A person can go an awfully long time between Sahara Beige Mustang sightings. This non-metallic (code-H) hue was on Ford's color charts only for model-year 1966, and obviously found few takers on Mustang order forms. How few? We just don't know, because Ford's records from the period are lost, but I personally can't remember ever seeing another GT in this shade. So let's just say the likelihood of someone bothering to establish a Sahara Beige Mustang GT Registry is slim.
Some might suggest there's good reason for this rarity, and we would agree that, under certain light (fluorescent, for instance), Sahara Beige can look every bit as bleak as the desert after which it's named. Yet, bathe it in warm evening sunlight and it responds with an earth-tone glow.
Still, we're not sure if Peter Klutt bought our featured '66 GT convertible because of its color or in spite of it. As owner of Legendary Motorcar (as well as TV's Dream Car Garage), Peter has a discerning eye for rare, quality classics, and recently purchased this sweet-driving ragtop from the collection of South Carolina's Chad Odom. Though Legendary Motorcar is itself a world-class restoration facility, it was Chad who had a few years ago brought the GT to its current top-notch condition in his Palmetto Restorations shop (since closed) in Greenville, SC. So we spoke with Chad about the car's history and he told us that, until being loaded on the truck for the trip north to Legendary, this A-code drop-top had spent its entire 45-year existence in the metal-friendly climate of upstate South Carolina.
It gets better. The car, which Chad says "never had a speck of rust on it," still wore its factory-issue Sahara Beige paint everywhere but on one fender when he acquired it in 1992 from the original owners, who were friends of his parents. Said right-front fender had been changed out in the '60s after a tree limb fell on it, and the manually operated convertible top material had also been replaced sometime over the decades, but the stick-shift GT was otherwise completely unmolested and original. Chad, who had recently graduated from college at the time of his purchase, then drove and enjoyed the sandy-hued Mustang in stock form for many years before finally deciding it was time for disassembly, painting, and mechanical restoration (yes, he briefly considered suggestions to change the color). He stresses that this was not a rotisserie restoration, as the rust-free ragtop simply didn't require it.
When originally ordered and delivered through Greenville's Fairway Ford in 1966, the convertible's 225hp 289 was backed by a three-speed manual gearbox and wore a standard black interior. In his process of restoration, Chad swapped in a four-speed tranny, and converted the cabin to Interior Décor status, adding a Rally-Pac and aftermarket (but factory-style) AM/FM radio for good measure. For safety, he upgraded to a dual reservoir master cylinder, stainless brake lines, and completely refurbished the original Kelsey Hayes discs and rear drums. For comfort, he updated to a Sanden A/C compressor and refurbished the GT's original underdash A/C housing. And when he had the original 289 rebuilt, the only variation from stock was in substitution of a hydraulic cam with aggressive Hi-Po-spec lift and duration (and matching Hi-Po-style air breather), so the small-block now idles with attitude and has wickedly crisp throttle response.
We suppose the most obvious departure from factory appearance stems from Chad's upgrading to Styled Steel wheels and Radial T/As of 15-inch diameter, a change that certainly improves grip and riding comfort over any original-spec 6.95x14 rubber. Truthfully, the overall result of these restrained but relevant upgrades is one of the most responsive and driveable early Mustangs I've ever had the pleasure of sampling. But Chad is also careful to point out that any or all of the changes he made can easily be returned to stock. To that end, when he finally sold the GT to Legendary's Peter Klutt after nearly 20 years of ownership, he included all the factory parts he'd removed, including the original three-speed transmission, AM radio, and air conditioning compressor.
So, if we could unwind the hands of time, would we likely choose Sahara Beige over, say, Raven Black, Candyapple Red, or Springtime Yellow when ordering a new GT convertible back in 1966? Uh, well, probably not, but we're sure glad somebody did--and that this South Carolina soft-top has remained in that rare hue for well over four decades so we could finally add one to your Mustang Monthly photographic collection.