On April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang debuted. It represented a years-long collaboration between Ford’s many departments. It’s impossible to explain all aspects of the Mustang’s immediate success. But at least some success is due to the 1965 Ford Mustang’s specifications and features.
The Mustang’s first-generation saw many quick changes. The 1964.5, 1965, and 1966 Mustangs are so visually similar they’re often misidentified. Between the 1964.5 and 1965 Mustang alone there were substantial mechanical changes, and then again between ‘65 and ‘66.
Data Plate Information
On the driver’s side door of a 1965 Mustang, there’s a small metal data plate. This data plate is loaded with information if you have a data plate decoder. “Trim Codes” and “Engine Codes” condensed complex specs to one or two characters.
Ford often reused these characters. This meant that while an “H” paint code meant Caspian Blue in 1965, it meant Sahara Beige in 1966. The codes we’ve listed below in association with options may not indicate the same options for years other than 1965.
1965 Ford Mustang Specs
|200 CID Inline-6
||120 hp @ 4,400 RPM
||190 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM
|289 CID 2-Barrel V8
||200 hp @ 4,400 RPM
||282 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM
|289 CID 4-Barrel V8
||225 hp @ 4,800 RPM
||305 lb-ft @ 3,200 RPM
|289 CID Hi-PO V8
||271 hp @ 6,000 RPM
||312 lb-ft @ 3,400 RPM
||Adj. for Inflation
|1965 Mustang Hardtop
|1965 Mustang 2+2 Fastback
|1965 Mustang Convertible
|1965 Mustang Hardtop
|1965 Mustang Fastback
|1965 Mustang Convertible
|1965 Shelby GT350
|1965 Shelby GT350R
|Silver Smoke Gray
Interior Trim Colors
|Luxury Two-Tone w/White
1965 Mustang Engine Options
The 1965 Mustang offered four engine options. Of these, three shared the same 289 cubic-inch displacement. Many purists will tell you there’s no replacement for displacement. These three engines show how other factors affect power.
200 CID In-Line Six
The base engine is one of the major differences between 1964.5 and 1965 Mustangs. The very first Mustangs used a 170 CID engine. By 1965 it became clear that the Mustang needed a little more power.
The 200 CID engine is part of Ford’s Thriftpower line. The 1965 version of this engine had several improvements over its 1963 version. It featured seven main bearings and five freeze plugs. The result is a stable inline-six engine.
Though the Mustang only used this engine through 1971, it remained in production through 1984.
One unusual aspect of ordering a 6-cylinder engine in ‘65 was that it changed your wheels. While all V8 Mustangs had 5-lug wheels, V6 Mustangs had 4-lugs.
200 CID I6
|Specification||200 CID I6
|Bore x Stroke
||3.5” x 2.94”
289 Challenger V8
The Challenger was a budget V8. While the six-cylinder had a single barrel carb, and the two other V8s had four barrels, the Challenger alone had a two barrel option.
This engine was a new addition for the 1965 year. Previously, a 260 CID V8 had been offered. The 289 small-block Ford engine was positively received. It had more power than the 260 CID, but was still affordably priced.
289 CID V8 W/2-Barrel Carb.
|Specification||289 CID 2V V8
|Bore x Stroke
||4.00” x 2.87”
289 Challenger Special V8
This engine existed as a middle option. A compromise between the budget Challenger, and the K-code high-performance V8. Like most compromises, it wasn’t very popular.
This V8 was able to produce 25 more horsepower than the Challenger. This was primarily due to the addition of a 4-barrel carburetor and a higher compression ratio.
This particular engine was only offered on the Mustang for two-years.
289 CID V8 w/4-Barrel Carb.
|Specification||289 CID 4V V8
|Bore x Stroke
||4.00” x 2.87”
289 Challenger High Performance V8
The Hi-Po, K-Code, 289 CID V8 is perhaps the most fondly remembered of the first generation. Less than a single percent of all the Mustangs made between 1964.5 and 1987 were equipped with this engine.
Every Shelby GT350 produced between ‘65-’66 had a K-code engine. This definitely contributed to the K-code’s fame, but that’s not all of it.
The HiPo engine featured a number of mechanical advancements. It was able to outpace engines with identical displacements. It had solid lifters, improved cam timing, improved exhaust manifolds, a seriously enhanced carburetor, and a counterweighted crankshaft.
In short, it had every feature and top-of-the-line piece available.
So why were so few ordered? Price.
To upgrade to a K-code engine cost $327.92. Accounting for inflation, that’s $2,618.08. It was a lot, and the Mustang was made to appeal to young people on a budget. Those lucky enough to stumble on a K-code Mustang now can more than make up that initial investment. The K-code’s rarity and quality makes it desirable to collectors.
289 CID HiPo V8
|Specification||289 CID HiPo V8
|Bore x Stroke
||4.00” x 2.87”
1965 Mustang Transmission
The transmission options contributed to the 1965 Mustang’s sales success. Having an automatic transmission available reinforced that the Mustang was for everyone.
