- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2003

Will Thornton had not yet reached his teen years when in April 1964 Ford introduced the 1965 Mustang. He was years away from receiving his driver’s license but even then he knew what he liked.

When he did get that driver’s license his father surprised him with a very worn 1965 Mustang coupe. “It was on its last legs,” Mr. Thornton remembers, but it got him through high school. “That’s the car that got me hooked on Mustangs,” he says.

As he prepared to leave Manassas to enter Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, he left town at the wheel of a 1967 Mustang fastback.

After college, several Mustangs came and went until 11 years ago when he saw an ad offering a 1965 Mustang fastback for sale in Leesburg, Va. Mr. Thornton was living in nearby Haymarket so off he went to investigate. The car appeared solid and complete but it was difficult to ascertain the condition because it was filthy.

The car had recently attained antique status and the odometer showed about 55,000 miles. Mr. Thornton was definitely interested. Negotiations ensued and in May 1992 he drove home in his new-old Mustang. To this day, Mr. Thornton confesses, “I feel very fortunate to have found it.”

Once he got the 1965 Mustang 2+2 fastback home, he cleaned it and found that it was in even better condition than he had hoped. Ford built 680,989 of the 1965 Mustangs from April 1964 until August 1965. A total of 501,965 coupes and 101,945 convertibles rolled out the factory door. The 2+2 fastback model was introduced in the autumn of 1964 and only 77,079 were built. Mr. Thornton’s 2,633-pound Mustang carried a base price of $2,589, considerably less than what he paid 27 years later.

This particular Mustang wasn’t delivered with many optional extras.

“It has no windshield washer, one-speed wipers, no backup lights and no power steering, power brakes or power windows,” Mr. Thornton says. “It doesn’t even have seat belts,” he says, incredulously. “They were a $10 option.”

The Mustang did, however, come equipped with a 289-cubic-inch V-8 engine topped with a two-barrel carburetor, a red “C-stripe” on both sides outlining the indentation, an automatic transmission and an AM radio. Soon after he got the car the radio died as Billy Ray Cyrus was halfway through “Achy Breaky Heart.”

The build plate indicates the car left the factory in November 1964 wearing a coat of Wimbledon white paint, which was resprayed before Mr. Thornton became the owner. Inside, everything is red with the exception of the white headliner. The door panels, seats, carpet and dashboard are all red. The rear seat backs fold down to create more room for cargo.

Mr. Thornton says the history of his car is sketchy but he believes he is the third owner.

He has a hunch the first two owners were brothers in Kentucky, but he can’t swear to it.

“Getting this car was a real find,” Mr. Thornton says. It is exceedingly rare to find a first-year Mustang that hasn’t been molested.

The five louvers on each side of the fastback top work, providing a modicum of ventilation for the rear-seat passengers. They will more than likely be rear-seat passengers only once after experiencing the thinly padded rear-seat cushion on either side of the driveshaft hump.

“It was a diamond in the rough when I got it 11 years ago,” Mr. Thornton says. Since giving the Mustang a thorough scrubbing, the happy owner has kept up with routine maintenance. He also installed an electronic ignition. “Everyone should do that,” Mr. Thornton enthusiastically advises.

The original wheel covers were serviceable but showing signs of wear. “They had overspray from when the car was repainted,” Mr. Thornton says. He recently found a complete set of new-old stock wheel covers with spinner hubs. “The owner wanted $100 each,” Mr. Thornton reports. “I didn’t blink.” They do add a lot of sparkle to the Mustang.

The Mustang’s odometer now registers 81,000 miles and according to the owner, “once in a blue moon,” he will drive it to work in Oakton where he is an AT&T; technician. For that to happen the weather has to be perfect.

Nothing cheers him quite as much as rolling out his Mustang on its 108-inch wheelbase and settling into the red bucket seat behind the three-spoke steering wheel and motoring out for some highway therapy. “At 55 to 60 miles per hour,” he says, “the pipes sound beautiful.”

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