For sale: 1966 Ford Mustang

TL;DR: V8 Mustang with a T-5, needy body, great interior, suspension and exhaust need some attention. $13,000 obo for a good driving V8 Mustang with a manual transmission.

Up for sale is my 1966 Ford Mustang. I have literally driven this car all over the United States, making a trip down to the Carolinas for the Mustang 50th Anniversary celebration, a round trip to the West Coast and back, and a trip out to Alaska and back. Between me and several friends, I’m pretty certain that we’ve put approximately 30k miles on the car in the past seven years that I’ve owned it.

The car was built to be a highway cruiser and a comfortable road trip car. I wouldn’t hesitate to hop in this car and drive it to, well, Alaska and back. That said, it is a bit rough around the edges, and is probably best thought of as a driving project car. Hopefully, I will pass this on to someone who will have the time and effort to make this car the “nice car” that I had always hoped it could be, since I don’t have the time and effort to do that myself. Otherwise, you could just buy the car and drive it as-is, and simply do the basics in order to keep the car streetable.

History of the car

I bought the car from a fellow in Royal Oak who had owned the car for approximately a dozen years. It was the first classic Mustang I had test driven, after having driven many other classic sports cars, and I fell in love with the car. I loved the color — celery green! (Or Sauterne Gold, if you want to be official.) It had a black vinyl covered roof, which gave it a touch of class, and with the narrow whitewall tires, looked sort of like a mini Thunderbird. The car had a 4-speed Toploader and a smooth running V8 — my first V8 at that. I foolishly bought the first Mustang I looked at, before I really knew anything about Mustangs, which would result in some teeth gnashing on my part as I began to learn more and more about these cars.

But first, the good. When I first got it, the paint job was very nice. There were signs that the car was repainted metallic blue in its past, and, fortunately, someone had the wisdom to paint the car back to its original color. The car is not an original GT, though it is an A-Code coupe with the 4-barrel 289. Someone added the GT fog lights (and made them yellow, a nice touch!) and the dual exhausts going through the rear valence. The front brakes were changed to period disc brakes. So at a glance, this car looks like a convincing Mustang GT.

But then there are little details abound that betray the fact that this car is a tribute. How does someone put so much effort into the paint job and not bother pinning the badges in the right place?! (This is probably my biggest pet peeve with the car, and one I can’t unsee now that I know about it.

I drove the car to North Carolina with a friend to attend the 50th Anniversary Mustang celebration at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which was my first long distance road trip with the car. A few years later, I drove the car to California solo to visit family in Colorado and friends in San Francisco, before turning north to Seattle to visit more friends, finally turning back towards Detroit, visiting Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park along the way.

In between trips, I would regularly drive the Mustang around town, using it as my “after work” and “weekends” car when I wasn’t commuting to work or traveling out of the state on weekends to compete at autocrosses. I would occasionally do local motorsports with the car, including time-speed-distance road rallies, a few autocrosses, and even one ice race on a frozen lake.

The crowning memory that I have with the car is the road trip and road rally I did last year: running the Alcan 5000. In preparation for the rally, I replaced the carb with a new one, swapped in a T-5 transmission to get an overdrive gear, and changed the rear end ratio to accommodate the trans swap. While changing the ring gear, I also added a Trac-Lok limited slip differential. I had subframe connectors welded in, and added a panhard bar. I drove the car out to Seattle by myself, visiting Banff National Park one the way there, meeting up with my co-driver who flew in to Seattle. We ran the Alcan 5000 in one of the classic car classes, driving up to Fairbanks, Alaska via BC and the Yukon in Canada, finishing first in our class. The car made it through the road rally with only a single failure: the starter. Fortunately for us, starters for small block Fords are relatively easy to find, and we found one in Fairbanks and swapped it into the car.

After the road rally, some friends and I drove the car into Denali National Park and did some car camping and hiking, finishing off my trip with a stop at the 49th State Brewing Company (I highly recommend this place!) and a stop at the Chena Hot Springs. My trip done, I flew back home while two friends from Canada grabbed the keys to the Mustang and then spent another week and a half driving the car back to Dearborn for me.

