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Genealogy of a Classic: Finding the History of Your Mustang

December 8, 2014

Process Photograph for 1965 Ford Mustang Advertising (Object ID: 68.300.1031.9).

The Mustang, America’s original pony car, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  When the first generation Mustangs were being built, no one anticipated that they would become American classics and popular vehicles for restoration.

We have many cool pieces of Mustang history here at The Henry Ford, from...

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advertisements...

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... to sales brochures...

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...and even to Mustang Serial Number One.

We also have a large collection of Ford Motor Company records from 1903 to the mid-1950s, including photographs, publications, product literature, and oral histories. You can search through our online catalog to find out more information on this varied collection here.

In 1964, when we acquired the bulk of the Ford Motor Company collection for the archives, Mustang material was not included.  So, one piece of this iconic history that cannot be found here are Mustang vehicle assembly records (a.k.a. production records).

The only partial source of Mustang production information that we know of is the website for Marti's Autoworks.  For 2005-2006 Ford GT build books you can contact the Ford Motor Company Corporate Archives at Archives@Ford.com.

The VIN provides some information; the body number plate provides much more information. If the body number plate is missing, it is likely that the information is lost.

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There is the possibility that a "Teletype build sheet" is under the carpet, under the mat in the trunk, under the headliner or hood blanket, inside a door, between the dash and the cowl, etc.  These sheets contained the instructions to the assemblers regarding the vehicle details and there were several identical copies per vehicle taped on the radiator support, inside the body, on the dash panel, on the motor, etc. before assembly in the vehicle.  They were supposed to be removed but were often left behind.  Sometimes they were wadded up and tossed into interior cavities that were soon to be covered with trim panels.  Some of the information on the sheets is coded in the same way as the body number plate; other information is coded differently.  The Henry Ford does not have the materials necessary to decode all the information on the sheets; the club noted below may have that information.

There are two books that provide additional information for identifying coding on body tags, parts, etc. They were written by Jim Smart and Jim Haskell and are available from the publisher at: Mustang Production Guide, Dept. MDM, P.O. Box 883, Annandale VA 22003.

  • Mustang Production Guide, Volume 1, 1964 1/2 – 66
  • Mustang Production Guide, Volume 2, 1967-73
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    There are many clubs devoted to the Mustang and club members are excellent sources of information regarding vehicle details, sources of parts, and advice regarding maintenance and restoration.  A number of Mustang clubs have their own websites.  These can be searched through the Internet. The Mustang Club of America, the largest club devoted to Ford’s pony car, can be found here.

    mustang-genesisInformation is not available regarding the dealerships that sold the cars, the persons to whom they were first sold, or their service histories.  The number of early Mustangs still on the road is effectively impossible to determine because vehicle registration information is in 50 state departments and many foreign departments.

    The history of the Mustang project from concept to customer can be found in the books Mustang: The Complete History of America's Pioneer Ponycar by Gary L. Witsenburg (Automobile Quarterly Publications, 1979.) as well as Mustang Genesis by Bob Fria, and Mustang, 50 Years by Donald Farr.

    Stephanie Lucas is Research Specialist at The Henry Ford.

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