When it comes to the Ford Mustang, this is one pony car that really turns out to be difficult to distinguish from one year to the next in some cases. For starters, it began as a 1964-1/2 model, and from there the changes for each new year, for a while at least, were so subtle that they can’t be identified as easily as the GM F-body cars. The Camaro and Firebird were a little easier to distinguish between the early years, but the Mustang required a little more research and some help from the pros.
If you look at just the body of the Mustang, spotting the differences between the 1964.5, 1965, and 1966 is going to be a little more difficult because the car essentially didn’t change shape at all. But there are some subtle differences, and to get a handle on those changes over the years we reached out to our friends at Mustangs Unlimited, and they helped steer us in the right direction. With help from Ralph Price at Mustangs Unlimited, the differences became a little easier to spot.
Mustangs Unlimited gets to see quite a few nice customer cars and has a full catalog for all Mustangs, as well as Cougar and Ford truck/SUV.
Mustangs Unlimited is an online source for just about anything Mustang, with parts and accessories available online, 24 hours a day. There are two warehouses – Manchester, Connecticut, and Lawrenceville, Georgia – that are stocked with your favorite performance parts for 1965-current Mustangs, 1967-’73 Cougar, and 1980-current Ford truck and SUV.
The Mustangs Unlimited website is open all week long, so even when you get that urge to order parts at O’dark-thirty in the morning, you’ll be able to place your order. You can also request a free catalog, or view all the parts and accessories online.
1964.5-1966 Model Differences
The 1965 model did have a couple of minor changes from the 1964.5, most of which are difficult to spot for two reasons: First, most of these changes are not exterior cosmetic differences, and they rely on either opening the hood or checking inside the car; second, some of the changes for 1965 weren’t immediate, and you can find 1964.5 cues on some early 1965 Mustangs.
The 1964.5 (left) won't have the hood molding you see on the 1965-'66 models, however, some early 1965 models were missing the molding, making it difficult to distinguish the two. Other than that, there are only very subtle differences between the '64.5 and '65, and might require opening the hood to find out - as long as it's not one of those early '65 models.
The ‘64.5 doesn’t have a hood molding, and the ’65 does. Since some early ’65s didn’t have the molding, the absence of the hood molding doesn’t necessarily qualify the car as ‘64.5. However, the presence of a hood molding would make it a 1965. A sneaky way to check for sure could be the door lock knob. It’s color-keyed to the interior for 1964.5, and chrome for 1965. Of course, these could have been swapped out.
Though the bodies are the same for 1965 and 1966, the 1965 Mustang has a different grille. The holes in the grille are hexagon shaped (six-sided holes) and the 1966 has slots with chrome horizontal bars. You can also look at the trim on the quarter panel, where the ’65 coupe and convertible have a chrome molding, and the ’66 coupe and convertible have a vertical molding with three horizontal bars. This is on non-GT models, GTs and Fastbacks you’ll have to revert to the grille.
Top: The '64.5 and '65 grille had hexagonal holes, while the '66 grille had horizontal slots, that's a quick way to tell '65 and '66 apart.
Bottom: The quarter panel trim on non-GT coupe and convertibles will help distinguish the '66 from the earlier models.
1967-1968 Model Differences
Identifying a 1967-’68 model from the 1964.5-’66 models is a little easier. The first body change for the Mustang, the 1967-’68 body was slightly larger than the early years. The 1964.5-1966 Mustang has a specific body crease line that will be a little bit lower than on the 1967-1968 models.
Top: The 1967-'68 body crease line is higher up, and the headlamp bucket butts up to the grille. The 1964.5-'66 will have a panel between the grille and headlamp bucket with three scallops on it.
Bottom: You can tell 1967 from 1968 by looking at the C-scoop on the quarter panel, the '67 will have vents, whereas the '68 will not.
The 1967-68 front end will be a bit different from earlier years, which is a dead giveaway. The three scallops on the grille surround for 1964.5-’66, as well as the grille surround itself, are not present on the 1967-’68 models. The headlamp bucket for 1967-’68 extends to the grille. When looking at the quarter panel, the 1967 will have vents, which are missing from the 1968 models.
The 1967 tail lamp chrome (left) does not have the black stripe that the 1968 trim has (right).
The tail lamp chrome on the 1967 and 1968 are slightly different. Each of the three lenses will have a chrome surround, but for 1968 there will be a black stripe in that surround.
The Shelby Mustangs are a little bit easier to differentiate throughout 1965-1968, and are a true standout from the other Mustangs. However, there are a lot of clones, so this guide (as the others we’ve reviewed) is based on factory appearances only.
The 1965 models are only fastbacks, and all are white with blue stripes. The GT350 will get a rocker stripe as well. The 1966 is similar to the 1965 Shelby, but it will have a plexiglass quarter window in place of the vents over the quarter window. The 1967 Shelbys are also in a variety of colors, and included the Hertz GT350H model.
The 1966 Shelby will have a quarter window without the 1965s louvers. Both years have a scoop on the quarter panel.
The 1967-’68 Shelby models had a pair of scoops on the upper and lower quarter panels, and that helps distinguish them at a quick glance from the ’65-’66 models. But to distinguish the ’67 from the ’68 Shelbys, you can check out the lighting, both front and rear.
The front inner lamps on the 1967 are round, and towards the center of the grille, while the 1968 had rectangular fog lamps at the outer edges of the grille. The tail lamps were sequential, and if you look at the 1967 there’s a slight point on the outer edge, whereas the 1968 was smooth, without the point.
Top: The scoops on the sides, both upper and lower, are what differentiates the 1965-'66 from the 1967-'68 Shelby Mustangs.
Bottom: Looking at the front and rear lamps, you can easily identify the 1967 (left two images) from the 1968 (right two images). The round inner lamps make it a 1967, the rectangular make it a 1968, and the tail lamps for the '67 will have that point on the outer edge, whereas the '68 is smooth.
The GT500 was new for 1967, with the GT350 spanning all four years. The GT500KR was available in 1968, as well as a convertible Shelby with a roll bar across the front edge of the quarter panels.
We’ll continue our At A Glance Series with other popular musclecars from the 1950s through the 1970s, and take a look at the early Mopar A-body cars next. If you want to see one of your favorites, list it below and we’ll get cracking on it.