As such, the state of the car that you see here today is nearly as it was when the car returned from Alaska. If there seems to be some odd wear on the car, keep this in mind…

The body

The paint was once nice. It’s no longer all that nice. Not that the roads to Alaska were all that rough — the vast majority of them are not, and you can essentially take your family sedan and drive it up to Alaska with no issue — but for some of the (optional) special checkpoints, we did take some extremely terrible roads. One road was the McCarthy Road, which was essentially a gravel road where they simply dumped a bed of gravel over railroad ties that were never removed when the route was converted from a rail line to a road. The road was the Dalton Highway, which took us and the Mustang to the Arctic Circle.

So there are lots of chips in the paint, especially on the front of the car. The underside of the fenders directly to the rear of the tires are gravel blasted and are pocked with surface rust. The underside of the car also looks like it was gravel blasted, with the new subframe connectors showing rust spotting, as does the panhard bar mount.

A seam in the floor pan has opened up to the rear of the drivers seat. As the drivers footwell has a riveted patch, my recommendation is to simply weld in a new patch panel for the driver side of the floor pan.

The car is missing its radio aerial, which was knocked off when going up the Dalton Highway, so you’ll need a new one if you want to listen to FM radio in the car.

There is a minor leak in the lower right corner of the windshield that drops water into the passenger side footwell. I’m pretty sure that the culprit is the probably-original-to-the-car rubber windshield seal. There are also minor leaks from the rubber seal for the rear window or backlight, though those leaks aren’t all that bothersome, as the water drips past the rear fenders and goes out the bottom of the rear fender well. I’d suggest changing out both window seals.

The cowl, which is notorious for rusting on these cars, is solid. It’s nice being able to use the cowl vents in a rainstorm when rolling down the windows isn’t an option.

And of course, the badges in the front fenders are pinned in the wrong damn place. One of the badges fell out during a road rally before the Alcan. The “O” in F O R D on the hood fell off during the transit back to Dearborn from Alaska.

I have no idea how many miles are on the chassis. The odometer has rolled over, but I don’t think it has been accurate for the past decade. I suspect that when someone swapped in the old Toploader and changed the rear end, they didn’t switch out the speedo gear, so who knows how long the speedometer and odometer have been incorrect. I’m willing to bet good money that the true mileage of the car is closer to 150k miles than the 110k miles the odometer currently shows.

The powertrain

The car is an A-Code coupe, which meant that it came as a 4-barrel 289 V8 car. According to the door tag, the car came with a 3-speed manual, so someone must have swapped the 4-speed Toploader into the car. The car had the 4-speed with a 2.80 rear end gear, so it drove kind of weird (idling along at 12 mph!). This was part of the motivation of putting the T-5 in the car and changing out the rear end gear ratio — I wanted some gearing that made a little more sense. I also changed to a hydraulic clutch setup as I was tired of constantly fiddling with the manual z-bar linkage. I’ll admit that I didn’t hook up the parking brake mechanism after the swap. When I did the trans swap and the rear end work, I added the Trac-Lok limited slip differential.

The 289 block is original to the car, as far as I know, but it was rebuilt into a 302. I have no idea what they did during the engine rebuild; the previous owner told me he simply wrote a check to the engine builder and got a motor back. I’m pretty sure that it was a stock rebuild outside of the displacement change — it’s running stock headers and a stock intake. I have the original Autolite 4-barrel carb, but it’s off the car and a cheap Summit Racing 4-barrel carb is on the motor now with an electric choke.

When driving the car, the exhaust rattles against the driveshaft and the trans tunnel. I replaced the old exhaust with a new stock-style prebent exhaust, which doesn’t appear to be playing nicely with the slightly larger diameter shortened driveshaft that is in the car now. I’d suggest that a custom bent exhaust be installed to avoid contact with the driveshaft, the trans tunnel, and the panhard bar hardware in the back.

The car does burn a little bit of oil between fill ups. There is occasionally some white smoke from the tailpipes upon startup, so I’m guessing that maybe the rings are getting there in wear. Engine is still strong, but an engine rebuild is probably in its future in the next few years.

The interior

The interior is probably the nicest part of the car. All black, with black carpet, black headliner (in nice shape for what I believe is original to the car!), a black dashboard and dash pad, and black seating surfaces.

The front seats were replaced with aftermarket bucket seats with heavy side bolstering and headrests. I like them because I recline the seat all the way back and nap in the car. They do hinder back seat access, though. I still have the original seats with what is probably the original upholstery and foam; they’re usable seats, but you’d probably want to put new foam in them if you were to reinstall them back in the car. I figured it was a lot easier (and probably cheaper) to go with new seats. The passenger side seat has a trip of tape holding the headrest cover on. Someone handier than I could probably address that.

