Ford put its first Mustang on sale 50 years ago last Thursday. It became a roaring success, and more than 418,000 were sold in the first year. Fiftieth anniversary celebrations are taking place across the country, but two local Mustang enthusiasts, Werner Henze and Grant Martin, only have to walk into their garages to celebrate because they still own the Mustangs that they bought new that first year.
Martin, 73, of Shawnee, bought his car in May of 1964. Henze, 69, of Grain Valley, bought his car on April 16, 1965. They believe they are the only two Mustang owners in the Kansas City area that have owned their first-generation Mustangs since they were new.
When the two got together earlier this week for a photograph they immediately began poking under the hood of each other’s car, pointing out the differences between the 1964 and the 1965. Their knowledge of intricate details was fascinating.
Martin’s car has a generator while Henze’s car has an alternator, and that explains why the 1965 has an indentation in the inner fender. Horns are mounted in different places and the grille surround is slightly different. The yellow-top coil on Henze’s car has the correct look.
In May of 1964 Martin saw his first Mustang spinning on a carousel at a Ford dealership in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was 20 years old and had just graduated from McGill University in Montreal with an engineering degree. He plunked down $2,795 and took possession of his car on May 25. It has a 260-cubic-inch V-8 and a three-speed automatic transmission.
As so often happens with early Mustangs, rust was an issue, and Martin has had several places repaired. He had the body refurbished and repainted in 2006. The car was originally yellow, but he changed the color to burgundy on its first repaint.
In 1989, at 450,000 miles, the engine needed new valves and piston rings. It now has more than 603,000 miles.
“The Mustang is my first car. I was just out of college and starting a new phase of my life. Over 50 years we have been to many places together and driven hundreds of thousands miles together, “ Martin said.
“I got a fox terrier two months after I bought the Mustang, and we spent a lot of time riding in the Mustang. When I restored the car, I left the old side windows because they had scratches from when she saw a bear in Yellowstone Park.
“Not having my Mustang any more would be hard to fathom. I know the day is going to come when we have to finally separate. We are now both quite old in terms of years, and I want to enjoy the remaining time with the old car while I still can.”
On April 1, Henze bought his car from Sunset Ford in St. Louis for $2,450. He took possession on April 16, one day shy of the Mustang’s first anniversary. His car had the 225-horsepower, 289-cubic-inch V-8 and the optional handling package that cost $31.
“I considered a Ford Falcon Sprint V-8, but I bought the original pony car,” Henze said. “It’s always been fun to drive and gets plenty of thumbs-up.”
Henze drove his Mustang daily for 25 years while living in St. Louis, Chicago and Kansas City. Salty roads and bad weather took their toll on his dark-green gem, and rust began to eat away at it. In the mid-1980s he decided it was time for a major restoration. It took about 18 months for all of the rusty body panels to be cut out and replaced, but the little Mustang looks as fresh as it did when it rolled out of Sunset Ford. He estimates his car has more than 250,000 miles.
Twenty-five years ago he put in a new engine and a four-speed manual transmission. He has added racing springs front and rear, new upper and lower control arms, rack and pinion steering, a large sway bar and Koni shocks.
Today, Blue Springs Ford is having a Mustang birthday party from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and local Mustang clubs will display models from every generation. Both cars should be there, weather permitting.