Frank Johnson was a young man right out of the military in 1965, working as an FAA licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic at United Airlines’ overhaul base at San Francisco International Airport. On May 6, 1965, he purchased a Poppy Red ’65 Mustang GT hardtop from Jones-Minto Ford in nearby Burlingame, followed shortly thereafter by his wedding vows with his new wife, Sharon. For a long time, the Mustang was Frank and Sharon’s only car. They used it for their daily commute and installed a trailer hitch for a camping travel trailer during vacation treks to Oregon and Washington.
Forty-eight years later, Frank still owns his Mustang. We could go into detail about a full-scale restoration, except there has never been one. When we discovered the survivor GT at the Mustang Club of America national show in Concord, not far from Frank’s Santa Rosa home, the car caught our attention with its clearly original factory paint, which is worn down in a places and showing some minor body damage from years of parking at the San Francisco airport. The original Ford script headlights are a showstopper at MCA-type events
When we are young, we don’t see the future as clearly as we do from the future looking back. For Frank and Sharon, there were children to be raised, educations to be gotten, games and proms to attend, and jobs to pay for it all. The Mustang would bring babies home from the hospital, run them to school, and chauffer them to weddings. In all that time, 105,000 miles and 20 years would pass. The Mustang would also be stolen from the United Airlines parking lot at SFO and recovered a short time later, worse for wear but fixable.
Sharon and the ’65 GT hardtop shortly after it was purchased new.
In the early years, the Mustang lived outside. In more recent years, it has lived peacefully inside an enclosed garage.
“The 289 engine in this Mustang has never been apart,” Frank told us. “Well, there was a timing set and routine maintenance like spark plugs, wires, and water pump.”
He also tells us that the hardtop retains most of its original Poppy Red enamel, glass, sealed beam headlights, door panels, carpet, AM radio, trunk liner, spare tire, fuel pump, carburetor, rear axle, and exhaust system. Frank says he had the dealer-installed outside rearview mirrors mounted on the fenders because that’s where they were installed on British sports cars of the 1960s.
The Ford dealer parts department aluminum high-rise intake manifold was installed in 1968, topped with the 289’s original Autolite 4100 four-barrel carburetor. When Frank made the decision to swap out his T-10 four-speed for a T-5 five-speed to improve range in 2001, he fabricated his own cable clutch system, which has worked very well.
Today, Frank and Sharon view their ’65 GT hardtop as a symbol of their years together. It has taken them so many places and been there for every significant event of their marriage, which makes this ride a family keeper and something to be treasured for years to come.