1966 Ford Mustang

December 5, 2022 | By Robert Genat

For her graduation from high school in 1966 Penny Streeter’s parents bought her a brand new, fully-loaded, Signal Flare Red Mustang hardtop. Penny drove the Mustang to college and continued to drive it after she was married. The Mustang was always garaged and always received excellent care.

In 1989 Penny and her husband John decided to restore the Mustang. It looked a little tired after 23 years.

A small dent was removed from the right quarter panel along with the usual parking lot dings. Due to the care it had received and the Southern California climate in which the little Mustang spent its entire life, it was rust-free. The Streeters had it painted the original Signal Flare Red and replaced the black vinyl top. They also decided to upgrade the Mustang with the sporty GT option (see sidebar). The 289 engine was pulled and fully rebuilt.

1966 Ford Mustang grill

The Streeters’ son drove the red coupe for a short time, but became more. interested in a °67. fastback Mustang. Soon the little coupe was relegated to a storage area in the back of the family business.

One night in 1994, the Streeters drove it to a local cruise night with a “For Sale” sign in the window.

There the Streeters. met Lou George who was searching for a Mustang. George performed a quick inspection and made arrangements to look at the car again in the light of day.

Buying a car that has been partially restored can be a risky proposition. It takes a keen eye to confirm an owner’s claims of work done and to assess the quality of the car. George had previously restored a Mustang and was aware of the problem areas. He was well aware that Mustangs typically rust in certain areas, so he closely examined the trunk area around the gas tank, the corners of the doors, and in the quarter panel well behind the rear tire. He found it all to be rust-free. A deal was struck and George drove his Mustang home. He knew the car needed attention to details, but most of the major, expensive work had been completed.

1966 Ford Mustang rear

One of the first things George noticed was an overheating problem. He pulled the radiator and had it rebuilt, replaced the water pump, and replaced the heater hoses and radiator hoses and clamps with the correct style.

When the Streeters had the car repainted, the engine compartment was mistakenly painted flat black. George set out to correct this using Mustang restoration guides to help him determine the proper finish for each component.

It took him more than a year, but he removed every nut, bolt, and component that was _ incorrectly painted. The hood hinges, for instance, were stripped and painted silver. One of the most difficult tasks was removing the black paint from the brake lines. George used a small knife to scrape them clean. The components that couldn’t be properly cleaned were replaced.

George spent a great deal of time detailing the interior. Most of the trim pieces could be removed, carefully cleaned, and replaced. A few chrome pieces were pitted and therefore replaced with new pieces. The door and window weatherstrips were replaced.

The wood grain steering wheel had some large cracks, and one half inch long section was missing. George removed the wheel and used a plastic wood filler that closely matched the wheel’s original color to make the repair. He built several layers and then shaped the contours.

FORD'S LEGENDARY 289-cubic-inch V-8
FORD'S LEGENDARY 289-cubic-inch V-8 offers strong performance and durability.

Before adding a clear coat, he added black grain flecks to his handiwork, matching the rest of the wheel.

The brakes and the power steering pump and cylinder were refurbished at a local shop that specializes in Mustangs. He replaced the transmission cooling lines himself and had the transmission adjusted.

As with many restoration projects, there is always some small detail that requires attention. George admits there are two minor things wrong with the GT conversion — incorrect exhaust hangers and the grille should be black. The exhaust hangers are next on the list of repairs, but he may never paint the grille black. He likes the chrome grille behind the fog lights.

1966 Ford Mustang front side

Mustang Buyers Guide

The 19641 through ’66 —f Mustangs are among the most fun-to-own and easiest cars to restore. Early Mustangs are plentiful and reasonably priced. NOS and reproduction parts can be easily obtained. Mustangs were available in every level of trim, from plain-jane grocery-getters to GT musclecars. The most sought-after body style is the convertible, followed by the fastback and the hardtop. A V-8 powered Mustang will always command a higher price. |

1966 Ford Mustang specs

Finding a good car to start your restoration can be difficult if you live in the Rust Belt. Mustangs are susceptible to severe body rust. Floor pans and the unitized underbody structure can almost disintegrate making the car unsafe to drive and impractical to restore. Fortunately, much of the underbody and external sheetmetal is now available in reproduction form. Each car should be examined on a case by-case basis to determine if the body work needed is worth the expense. A trip west may be in the offing if you are interested in a rust-free Mustang. California buyers loved Ford’s little pony car and many original owners (like this writer's mother-in-law) still drive their classic Mustang daily. Because of their sportiness and low cost, a Mustang was the first car for many young men. In their quest for speed, these lads modified their Mustangs with aftermarket, hop-up parts. The level of modification and the skill with which the modification was performed will determine the value of the car. Evaluate any modified Mustang with a critical eye.

The base engine for the early Mustangs was an inline six mated to a three speed manual transmission. The six is durable if driven moderately. If overrevved, its lack of a harmonic balancer will transfer some nasty vibrations throughout the engine and parts may start to fly. A better investment is a V-8 Mustang.

Several variations of Ford’s 260- and 289-cubic-inch small block V-8s were installed in the Mustangs. This little engine is powerful, extremely durable, easy to work on, and parts are plentiful. A V-8 Mustang will be more fun to drive and bring a higher resale price, especially if it's one of the optional high-performance versions.

Prior to purchasing a Mustang, put it on a hoist and poke around underneath for rust. Check the body data plate and make sure everything matches. Read the multitude of books written on Mustangs and Mustang restorations. Talk to current owners of a Mustang model you are interested in. They can give you first-hand advice on the condition of Mustangs available in your local area and the prices you might expect to pay. These owners may even direct you to the exact car you desire.

The GT option

The GT option provided the sporty look and handling to go with the Mustang’s hot V-8 performance. GT Mustangs always have a four-barrel carburetor (two different four-barrels were available). This was a great-looking package available on all Mustang body styles. For an extra $152.20, the buyer of a 66 Mustang got the following:

  • Dual exhaust system with chrome tips that extended through the rear valence panel.

  • Special chassis components: heavy-duty front and rear shocks, 21.7:1 fast steering ratio, and larger diameter front sway bar.

  • Front disc brakes.

  • GT fuel filler cap.

  • Special rocker panel racing stripes with the name Mustang spelled out in letters set into the stripe on the front fender. Also on the front fender is a special GT plaque. The standard rocker panel chrome molding is deleted.

  • Fog lamps, chrome grille bars, and a black painted grille.

When restoring a Mustang, adding the GT option is an easy conversion. Be aware that the G option is not coded into the Mustang’s body data plate. This allow a restorer to upgrade his car’s appearance while enhancing the value of the car.

The GT exterior conversion consists of adding the stripes, badge exhaust tips, and fog lights. A mechanical conversion would be a I more work and money. It require: the addition of disc brakes, heavy duty springs, heavy-duty shocks, fast-ratio steering box, and heavy duty front sway bar.

All of the parts required for the GT conversion, be it cosmetic or mechanical, are available from the many Mustang parts mail order houses.