My experience in the 1966 Ford Mustang Convertible, the King of the ‘60s
Sporting Bears gave myself and many others the chance to get a ride in a ‘66 Mustang Convertible and it was a truly special experience.
The year was 1964 and Ford’s Vice President, Lee Iacocca, had predicted a new market revolving around young people who were about to buy their first car.
From this prediction came the birth of what might just be the most iconic car ever built, the Mustang. It’s launch was so successful that, to this day, it still holds the record for most examples sold during launch. In 2018, the number of Mustangs built surpassed 10 million.
Sporting Bears - a charity which supports disadvantaged children by charging for passenger rides in some of the world’s most unique cars - were present at The British Motor Show. One car they had was a 1966 Ford Mustang Convertible and, being an avid Mustang fan, I leaped at the opportunity to go out in it.
Under the body
The design team had five goals for the Mustang: It would cost under $2,500, feature power options and have a luxurious interior, be no more than 5 metres in length and weigh less than 1,100kg, comfortably seat 4, and have bucket seats and a floor-mounted gear shifter. Of these 5 goals, the design team properly achieved 4 of them. Whether the car weighs what it's supposed to however is up for debate. Though the straight-six version weighed 1,166kg (which is close to Ford’s target), the V8 weighs 1,361kg - that’s over a quarter of a tonne more than the car’s target weight.
To save money, Ford had to use components derived from the Falcon and Fairlane which is part of the reason for the Mustang’s boat-like cornering abilities. On the topic of negative handling, convertibles are often despised within the automotive community purely because they compromise on performance. With the 1966 Mustang however, the convertible’s frame is far stiffer than that of the coupé which is why unlike the convertible, the hardtop faced durability issues.
In its first year of production, 303,408 Mustangs were built making it one of the best-selling cars of all time.
On the road
Built in the 1966 model year, this Mustang Convertible is equipped with a 4.7-litre V8 engine which pushes out 225 bhp. This power is then fed through a 3-speed automatic transmission. The idea of an automatic transmission may not sound too appealing when in fact the opposite is true - more on this later.
As previously mentioned, the first-gen Mustang borrowed many of its components from the Falcon and Fairlane which is why it has handling which can be compared to that of an injured elephant. In the corners, you’ll feel yourself slowly mounting the door of the car; there is that much roll. Under braking however, you won’t find yourself moving as much because of how weak the brakes actually are.
In terms of straight line speed, the Mustang doesn’t exactly thrill its passengers. Instead, it does something much better: it reminds them of a better time, a time where cars were built for fun and not for practicality. Overtaking requires a little extra pressure on the throttle but this is rather rewarding, take a listen:
Going back to the topic of the automatic transmission, I feel as if it suits a car like the ‘66 Mustang because it’s a car which makes you want to put the radio on, lower the roof, and just cruise.
The handling of the Mustang is rather odd. It’s what I choose to critique the most and yet it’s what I understand the most. Back in the ‘60s, Ford designed a car for a new generation, one which was cool and affordable. Nobody really cared about how stiff the suspension was or how quickly it could come to a stop, it was a Mustang and regardless of how it performed, it was the coolest car of its time.
In a 2004 interview, Project Design Chief Joe Oros shared his goals when he designing the Mustang: “I told the team that I wanted the car to appeal to women, but I wanted men to desire it, too. I wanted a Ferrari-like front end, the motif centered on the front — something heavy-looking like a Maseratti, but, please, not a trident — and I wanted air intakes on the side to cool the rear brakes. I said it should be as sporty as possible and look like it was related to European design.”
These goals for design are certainly different to most, some would even call them wrong. What matters however is how the Mustang has looked across its 57-year life which can be summarised into three words: timeless, not dated. And for me, this ‘66 convertible comes from the best looking era of Mustang. Though it’s not as menacing as the Camaro from its time, the Mustang looks absolutely beautiful. Separated from other muscle cars of the ‘60s by its unique design features, there is nothing else quite like it.
Moreover, the latest Mustang bears a resemblance to the original car. The brake lights of the first-gen Mustang for instance are something which are also visible on today’s car. Moreover, the design of the 2021 bumper follows that of its grandad.
The effect of this? People who aren’t even into cars are able to identify this 55-year-old convertible, not as a Ford, but as a Mustang.
The most surprising part about the Mustang for me wasn’t its performance or sound, it was actually its interior. It is an incredibly comfortable and surprisingly luxurious place to be, meaning it’s a car you can actually use. Finished in blue and cream, the interior of this particular car beautifully complements the exterior; something which you further appreciate once you lower the roof. Lowering the roof can be done electrically which was quite the surprise for me.
This particular example features the Interior Decor Group which earned the name “Pony Interior”. This package decorates the interior with some embossed running ponies on the seats and armrests. In addition to this, you also get wood grain appliqué accents, and a round gauge cluster but personally, I prefer the normal gauge cluster as it’s more unique.
In my opinion, this 1966 Mustang did indeed fall short to the Chevrolet Camaro when it came out all those years ago. With that being said, almost 60 years on, the Mustang is widely recognised as the best ever muscle car. It’s the one which started every automotive enthusiast’s guilty pleasure, muscle cars.
And for that, we owe the Mustang a thank you.
Sporting Bears is a UK-based charity dedicated to putting a smile on the faces of disadvantaged children. Currently, Sporting Bears has raised over £2,500,000 and now regularly raise over £200,000 per annum for charity. Last weekend alone, Sporting Bears managed to raise a total of over £40,000 at The British Motor Show; I was kindly invited to this event.
From an Ariel Nomad to a Lamborghini Aventador, there was a wide range of cars at the event. Like with Sporting Bears’ other events, all present vehicles were available to book for passenger rides for cash, all of which goes to charity - the money does not even contribute to the fuel cost of all the cars.
You can view their list of upcoming events along with more information about what they do by clicking here.