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Haynes Project 50: 1965 Mustang Restoration (Part 1)

Haynes Project 50 Before 1

What did we get ourselves into?

Back in 2010, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Haynes manuals being published, we did something a little different. Instead of buying a late model car and tearing it down to produce our typical service manual, we found a 1965 Ford Mustang, tore it down, and restored it to better than new condition. This was Haynes Project 50, and it allowed us to produce our 1964-1973 Mustang Restoration Guide, one of the best resources ever for restoring a first-generation Mustang.

While doing the complete teardown and restoration we documented it as we normally do for the book, but we also produced a series of YouTube videos. Here's how the car looked when we first got it from the garage in Oklahoma where it had sat for more than 20 years.

Wanting to do this project car restoration as realistically as possible, we bought a "barn find" thousands of miles away via eBay auction, with just a few pictures and a brief description. Then we doubled down on it by paying to have a professional shipper pick it up and haul it across the country to our California offices. Still, used first generation Mustang prices are lower in the plains states than on the California coast.

When we got the car, it was hard to believe that Haynes was only the third owner! Thanks to spending its entire life in Texas and Oklahoma, and much of it indoors, the body had no major rust issues, but that was the extent of the good news. We knew the car was a convertible with the factory AC unit. We found out how bad the top and interior were, and discovered the saggy springs, rusty suspension, faded red respray (it was originally blue), and much more. Thankfully, there were no issues so major we couldn't handle them.


Project 50 interior before

Under the hood

Under the hood was about par for the course: a 289 cubic inch V8 with about a million miles and 40 years of grease and gunk on it. Though someone ordered AC on the car in 1964, they did not get the optional power steering or power brakes, and sometime over the years, the AC compressor had gone mission too. The factory C4 three-speed automatic transmission was still there though and seemed to be in working order; it wasn't even leaking much fluid.

The motor did turn and even had decent compression, but we didn't try to get it to run as we were going to document a rebuild anyway. We were a bit disappointed that it was the base 200 horsepower 289 motor with a two-barrel carburetor, and not a factory four barrel, or a 271 horsepower HiPo 289.

We were planning on doing a straight restoration, and not modifying or improving the car in any way. That means sticking with the factory drum brakes and single circuit master cylinder, which will be more than matched by the base 289 motor in modern stop and go traffic. It is tempting (and easy) to improve a base model Mustang to a level not even Carroll Shelby through possible in the 1960s, but this project is not about that. When finished, it will be the exact car it was in 1965 when it rolled off the dealer's lot.

In part two we began to clear out the accumulation of dirt and dead animals from inside the interior, and remove the trim and exterior panels to start the pre-paint body work. In part three we stripped out the rest of the drivetrain and pared the body down to the bare shell, then organized all the parts. Part four involved the dusty and hot work of media blasting the old shell, after bracing it properly, and beginning the engine rebuild. And in the finale, part five, we show you how it all came together to produce a car that looks better than it did when it rolled out of the factory in 1965.