It's a pity that Ford didn't document the 1965 through 1969 GT Mustangs with their own unique code, either on the data plate or on the VIN. They probably would have done so had they known how popular this option would become, and the quantity of confusion it would have prevented for enthusiasts three decades later.
Calling the GT an option is a bit of a misnomer, actually. Technically, it was an option, but it consisted of enough performance and appearance components that it should have had its own unique body number. After all, the Interior Decor Group had its own body number, and it was an option introduced the same day as the GT. Today, we understand just how much the GT Equipment Group (in most circumstances) alters the character of a Mustang, and that is why we treat the GT Equipment Group differently from such options as air conditioning, wheels, Rally-Pacs, or stereo radios.
Short of an original window sticker invoice or an assembly line build sheet, there is currently no known code to document a factory GT, although "G7 on a Body Buck Tag is a promising stamp to investigate. Of course, that's the purpose of this article. We want to take a closer look at the GT Equipment Group, commonly known simply as the GT. We'll start with the simple make-up of the option, year by year, then get into the juicy GT "stuff" that enthusiasts never seem to quit talking about. Through the years, we've learned some interesting facts and fallacies about Mustang GTs that we'd like to share with you. Those things we're not sure of we'll list as unsolved mysteries, knowing full well that for every mystery there is someone, somewhere, who has the answer. Hey, it could be you!
What does GT stand for?
In 1964, Ford Design made up "Grand Sport" badges when they were developing a performance version of the Mustang. In the end they Grand went Touring. This name made more sense with GT, which stands for since Ford was developing their long-distance Ford endurance racing GT (GT-40) for with the goal of beating Ferrari and winning the 24 hours of LeMans.
Over-the-counter GTs are not factory GTs.
Immediately, Ford capitalized on the popularity of the GT by offering literally every component - from the Special Handling Package to the GT tape stripes and badges -over-the-counter. It is a fact, however, that these cars can never be factory GTs. You can add all or part of the GT option, but the Mustang will never be a factory GT.
1965 GT date codes.
Ford introduced the GT Equipment Group on April 17, 1965, exactly one year after the Mustang's debut. Production began in late February 1965, so it is safe to say that Mustangs with a build date prior to early February 1965 cannot be factory GTs.
The 1965 GT instrument panel is unique to the 1965 GT. When Ford introduced the GT Equipment Group in the spring of 1965, the most welcome addition was the new five-dial instrument panel, replacing the Falcon-like horizontal speedometer/odometer with "dummy" lights. However, this five-dial instrument cluster was also introduced with the Interior Decor Group. The latter has a walnut finish with chrome mylar, while the GT has a camera case black finish with chrome mylar. Other than that, their designs are the same.
No other 1965 Mustang other than the GT has this unique camera case black instrument cluster in front of the driver. It's common to mistake a car with the Interior Decor Group for a GT, especially if a past owner added GT stripes. These luxury Mustangs could be optioned with the GT package, in which case the five-dial instrument cluster comes with the woodgrain finish.
Special reinforcements for dual exhausts document a GT. Throughout the GT era, Mustangs with dual exhausts came with special plates - one spot welded to either side of the rear of the unibody frame rail. These unique plates do not denote a GT, as is commonly thought. Instead, they denote a factory dual exhaust system. Specifically, this is an extra reinforcement bracket on the forward side of the access hole. All Mustangs have the little bracket toward the rear of the access hole, toward the rear spring, but the one hole that faces the front of the car is present only on true dual exhaust Mustangs. You've got to stick your little finger in there and push up to feel it.
Gt equipment group Components By model year
NOTE: Rear bumper guards are deleted.
Same as 1965-1/2, but add the following:
NOTE: Bright hood lip molding and five-dial instrument cluster become standard Mustang equipment. GTs delete the rocker panel molding and rear bumper guards.
NOTE: Chromed Styled Steel wheels optional, still with GT hub caps. The 390-4V has the chrome engine dress up kit.
