, or is it hollow. True GTs had extra suspension bracing in this area and it will be blocked off. Non-GTs will be open inside.

1965 Ford Mustang HARDTOP Body Style

1965 Ford Mustang CONVERTIBLE

1965 Ford Mustang FASTBACK / 2+2

1965 Ford Mustang SHELBY GT350


1964-1/2 MUSTANG (pre-Sept ’64)      

2-door Hardtop


LATE 1965 MUSTANG (after Sept ’64)

2-door Fastback Standard

2-door Fastback Luxury

2-door Hardtop Standard

2-door Hardton Luxury

2-door Hardtop w/Bench Seat

Convertible Standard

Convertible Luxury

Convertible w/Bench Seat















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