There was only one automatic transmission, which makes identifying it very easy. The only Mustangs that could not be equipped with an automatic transmission were ones with the HiPo V8 engine.
The 1965 Mustang’s manual transmissions get a little trickier.
In the early days of Mustang, Ford assembled orders quickly and across multiple plants. Understandably, there’s a lot of confusion about which specific transmission each Mustang has.
Here’s what we know about each.
In literature at the time, C4 transmissions were referred to as “cruise-o-matics.” Though it was an option with a premium attached, it was still popular. The C4 used a floor-mounted t-bar shifter.
- First Gear: 2.46
- Second Gear: 1.46
- Third Gear:1.00
The base three-speed manual transmission was standard in six-cylinder Mustangs. This was a basic Ford Toploader with a floor mounted shifter. One interesting feature was that the first gear wasn’t synchronized.
For the 1966 Mustang, Ford added a synchronized first gear. The gear ratios also changed between the two years.
- First Gear: 2.77
- Second Gear: 1.69
- Third Gear: 1.00
Improved 3-Speed Manual
This three-speed Toploader transmission was more durable than the one used with six-cylinder engines. It is often referred to as the “3.03” Toploader, though ratios changed based on application. Others refer to them as bulletproof, or idiotproof, transmissions. These transmissions are still prized for their incredible durability.
- First Gear: 2.99
- Second Gear: 1.75
- Third Gear: 1.00
The 1965 4-speed manual is a contentious subject with Mustang enthusiasts. It’s by far the murkiest of the early Mustang’s transmissions. From what’s verified, we can establish there were several 4-speeds used. The most famous of these is the Borg Warner T-10, though it’s far from the most common.
The T-10 came in two versions. The Shelby GT350s were equipped with a T-10, but one with an aluminum case. The Shelby’s T-10 also had a 2.36 first gear instead of a 2.73.
1965 marked the beginning of the T-10’s phase out. For years, Ford had worked on its own competing transmission with Tremec. The Tremec T-170 was the result, and it was used in many 1965 Mustangs as well.
Saying “the” Tremec T-170 is a little misleading. There were over 150 variants of the T-170 through the years. In ‘65 Mustangs, the four-speed Toploader was available in both a close and wide gear ratio.
For the most part, K-code Mustangs used the close-ratio version, and A-code Mustangs used the wide-ratio transmission.
1965 Mustang 4-Speed Transmission Specs
|Transmission||First Gear||Second Gear||Third Gear||Fourth Gear
|Close Ratio Toploader
|Wide Ratio Toploader
1965 Mustang Performance Options
In addition to engine and transmission options, there were several other upgrades available. These included specialized packages as well as more general upgrades, like power steering.
Front Disc Brakes
1965 was the first year that the Mustang offered front disc brakes. They wouldn’t become standard equipment until 1974 and were slow to gain popularity. This shouldn’t be read as a lack of interest though. While many Mustang buyers dreamed of K-code engines, four-speed transmissions, and front disc brakes, price was absolutely a factor.
Adding disc brakes was only an option with a V8, and even then, it cost an extra $58.
Upgrading classic Mustangs to disc brakes has become a popular conversion. In addition to being more functional, disc brakes are also more attractive. There are a number of other differences between drum and disc brakes that make disc brakes more appealing.
Special Handling Package
The handling package was meant to be exactly that. This package included suspension parts for enthusiasts who planned on “spirited” driving. That meant larger shock absorbers, a bigger stabilizer bar, and stiffer front and rear springs.
1965 Mustang GT
Another important first for the 1965 Mustang was the addition of a GT package. Ford was still clearly feeling out what “GT” would mean in the future. The GT name is borrowed from Ford’s 1966 Le Mans-winning GT40. Racing stripes around the rocker panels were the only feature shared by the GT40 and GT Mustang.
The GT package cost $165 and was only available with the A and K engine options. The upgrade included the Special Handling Package and front disc brakes.
A dual exhaust system, grille-mounted fog lights, and gauge cluster rounded out the package. Then, of course, it got specialty badging.
1965 Shelby Mustangs
There weren’t many Shelby Mustangs made in 1965. Not even a thousand. But they did exactly what they were supposed to: Inject performance credentials into the Mustang.
All Shelby GT350’s started as a 2+2 Fastback Mustang. Then Carroll Shelby added a laundry list of upgrades.
These improvements have since become a kind of build sheet for those looking to create the feel of a Shelby without the price tag.
- K-Code Engine
- Limited Slip Differential
- Wider Wheels
- Tubular Metal Headers
- Straight-Through Mufflers
- Increased Oil Capacity (6.5 Quarts Instead of 5)
- Borg Warner T-10 Transmission with Aluminium Case
- Tachometer and Oil Pressure Gauge
- Front Disc Brakes
- Heavy-Duty Rear Drum Brakes
- Larger Anti-Roll Bar
- Adjustable Koni Shocks (Front and Rear)
Honestly, at $4,311 dollars, the 1965 Shelby GT350 was kind of a steal and we’ll forever curse our parents’ names for not purchasing one. Even adjusted for inflation that’s only $34,418.55. An actual 1965 Shelby GT350 can sell for close to a quarter-million. A Road & Track review at the time agreed that considering the vehicle, those prices were almost absurdly reasonable.