GT & Special Handling Steering
Model Years: 1965-66
Gear Part Numbers:
Steering gear part numbers document a 1965-66 GT. Most non-factory'65-'66 Mustangs built to include the GT Equipment Group lack the quicker steering gear ratio that was part of the factory GT option. Never-the-less, since the quicker steering gear ratio was optional separately, as part of the Special Handling Package, the presence of this gear box does not document a 1965-66 GT. It's also possible that somebody did install the quicker steering gear.
Although the part numbers in the following chart don't document a GT, they do provide more evidence that a car was a GT. Also, if these numbers are not present, and the steering box is original, you can be sure the Mustang is not a factory GT.
When the factory installed fog lights, they punched a pair of holes, one on either side of the radiator core support, to route the wiring for the fog lamps. Since fog lamps were available as a separate option, how ever, the presence of these holes does not document a factory GT. On the other hand, since all GTs had fog lamps, and this accessory was seldom ordered separately, these holes are a pretty good indication of a car that was a factory GT.
What does "GT" on the build tag mean?
For years, the hobby has claimed that no numbers on a Mustang document a GT, short of a factory invoice or broadcast sheet that lists the components. But what about "GT" stamped into a build tag? Build tags, also known as Body Buck tags, were first used late in the 1965 model year by the Dearborn and Metuchen assembly plants (but not San Jose), and were in general use from 1967 forward. They are usually bolted to the radiator support or the driver's side inner fender well.
We have unconfirmed reports of a 1969 Boss 302 build tag stamped with GT, and we can speculate why. It appears that the components stamped on build tags are there because they apply to extra holes that had to be drilled or stamped into the body.
For example, AC (for air conditioning) is there because the assembly line had to knock the plugs out for the air conditioner. If you had a stereo, it was stamped on the Build Tag because assembly line workers had to cut holes in the door panels. A GT required a hole in the radiator support (for the fog lamps), as well as cut-outs in the rear valance for the trumpet exhausts. In 1968, tilt steering is stamped on the build tag, but it is not in 1970, when no extra holes are required because the tilt steering was incorporated into the column.
One way to solve this mystery is for our readers to check out their build tags and report back with information. Do the nonGTs which have several components from the GT Equipment Group still have GT on their build tags?
Styled Steel wheels are part of the '65-'67 GT Equipment Group. Styled Steel wheels were not part of the GT option in 1965, 1966, or 1967, although they were a popular option with this car.
Styled Steel wheels are part of the 1968-1969 GT Equipment Group. When Ford incorporated a redesigned Styled Steel wheel which featured a slotted disc pattern in 1968, Styled Steel wheels did become part of the GT Equipment Group. The small center hubcaps of the wheels came with GT lettering. It's interesting that Ford ordering instructions read that regular, wheel covers were not optional with these GTs.
According to Jim Smart's book, 1965-1990 Mustang GT/Mach 1 Guide, GT production, by model year, was as follows:
Although we have no breakdowns by bodystyle, in our experience, the fastback was the most common GT, followed by the convertible and, finally, the hardtop. Perhaps the rarest GT is the 19681/2 convertible with the 428 Cobra jet engine. It's estimated that less 50 were built.
In 1969, convertible GTs seem outnumber fastbacks, probably cause the Mach 1 was strictly a fastback, but even less '69 GT hardtops seem to have been built. Notice that GT production increased by percentage of sales each year until 1969, when the Mach 1 took over.
Lack of special reinforcements for dual exhausts prove a non-GT. If a '65-'66 model Mustang did not come from the factory with the special reinforcing plates (mentioned previously), then their absence helps prove that the Mustang in question could not have been a factory GT because for the first two model years every GT came stock with a four-barrel V8 and subsequent dual exhaust.
Could the GT stripes be deleted?
We have seen at least one Boss 302 with the stripes deleted by the factory, but we have yet to find such a GT. We tend to believe GT stripes could not be deleted, but would like to hear of reader documentation on this subject.
