Under The Hood

1966 Mustang owner’s quandary: Restore it or drive it?

Readers sometimes give us more credit than we deserve. We don’t have a crystal ball or an understanding of Nostradamus’ writings, and we can’t predict the future.  However, we can sometimes offer solid advice as in the case of this 1966 Mustang owner.

When an Old Cars Weekly reader recently wanted to know what we thought a stock 1966 Ford Mustang in No. 1 and No. 2 conditions would be worth in 5 and 10 years, and if we thought Mustang values would escalate at the car’s 50th anniversary in 2014, we couldn’t resist replying. Our response follows, which may also provide interesting insight to you.

Before we get to our reply, here’s a little background on the reader’s situation:

The reader owns a “very stock” 1966 Mustang coupe with a 289-cid V-8, 2V carburetor and C4 automatic transmission. His car has been partially restored and he’s now considering a complete restoration.

A restored 1966 Ford Mustang is a thing of beauty. Check out this coupe restored by Jeff Lilly Restorations in Texas.

A restored 1966 Ford Mustang is a thing of beauty. Check out this coupe restored by Jeff Lilly Restorations in Texas (www.jefflilly.com).

The cost of restoration:

It’s impossible to answer with certainty the questions of what a car will be worth in 1, 5 or 10 years, or if an anniversary will affect value. We can say with confidence that undertaking a full restoration is usually a losing proposition.

Bringing a car to No. 1 or No. 2 condition is extremely expensive, unless the starting point is a very solid and complete car at the beginning and the owner can do much of the expensive work himself, such as the rebuild of mechanical components, body work and paint, upholstery, tear down, reassembly, etc. Even if a car’s components (chrome and stainless trim, glass, etc.) are already in good condition, they must still be restored (or purchased new) to be in excellent condition in a restoration to No. 1 condition, and the cost of these parts and the labor to restore them adds up. Fortunately, parts are relatively inexpensive and widely available for first-generation Mustangs.

First-hand knowledge:

For what it’s worth, I have a friend that completed a frame-off restoration of a 1965 Mustang fastback over two years with the help of another friend. The owner traded his labor to build a garage for the labor of the friend who completed the Mustang’s bodywork and greatly helped with assembly. The owner also rebuilt the car’s mechanical components himself, including the 289. The total bill with materials, parts and some of the other work he couldn’t complete himself was about $30,000.

 Anniversary values:

We do not think values of Mustangs will greatly increase at their 50-year anniversary. Mustangs may see a slight value increase, but I don’t foresee anything more than perhaps a 10 percent increase, and that increase could be short-lived. The great thing about Mustangs – but a hindrance to their value – is that many first-gen Mustangs were built, and a healthy number of them were so loved that they were saved. So although these Mustangs remain very popular, they are also relatively common and there are enough to satisfy demand. As a result, I would be surprised to see their values greatly escalate in the next couple years.

Related Resources

Read about the Mustang from beginning to 2011 in “Mustang: The Original Pony Car

Get Mustang values from the “2013 Collector Car Price Guide

6 thoughts on “1966 Mustang owner’s quandary: Restore it or drive it?

  1. Gary Kiviniemi

    In the article about early Mustang values and proposed restoration. Mr Bogart mention that his friend recently completed a “frame off” restoration of an early Mustang. How is that accurate when the mustang is a unibody and therefore has no frame of which to be off. I often see the term used by novices and so I am confused. Would you please let your readers know the correct terminology. Thank, Gary.

  2. Dee Reilly

    The next time this guy goes to a car show/cruise night and quickly realizes that there are at least 10{if not 15 or 20} examples of the exact same thing sitting there that he showed up with,then maybe he’ll get rid of it and find something that might not be so trendy and predictable{like the ’65-’66 Mustang}and lean towards the less beaten path.Namely;’64-69 Plymouth Barracuda,’65-67 Chevy Nova,’67-68 Mercury Cougar.Simply put;Mustangs are a dime a dozen{unless you buy a new one}.But the cool thing about a Nova or a Cougar is that you can say you have one that was made before they switched to Front{wrong}wheel drive.

  3. Ken Sousa

    I can’t believe that the previous poster would recommend such boring cars as the 67-68 Mercury Cougar or the Chevy Nova in lieu of the 65-66 Mustang. The Mustangs are more valuable than the Cougars and will remain so for the forseeable future. Just because something is rare doesn’t make it valuable. I recall a guy on a Mustang website asking if his 1969 6 cylinder SportsRoof would be worth a lot of money since so few were built. There was a reason why so few were built, and it is the same one that rules the value of cars today. Nobody cares! To the degree that Barracudas are more desired by the gear head community, they reflect that interest in elevated prices. Kind of thing you would like to be cruising in on the Redneck Rivera down in Gulfport. The Nova popularity is attributable to all the guys who can’t afford a Malibu. And what differentiation is there with regard to the end of the car that is driven? All American cars of that era were RWD. If you think Mustangs are a dime a dozen, bring lots of dimes if you want to buy a 69 428 SCJ Mach 1 or a Boss 429. And I haven’t even mentioned the valuation of any Shelby Mustang.

  4. Charlie Huntington

    The owner of the ‘stang needs to ask himself what the car will be worth to him when it’s done. Unless it’s a rare car it is unlikely that the car will be worth more then the investment when completed. If there’s some nostalgic value – original owner, 1st car owned….then he’s probably better buying a completed one in the condition he desires. Personally I enjoy driving my cars. It’s the people you meet at the local cruise ins that count, not the plastic trophies. However that’s my just my preference. If you enjoy showing a 100 point car, that’s great, just go in with your eyes open that you’ll probably lose money over the long haul. Moral – do what you enjoy, don’t do it for the money.


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