1965 Mustang Design and Appearance
The Mustang’s mechanical specifications are impressive. Not just because of the high-performance options, but also the low performance ones. It was a car with universal appeal. And a huge part of that appeal was the design and appearance of the Mustang.
Creating the First Mustang
Lee Iacocca was often referred to as the father of the Mustang. Though he was an engineer, Iacocca didn’t craft the mechanics of the Mustang, but rather the appeal of it. As baby boomers reached driving age, Iacocca knew they’d want something fast, fun, and inexpensive. It needed to look young, and feel sporty.
He and the Fairlane Committee, a brainstorming team he assembled, created a list of requirements. The main objectives were to create a car under 2,500 pounds that would cost less than 2,500 dollars. There were other ideas floating around as well. The committee wanted it to appeal to women and men. They wanted it to feel like an enthusiast’s car, but be easy to maintain. It took countless meetings, but eventually the Fairlane committee formed a “dream car” list of design desires.
Then, Iacocca challenged Ford’s designers. Gale Halderman, the designer who created the winning design, estimated that the Mustang broke, or at least bent, at least 75 of Ford’s rules at the time. But he also knew that the design team, the engineering team, and the test team all felt the same way about their project. It was something special.
And Halderman wanted to break one more rule.
Mustang Body Styles
Though the hardtop and convertible are beautiful, the fastback body style has become the most iconic. It was the one selected for the GT350s and the style that would lead to the Bullitt.
But the fastback body style almost didn’t happen.
Halderman and the design team knew they had one shot at convincing Henry Ford II to build the fastback.
In secret, they designed a fiberglass shell fastback Mustang and painted it Candyapple Red. Once they were sure it looked perfect, they covered it with a tarp for the unveiling. Then, they brought Iacocca to look at it. When the team saw Iacocca twirl his cigar, they knew he was as in love with it as they were.
1964.5 Mustangs only come in hardtop and convertible styles, but the 1965 Mustang gained the Fastback.
The fastback is usually referred to in literature as a 2+2. The first two refers to the front seats and the second to the seats in the rear. This meant it included a rear seat that could fold down.
1965 Mustang Interior Options
The 1965 Mustang’s standard interior was a single color crinkle vinyl with color-keyed carpet. While most interiors had adjustable bucket seats, bench seats were available. There were several interior colors available as well. A 1965 Mustang data plate includes an interior trim code, which can tell you the original interior.
Unlike many other vehicles at the time, the Mustang also included standard lap belts. Unfortunately, Ford offered a price reduction for requesting a Mustang without seat belts. Rear seat belts were also optional. Overall, the Mustang’s interior options were relatively spartan.
ComfortWeave, a premium option, allowed for a fabric/vinyl combination feel. Finding ComfortWeave in good condition is challenging. Some companies like TMI create replica ComfortWeave designed for durability.
The Pony Package
The Pony Package was also referred to as a Luxury interior or Deluxe Interior option. The “Pony Package” nickname came from the seats, which were embossed with running ponies. The two-tone embossed seats were the most striking feature of the package.
Other improvements included woodgrain appliques on the dash and door panels as well as a simulated wood-rim steering wheel. It also included the GT packages Gauge cluster. At $107, the pony pack was pricey, but included enough features to incentivize purchasers to select it.
The Mustang’s Success
The Mustang felt special to everyone who worked on it before the public ever even saw it. When Iacocca went to introduce it at the World’s Fair on April 17, 1964, the response was overwhelming. It was inexpensive! There were so many options! It was fast! It looked sporty but classy, and men and women were both drawn to it.
559,500 1965 Mustangs were sold. Many within the first few days. It was the Mustang’s second best selling year of all time. Only 1966 saw more success, with 607,500 sold. It only took two years for over a million Mustangs to be sold.
Since then, the Mustang has been in continuous production, and is a treasured automotive icon today.
1965 Mustang Legacy
The 1965 Mustang launched a pony car revolution. It’s no surprise that it’s been featured in several movies, tv shows, and other cultural references. It continues to be one of the top selections for “dream car” surveys.
The enduring appeal of this pony car comes down to its mechanical options, attractive appearance, and customizability. The great price point didn’t hurt either.
The James Bond film Goldfinger was the first to showcase a first-generation Mustang, but it wouldn’t be the only one. In The Princess Diaries, restoring an early Mustang is the dream of a girl just learning to drive. In The Bucket List, Morgan Freeman’s list includes “driving a Shelby Mustang.”
The ‘65 Mustang’s appeal runs one of the widest ranges of any vehicle. Maybe it’s not surprising then that it’s specifications do the same. From humble inline-sixes mated to C4 transmissions to the super-built GT350s, there really was a Mustang for everyone.
Image Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Creative Commons 4.0