Differences Between 1964.5 and 1965 MustangsLast Updated August 4, 2019 | Meghan Drummond
Between April 1964 and April 1965, Ford sold over 418,000 Mustangs. The first year had been an unexpected success, and Mustang Mania wasn’t even in full effect yet. Ford classifies all of the Mustangs produced during this time as ‘65s, and it’s only Mustang enthusiasts who have differentiated between the two.
1964 1/2 Mustangs were manufactured between March 9, 1964, and August 17, 1964. Though at first glance these cars might look the same, there are several key differences that serve as dead giveaways for the year of manufacture.
1964.5 vs 1965 Mustang Differences: Exterior
Fastbacks weren’t available until 1965, but convertibles and hardtops were available in both 1964 and 1965. Even between these similar models though there are small differences in the exterior of these two cars.
The first thing to check is the hood of the car. ‘64-and-a-half Mustangs have what’s commonly referred to as a “stiffening skirt” along the edges of their hoods. This gives it an edge that’s very different from the more rounded edges of the ‘65. This skirt necessitated a matching beveling around the headlights as well. Many ‘64 1/2 Mustangs didn’t have the Ford hood moldings that were given to rest of first-generation Mustangs, but of course some did.
Even if you find a stiffening edge though, it doesn’t absolutely verify that you’re looking at a ‘64. The other external marker many look for are the hood moldings. The ‘64.5 Mustang typically doesn’t have the hood moldings that are seen in ‘65 Mustangs.
Unfortunately, there are several early promotional Mustangs, like the Indy Pace Car, that also had stiffening skirts, and due to the speed Mustangs were being manufactured at, more than a few ’65 Mustangs also made it out of the factory without their hood moldings.
A smaller difference that is a little more telling is in the gas cap. Though the gas cap on either will be styled in the three-notched ’65 style, on the ‘64.5 there won’t be a security cable.
Seven paint colors were only available for ‘64.5 Mustangs. These colors were Guardsman Blue, Skylight Blue, Cascade Green, Phoenician Yellow, Twilight Turquoise, Pagoda Green, Chantilly Beige and Pace Car White.
In 1965, these colors were replaced with Springtime Yellow, Champagne Beige, Silver Blue, Honey Gold, Tropical Turquoise, and Ivy Green.
1964.5 vs 1965 Mustang Differences: Interior
The interior differences are as subtle as the exterior ones. The easiest thing to check is whether or not the passenger side seat is adjustable. In ’64, Ford bolted the passenger seat straight to the floor instead of adding the mechanics to allow for fore/aft adjustments. Fortunately this was fixed by ’65.
Likewise, on the floorboard, the 1964.5 Mustang only had a heel pad, no toe pad, while as the ’65 has both.
The driver’s fresh air knob in the 1964 Mustang is stamped with the letter “A”, and “Off” is centered in between the two possible fan speeds. For ’65, the A is gone, and in its place is a third fan setting.
The door locks of the 1964-and-a-half Mustang were color matched to the interior, but by 1965 Ford decided to make them chrome.
One interior difference that points to an important mechanical difference is in the instrument cluster. In the ’64.5 one of the lights says “GEN” but in ’65 the text had changed to “ALT.”
1964.5 vs 1965 Mustang Differences: Under the Hood:
The ’64 Mustang used a generator instead of an alternator to keep its battery powered, hence the corresponding dash-light change. By ’65 Ford had already changed the 12V generator over to a 12V alternator. Generators use DC current while alternators use AC current. It’s a difference as fundamental as Tesla vs Edison. Though Edison gets more fame, most homes and cars run off of Tesla’s AC current.
Generators create power by spinning a winding of wires inside a magnetic field. Alternators reverse this and spin a magnetic field inside a winding of wires. The alternator has less work to do because the wire winding is heavier than the magnetic field. The alternator is less likely to wear out and is more consistently able to make power.
This means that a car with a generator definitely has more collectible value, but a car with an alternator makes for a better daily driver.
There are other differences under the hood of the ’64.5 and ’65 Mustang. Some are just unusual, like an oil dipstick on the ‘64.5’s passenger side that’s excessively long. Others are more critical.
One fairly critical difference between ‘64.5 and ‘65 Mustangs was that the engine options changed.
VIN Numbers for 1964 and 1965 Mustangs
VINs weren’t standardized until the 1980s, but you can still find out the information you need to know about a classic Mustang as long as you understand Ford’s identification system. The first digit refers to the year produced, unfortunately, that won’t help distinguish between the 1964 and 1965 because Ford used a “5” for both years.
The second digit refers to the manufacturing location. For a Mustang you’ll either see an F or an R. F for Dearborn, Michigan, and R for San Jose, California.
The fifth digit of a Mustang’s VIN refers to the engine code. Only one engine is shared between the ’64.5 and the ’65. For Mustangs with a K code engine, it is considered a 64.5 if it has a serial number that’s less than 25,000 from Dearborn or 125,000 if out of San Jose.
Shelby’s and GTs were ’65 only and while we do know that some extra or mislabeled cars slipped through and made it to Shelby in later years, for ’65 they were all fastbacks, so, to the best of our knowledge, no mythical ’64 Shelby exists.
Please keep in mind that this guide is for informational purposes only. It’s incredibly difficult to tell these vehicles apart especially as these vehicles get older and more restoration is required. It’s never a bad idea to get a second, or even third, opinion before investing in a classic Mustang.
Sources: Motor Books | Mustang Maniac | Shnack | Sciencing | Ure-Kim | Image Credit: All Ford Mustangs | GT Car Lot | Hot Rod
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