1965 Mustang: Out with the old, in with the Right Stuff

If you like to drive more than turning wrenches, why would you want a shell sitting around the garage for five years sucking your wallet and your patience dry? Rhetorical question answered below in Part 8 in our series on rebuilding a 1965 Mustang.

*For Part 1, click here.


Starting with a restored car has a number of benefits when it comes to a project like this.

OK, I know, this week was supposed to be Part Two (click here for Part One) of the installation of our second — yes, second — and completely different rear suspension, but it’s a good time to step back, take a breath, and look at the car itself and the concept we’re going for.

Avid followers will recall that this 1965 Mustang 2+2 was never bought with the intention of being a project car. That’s how it usually works. It was a quality restored car that we bought for promotional purposes. You know, show it and talk to nice folks about where you can read our stories.

It only became a project car, funny enough, after no one actually wanted to drive it to promotional events, which sort of defeated the purpose of having it.


In an apparent deliberate effort to do everything twice — or even three times — we rebuilt and dyno tested the 289 cubic-inch V-8 that came in the car. But this is obviously not that engine. Should we have started with a finished car or a clapped-out project? Stay tuned for our engine build(s).


Straight talk? It was a horrible little car.

It wouldn’t stop or turn very well, and it needed a wide berth in city traffic to make lane changes and to avoid smashing into the backsides of unsuspecting commuters. It was an absolutely nerve-wracking contraption.

Of the three project cars I’m documenting on a rotating basis, the Mustang represents what can be done to a vehicle that was already a lovely piece of eye candy to make it drive like a more modern car. The 1970 Plymouth is a no-holds-barred bank-account-draining attempt at reinventing the wheel. The 1963 Corvette is more of a straight-up restoration.

A project such as this retina-searing red Mustang is possibly the least amount of work of the three because, well . . . the car was already completed. No paint or bodywork had to be done. It could be a Chevelle, Demon, AMX or GTO, or whatever turns your crank. It doesn’t matter the brand.

You could put a half-finished car in the garage and probably never drive it, or you could go out and buy a totally finished car with the intention of carrying out modifications to ratchet up the driving dynamics.


Improving a finished car has one big advantage: It’s already done. You can drive it.

Cars are fun to work on — usually — but if you like to drive more than turning wrenches and dealing with body shops and engine rebuilders, then why would you want a shell sitting around the garage for five years sucking your wallet and your patience dry? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

You might be all, “Oooo, look, I’m saving money with a fixer-upper,” but people generally sell finished cars for less than they have into them, without even including their labour. Why not take advantage of that so that you’re money and time ahead?

Plus, you can take the time to shop to find a car within your budget. If you begin with a project car, you’re committed to what’s there and the work and dollars it needs. You don’t have a choice if you ever want to see it finished.

Buying a finished car provides a certain pre-purchase flexibility. Is $60,000 for a restored Plymouth ‘Cuda too rich for your blood? Wait and shop some more and maybe you’ll find one for $40,000. Remain flexible and be able to jump on a deal when you see it.


You could buy a completed car, drive it for a couple of summers and then decide if you really want to make modifications. If so, you have all kinds of time to research the changes.



Starting with the right car is the most important step.

Our Mustang was discovered by happenstance at a local cruise night. To take a $5,000 basket-case project car to this level might have cost us another $30,000-$50,000, depending on what was needed and the level of perfection desired. However, the seller of this Mustang was happy to get our offer of $21,500. We end up with the car we wanted, now, and not after years of work and expense in the shop. We’re time and money ahead.

At this point, you can spend a couple of summers cruising around and getting used to it. The weak spots, if any, will appear pretty quickly and you can spend as much time researching what’s available to improve those areas all the while driving the vehicle and presumably enjoying it. Or not enjoying it, which was our situation.

Upgrading the suspension, brakes and steering in a similar fashion to our Mustang isn’t cheap — the bills added up to about $13,000 — but there are less-expensive alternatives to sharpening up an old car as some companies specialize in optimizing the stock setups.

Starting with the right car is the most important step. Maybe even a car that has these modifications already done if that’s the ultimate goal.


1965 Mustang Rebuild – Catch up on the series here:

Part 1, click here.

Part 2, click here.

Part 3, click here.

Part 4, click here.

Part 5, click here.

Part 6, click here.

Part 7, click here.

Part 8, click here. (You are here)

Part 9, click here.


We stumbled on this deal of a Mustang at a local car show. A complete and finished car for about the price of a paint job, interior and engine rebuild. And it’s done. Sort of.

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