Our own cars: Life with a 1966 Ford Mustang 289GT

2019 marks twenty years of Graeme Hurst having the keys to his Mustang…a brand that’s arguably the automotive equivalent of Coca-Cola when it comes to global recognition. To mark the occasion, he takes a look at the road to his Stang ‘addiction’.

Story by Graeme Hurst

I can so recall seeing the ad for my ’66 Stang…a brief description that included a ‘king of the road’ line. This amusing insertion came thanks to the car’s film director owner, a creative type who’d never touched a spanner but had simply fallen for the four-wheeled icon after it turned up as a prop on a shoot. 


The original advertisement for the car in the classifieds.

This was back in 1999 in the good old days of the weekly printed classifieds. Petrolheads of a similar age will recall the anticipation of waiting for the newsprint publication to come out each Thursday in the pre-online era to see what was on offer!
The seller wanted the princely sum of R30k but came down to R25k over the phone. I could stretch to that but the only snag was the car was in Jo’burg. So (in another pre-online era action) my brother Andrew was dispatched to see the car and snap a few pics to post down to Cape Town (yes the Post Office was once reliable!).

Soon after its purchase, and in its original colour.

I no sooner had the glossy jumbo prints in my hands when I was clinching the deal over the phone. Looking back the cash I shelled out seems trivial but it burnt a hole in my pocket at the time and I justified the spend by concluding that it was better value than the split window Beetle for R30k or a Porsche 911 with Turbo body kit for three times that, on the same page.

Want to go back to original? Get a data plate decoder...

My love for Mustangs started some 20 years before that when my late Dad bought the V8 out of one that ended up on its roof to power the Ford Transit van he was building up. I was 8 years old and didn’t know what a Mustang was but it sure as hell sounded cool. What’s more its engine went like hell and I was soon bragging about it in the school playground. Years later I saw the movie Bullitt and became even more hooked on what is simply the coolest American car in my book.

Facia still features original radio.

Of course the Mustang’s origins are well-known, especially if you’ve seen its cameo appearance in Ford vs Ferrari recently, and stem from the marketing genius of Ford’s Lee Iacocca. He saw a gap in the early 1960s US market for a sporty car that was affordable to the baby boomers but also easily personalised. Iacocca based the car on the Ford Falcon platform to keep costs down and reduce time to market (it hit showroom floors in April ’64).  

Graeme and his Mustang on the very first "trial" SentiMETAL OutRun.

Mechanically the Mustang was straightforward with trusted straight-six cylinder or tarmac-ripping V8 power but he made the attractive shape even sexier (and profitable) with all the options.

From the list of 23 eye-catching colours and various Pony interiors to power-brakes, aircon and a Rally-Pac instrument console….no other car had ever offered so many choices. The list was so vast the joke on the Detroit shop floor was that no two of the 400,000 to roll off the assembly lines in the first year were alike! A minor facelift soon followed as did tweaks to the shape as the Stang evolved every other year to further whet the public’s appetite for the ‘Pony car’.

Graeme enjoys taking "Elvis" on regular car runs.

My appetite was certainly whet when I finally got the keys to Elvis (as the Stang became known after that line in the ad) and he became my daily drive. My then line of work as a management consultant was a bonus on the Mustang front as the company sent us to Chicago for training every year and my trips home soon featured a lot of Mustang-shaped luggage as I stocked up on parts for a light restoration and change to a dark blue hue.

Rare to see a classic Mustang these days on original wheels.

It’s not a Mustang colour but I thought it looked cool and so did loads of admirers: when it was still cream I used to get asked if it was a Valiant but after the re-spray I had a film director follow me home to get my details!

One of the attractions of a Mustang is its simplicity (we’re talking cast-iron, push-rod V8 and a live back axle) and the sheer volume of production, both of which keep parts prices down, even when you’re forking out with greenbacks.

Mustang remains one of THE most desirable and well-known nameplates in the world.

What’s more EVERYTHING is available for them and there are loads of handling and tuning goodies to make yours handle and go. And if originality is your thing then you can restore it to factory spec by deciphering the codes on the build plate.

According to my code book Elvis was Wimbledon White (with a black Pony interior) when it rolled off the lines in Metuchen (the export factory) on the 16th May 1966. And he packed a 4V carburettor, disc brakes and a limited slip diff…all of which I’ve put to good use over the last 20 years of enjoying the ‘king of the road’.

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