There is an aftermarket center console in the car (that I paid way too much money for). It has two cup holders (a road trip essential!) and a glove box between the seats. Up front, a double DIN modern radio is installed. I know, it looks out of place, but I had installed an aftermarket Retrosound radio previously, and it conked out in about three years. Unwilling to pay a lot of money for a radio that would get iffy with a ton of use, I relented and got a modern (and much cheaper) head unit and stuck it in the center console. The stock metal dash is not cut; I merely put in a radio blanking plate. Note that I currently don’t have the radio hooked up to the aerial, or, more accurately, the stub of what used to be the aerial.

All the gauges in the dash work. I replaced the dash bulbs so they’re (slightly) readable at night now. I was back there behind the instrument cluster so often that I’ve helpfully labeling every single wire back there. The car has a real Rally Pac mounted on the steering column, though as far as I can tell, they’re actually for a ’65 rather than a ’66. The clock in the Rally Pac is, unsurprisingly, no working.

I have a cruise control stalk mounted on the turn signal stalk, and the cruise works great. One note of caution: I didn’t hook up the clutch safety or engine rev safety switches, so the only way to disengage the cruise is to hit the switch on the turn signal stalk or hit the brakes. I’ve used the cruise for all of my cross country road trips, and it makes this car a genuinely enjoyable ride for long distances.

There is a rally odometer mounted on the glove box door with dual trip displays, powered and fed by a GPS satellite brick mounted on top of the dash. I don’t have any desire to remove that from the car. There’s also a stopwatch holder next to the rally odometer, so you can put a timepiece there and feel like you’re driving the Monte Carlo if you want.

Light switch is relatively new, as is the high/lo beam switch on the floor. The turn signal switch has a weak detent, so it sometimes toggles itself for a left turn signal when quickly turning the wheel to the left. You’d probably want to replace that switch, despite the fact that it was a new switch last year. (Grr.) Speaking of which, the steering shaft threads are a bit knackered, and I’m pretty sure that removing the steering wheel also means replacing the steering rack and its permanently affixed steering shaft, as I don’t think a steering wheel nut will go onto that steering wheel shaft one more time. The steering wheel is also seated in a way that the top of the steering wheel gently rubs against the steering shaft housing.

The steering wheel is a new piece, though. Feels much better than the cracked one it had originally. The steering wheel is a keeper, if you like your really wide steering wheels. Sure does help, as this car is manual steering only, and the “fast” steering box to boot.

The suspension

I replaced the shocks with a very cheap set of KYBs before departing for Alaska. The shocks aren’t dampening like they did when they were new, which I suppose is what one would expect when a complete set of four shocks costs as much as a single 2.5” spring for my autocross car. Perhaps the shocks are good enough for those cars that drive 10k miles in two decades, not cars that drive 10k miles in four weeks. I would recommend replacing the shocks.

The rear springs were replaced last year on the way out to Seattle. There is a slight rake to the car now; I’d recommend changing out the front springs too, as they’re probably original to the car and are likely sagging by almost two inches. Or, put lowering springs on the car, do the Shelby drop, and add shocks to match. (That was the original plan I had for this car.)

As noted above, I’d recommend replacing the steering box in order to address the knackered threads on the steering wheel shaft.

The car needs an alignment. It has positive camber on one of the front wheels, and wears the outside edge of one of the front tires out. Do this after you do your suspension refresh. You’re going to want to put on new tires in the next few thousand miles. Another set of 14″ 215/70-14 tires will run you about $400.

There are new lower control arms on the car, installed last year before the rally.

The car does not have power brakes, but it does have discs in the front. The car will stop with a heavy romp on the brake pedal, and it will stop consistently well. There are new wheel bearings on the front axle. Rear axle also has new bearings.

The pitch

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! If you have any questions about the car, feel free to call or text me.

I’m firm on the price. All you have to do is decide if you’re willing to provide a home for this car or not.

While I’ve described a lot of things that aren’t great on this car, I’ll leave you with this. It’s a fantastic car to drive, and I spent a lot of time sorting things out to make it as pleasant a long distance car as a vintage Mustang can possibly be.

Videos of the car

Pictures of the car


Some folks asked for more pictures and a video of the cold startup. I’m only happy to oblige. I managed to put the car up on my friend’s lift and take some pictures of the underside.