Brant Halterman was still a teenager when a friend told him and his father, Bob, about a Poppy Red '65 Mustang Hi-Po convertible for sale for $1,600. It was 1979, and as founders of Virginia Classic Mustang, the Haltermans often heard about many "old" Mustangs for sale in the days when '65-'73 Mustangs were little more than used cars. This time, the K-code status sealed the deal and the seller delivered the convertible to the Halterman garage in Broadway, Virginia.
"It was complete but needed a total restoration," Brant recalls. "Back in those days, we didn't check date codes and such, but I later learned that a lot of the parts—engine block, Hi-Po fan, rear end centersection, etc.—were properly date coded and almost certainly original to the car."
Over the next few years, the father and son team restored the Hi-Po Mustang using only the best available parts—N.O.S. if it could be found. In the mid 1980s, the convertible's restoration ranked as one of the best in the country, rising to what was then the Mustang Club of America's Senior Division. In 1986, Mustang Monthly Editor Jim Smart spotted the car at the MCA's Grand National East show and photographed it for our December 1986 issue, calling it a "'64-3⁄4 production unit" due to its August 10, 1964, build date and combination of '64-1/2 and ’65 parts.
After that first restoration, the Haltermans refused to drive the Mustang, initially using it for shows and later as a Virginia Classic Mustang showroom display vehicle. However, over the next three decades, the quality of Mustang restorations progressed beyond the Haltermans' early 1980's effort. In 2007, Brant decided that the convertible deserved a second restoration to bring it up to current standards. This time, he handed the project over to Jeremy Turner at Maple Hill Restoration.
"His shop is located just a mile from our business," Brant explains. "Jeremy and I are both interested in the 'geeky' details like date codes and production time variations. His work is incredible too."
In August 2007, the convertible entered the Maple Hill Restoration shop. For the next four years, Turner toiled "off and on" to restore the Mustang to its 1964 showroom condition. Although the pressures of running a business prevented Halterman from getting his hands greasy, he did use his many contacts for research.
"Being involved with Mustangs from both a business and hobby perspective for over 30 years has given me the opportunity to meet lots of people who share my passion," Halterman says. "Longtime friend Bill Vaughan was willing to share his Poppy Red '64-1/2 convertible that he purchased as a brand-new car. We were able to match his original paint for my car’s restoration. Charles Turner, former MCA head judge, was a great help in making us study the details."
Halterman did sway from all-original under the hood. "I had an original 3x2 Cobra induction system under my workbench for over 15 years," he explains. "I needed to use it or sell it, so I decided to install it on the convertible. The carburetors are dated September 1964, just one month after the scheduled production date of the car."
The tri-power setup came with a pair of Cobra emblems for owners to install on the car’s exterior. As many owners did in the 1960s, Halterman mounted them under the 289 High Performance emblems on the fenders. To match the Cobra air cleaner, Halterman added open-letter Cobra valve covers and a Cobra "roadster" cast-aluminum oil pan, both offered as accessories in 1964.
During the restoration, Halterman also elected to replace the styled steel wheels, added during the first restoration, with the original spinner hub caps. And he installed another popular option/accessory--an original Rally-Pac with the correct 8,000-rpm tachometer for the Hi-Po engine.
Turner completed the restoration in August 2011. Less than a month later, on Labor Day weekend, the car was standing tall for its "second time around" debut in the Concours Trailered division at the MCA Grand National event in Waldorf, Maryland. Judges awarded the convertible with both a Gold Award and the Prestige Award, presented to the highest scoring car in the '64-1/2-'73 Concours Trailered classes.
"I learned a ton about these cars during the restoration," Halterman says. "I continue to learn something every day. Of course, without Jeremy, this restoration would never have happened. His patience, interest, research, attention to detail, and overall talent are amazing."
During visits to his home state of Maryland, Mustang Monthly contributor Jim Smart dropped by to visit Halterman to check on the convertible's progress. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the car’s restoration.