The 1966 GT gas cap is unique to the 1966 GT. No other Mustang but the '66 GT had this special gas cap, and until it was reproduced a few years ago, the presence of GT insignia on a '66-style gas cap was a pretty good indication the car was a GT. Of course, it's easy to swap out gas caps, so this cosmetic piece sure doesn't prove that any car is a GT. It is, however, a unique GT part, and if it is factory, then the car is a factory GT.
1966 rocker panel deletion for GTs.
A 1967 Mustang GT with Thunderbird wire wheel covers?
In 1967, Ford offered a "Competition Handling Package" that was optional for GTs only - in which case it upgraded the regular Heavy Duty Suspension that was standard with the GT Equipment Group. This Competition Handling Package was expensive and seldom ordered. It consisted of extra stiff front and rear springs and adjustable shocks, an extra thick stabilizer bar, a 16:1 overall steering gear, a low speed rear axle (no lower numerically than 3.25:1) in a Limited Slip differential, and 6xl5-inch wheels with wire wheel covers.
The strangest part of this option was the set of wire wheel covers, which are unlike any ever seen on a Mustang. They were actually sourced from the Thunderbird line because Mustang wire wheel covers fit 14-inch rims.
Part fact / part
What is a GT/SC and why didn't Ford build one?
In 1968, Ford considered building a GT/SC, which stood for GT Sport Coupe. Why they dropped the idea is a mystery, but the educated guess is that such a car would have siphoned sales from the existing GT.
The GT/SC idea actually sprang from a failed Shelby hardtop proposal, called Little Red, which was built on a 1967 Mustang platform, and featured a blown 428 Cj. The idea was to expand Shelby Mustang sales for 1968 when production switched from the limited facility at Los Angeles International airport to the large A. 0. Smith Company in Ionia, Michigan.
It's a mystery why the Shelby hardtop idea was dropped, but once it was, Iacocca ordered Little Red air-freighted to Dearborn, where Ford Design mocked up a striped GT/SC, featuring many of the Shelby cosmetics.
None-the-less, the GT/SC was dropped and, instead, the failed Shelby hardtop was fashioned into the California Special of 1968, and a similar set of Shelby features found their way onto the High Country Special for the Colorado market.
Every 428 Cobra jet in 1968-1/2 was a GT. This fact doesn't include the factory drag 428s built in December of 1967 for Super Stock class racing, but these dragsters, technically, were not Cobra jets. Also, we know of one 428 Cj without the GT package that Hubert Platt ordered late in the model year. Otherwise, a Cobra jet in 1968 was always a GT.
Mistaken 1968 GTs.
It's common to mistake a 1968 Mustang as a GT when it has the Special Decor Group. This package consists of a woodgrain instrument panel apphqu6, twotone painted hood, knitted vinyl inserts in the buckets seats (hardtop and fastback), and bright wheel lip moldings. If the car was a V8, it also came with argent painted slotted steel wheels with bright trim rings, but with no GT insignias on the hubcaps. Whenever such a car has the optional C-stripe, as seen on the 1968 GT, it looks even more like a GT.
This angle has never been discussed in magazines, but the Shelby for 1969 was cataloged as the "Shelby GT" series, leaving us to wonder if the Shelby was to replace the Mustang GT in the regular production lineup after 1969.
For 1968, the Shelby series was officially cataloged as the Shelby Cobra for the first time. That's because the 427 Cobra ended production in 1967, and this famous nameplate was up for grabs. Then, in 1969, Ford attached the Cobra label to the Fairlane.
Nineteen sixty-nine was also the first year of the Shelby GT series, and the last year of the GT in the regular Mustang lineup. Had Ford not ended Shelby production, due to low sales, the GT might have continued in production as the Shelby GT. For this reason, some may argue that GT production extended into the 1970 model year because the Shelby lasted through 1970.