It was like an automotive time capsule. Those fortunate enough to have made it to last June's The Road Is Ours: 100th Anniversary Celebration could not help but be drawn to the Centennial Circle: 100 Icons That Moved the World display at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. This centerpiece exhibit chronicled a century's worth of Ford vehicles, with only one chosen for each model year.
As you might imagine, for this once-in-a-lifetime gathering, not just any old car would do. It took a panel of five judges to decide which vehicle would get the honor of representing its year of manufacture. Out of no fewer than 245 entries for 1965-135 of which were Mustangs-Joseph Errante's handsome GT hardtop was chosen. And despite all the other no doubt worthy entrants, we think this choice for 1965's icon was an easy one.
Here's why. Despite appearing fresh off a rotisserie restoration, this is a 36,500-mile original, right down to the Rangoon Red paint and black vinyl roof-quite a feat for a Mustang that has spent its entire existence in the metal-torturing climate of Michigan. Adding to this originality is that Mr. Errante has been its sole owner, having taken delivery on May 7, 1965, after ordering it to his specifications as soon as he found out about the GT package availability (the Dearborn resident sold off a '6411/42 hardtop only a few months old to make room for it). The total price as delivered was $2,900.48, including 4 percent tax and license fees, on Ford's "A" Plan.
"It was always my desire to own a sports car and an antique car," Joseph explains. "Unfortunately, I could not afford both while raising four children and buying a home." His long-range, possibly tongue-in-cheek, rationale behind the GT's purchase was that if he drove it only during summers for 25 years, he could ultimately have his sports and antique car in one. Tongue-in-cheek or not, the idea must have panned out, because he has owned it for a period rapidly approaching four decades.
Don't take this Mustang's cherry condition to mean it's been a perennial garage queen. Quite the contrary, as Joseph and his growing family literally enjoyed the wheels off the car right from the start, wearing out its first set of dual-redline nylon 6.95x14 rubber in a mere 8,000 miles by entering it in an assortment of gymkhana and rally events. Though it wasn't driven to work (Joe lived close enough to walk to his job as a designer at Ford's Oakwood Engineering Center), the GT was used for everyday errands by his wife, Elizabeth, which explains the Cruise-O-Matic tranny.
Because of the automatic, there was no chance of ordering a 289 Hi-Po from the factory, so Joe had to temporarily settle for a 225hp A-code-a decision he waited just one year to rectify via the purchase from his local dealership of a whole slew of Cobra, Hi-Po, or Shelby performance parts, including:
* C4OZ-6C056-A (Hi-Po) cylinder heads* C4OZ-6A257-A (Hi-Po) solid lifter cam kit* C4DZ-12050-A (Hi-Po) dual-point distributor* C5ZZ-9600-WR (Hi-Po) chrome air cleaner* C5ZZ-9430-A and 9431-A (Hi-Po) exhaust manifolds* C4OZ-8600-D (Hi-Po) cooling fan assembly* C6OZ-8A616-D viscous drive fan clutch* S1MK-9423-A (Shelby) Cobra hi-riser aluminum intake manifold* S1MK-9510-A (Shelby) 715-cfm Holley carb* S2MK-6A547-A (Shelby) "Cobra" die-cast aluminum valve covers.
Joseph complemented these OEM engine hop-ups with the appropriate factory high-performance upgrades to the C4 transmission, including a higher line-pressure valvebody assembly, a revised secondary valve governor, and revised intermediate servo assembly. The end result was crisp wide-open shifts at 5,800 rpm. To direct this newfound power earthward, he also swapped out the factory 3.00:1 ring-and-pinion for a livelier 3.50:1 gearset and added Traction Master traction bars. All this work was accomplished in 1966 in his home garage, and the GT has remained in that state ever since, driven-with gusto-when weather permitted during the brief Michigan summers.
Joe Errante spent 42 of his 76 years (to date) working for the company whose products he loves, and retired in 1987. Because he so carefully maintained and detailed his '65 GT, Ford's 100th anniversary celebration wasn't the first time it was recognized and used for official company business. It participated in the following:
1977: Honored as one of the Milestones of Ford's History at Detroit's Renaissance Center during the introduction of the Fairmont.
1986: Displayed by Ford at the 75th Anniversary of the S.A.E. at Detroit's Cobo Hall.
1989: Presented in Dearborn's Ritz-Carlton hotel during the Mustang's 25th anniversary celebration.
1990: Honored in Ford's Design Center alongside two prototypes for the '94 Mustang, as part of a process to determine which version would eventually go into production.
1994: Displayed at Ford's Dearborn Proving Grounds during the press introduction of the '95 Mustang.
And it wasn't just Ford that appreciated it, as the hardtop was presented with a Gold Award in the unrestored class at the MCA Nationals in Dearborn in 1998.
It's not hard to see, then, that this striking GT hardtop has been a valued member of the Ford family. Far more important, however, is the role it's played for the last 38 years as a cherished member of the Errante family.