Late 60s Mustang and Safety?

I’ve been in love with the classic Mustang since I was 7 years old. As an adult with a fair paying job, it is now my goal to own one of these. I owe it to myself for more than 25 years spent day dreaming about that ride.

So the practical part of my brain kicks in and cautions me about ‘vehicle safety’. How safe are the older Mustangs to drive? Yes it’s a beautiful hunk of steal which would likely peal through the composite materials of today’s cars. But how safe are the older Mustangs for passenger and driver in an accident that’s more than a fender bender? The internet revealed few insights so far, other than a CBS quote-unquote article from 1999 about how much of a death trap the drop in fuel tank is ( But that article is a million years old and we don’t exactly hear about how everyone driving a classic Mustang dies a fiery death.

I’m looking for practical opinions on the safety issues for the classic Mustangs. Ultimately I want to make a safe decision when I get around to purchasing one of these guys.

Compared to even the least safe cars of today, the 60s Mustang and any other 60s cars are very unsafe. True, by the late 60s we had seat belts, and some crash padding on the dash as well as better doors with a protective bar inside.

The standard tires on the Mustang were very inadequate, the brakes marginal and the whole body structure, especially with some rust, not very sturdy.

Enthusiast who have thsese cars drive them very little, so your chance of an accicdent is very small. I would not recommend these cars as daily drivers, however.

The mechanics are quite basic and relatively simple to maintain and repair and if driven within its limits the car is relatively safe. The greatest problem to overcome seems to be rust. Those floor pans were prone to rust and sag. An Arizona car might remain solid but I pass a scrap yard full of old Mustangs often. The older models have the floorboards resting on the ground even when the wheels are on them.

1 Like

As stated, a 60’s Mustang will not be as safe as a new one. The 60’s 'Stangs did not have crumple zones, collapsible bumper brackets, shoulder straps, and even collapsible sterring columns. NTSB released a video of a 60’s Impala having an offset head-on crash with a modern Impala. It’s on Youtube. The driver of the modern car walked away with minor injuries, but the othrr driver died on impact. I’m not trying to scare you off, but just to know reality. I have a '62 Thunderbird I’m restoring, but plan on using it on nice, clear weekends just for fun. Not as a daily driver.

Here’s an option…albeit expensive.

Having owned a 65 Mustang I can say they had poor body integrity, even for their time. In comparison my 72 Duster was built like a tank. As for fire danger, it’s very real. In addition to the top of the fuel tank serving as the floor of the trunk, the bigger danger was the flexible rubber hose connecting the tank to the filler on the back of the car. In a rear end crash that hose would fail, spewing gas into the trunk, where broken wires would spark and ignite the gas. The fire would quickly spread to the passenger compartment because the rear seat back was the only separation between the trunk and the passengers (no metal bulkhead).

How much driving do you want to do? As a hobby car I wouldn’t mind, but I wouldn’t put many miles on one. When I think about buying an old one, I remind myself that new Mustangs are WAY better in every way. Almost bought one, maybe one day…

Ugh :frowning: - Equal parts educational and disheartening.

Honestly I was looking to purchase a classic Mustang as my primary vehicle. Having one tricked out and cherry sitting in my garage or weekend drives around town just wouldn’t be the same level of joy as driving around everywhere in it; whether it was cherry or not. A friend of mine has an Aston Martin but he barely drives it so he’s thinking of selling it; that’s the feeling I want to avoid.

My driving skills are fantastic, but I can only compensate so much for horrible road conditions and crappy drivers. :slight_smile:

Everything I’ve heard so far really seems to steer away from having a classic Mustang as a primary vehicle. I’m still hoping to come across something that (also financially practical) which suggests a way around what may be the inevitable: buy one and don’t drive it much.

I did find a <a href=">decent article with several safety improvements. But I can only guess it may effectively double however much I were to spend on the car to make the improvements (since I really have super minimal car experience, let alone equipment), not to mention the article doesn’t touch on the gas tank.

My brother got a new '65 Mustang and I got a new '67 Mustang. Both had 289 V8’s and 3 spd manual transmissions. Compared to current cars they are very unsafe.

My '67 had drum brakes all around and did not have power brakes. Braking was fine in dry conditions but did take a lot of foot pressure. Since no new drivers since the 70’s have never experienced non-power brakes you will find the pressure needed to stop the car to be excessive. And stopping distances very long.

When the drum brakes got wet, as in after going through a puddle on the road then you have virtually no brakes until they dried out. Drying out the brakes is also something no new driver has ever done. In effect, you apply brake pressure with the left foot while maintaining speed with the right foot on the gas until you feel the brakes starting to work again. It can take 2/10ths of a mile or so for the brakes start to work again - not safe.

The unibody was pretty skimpy by current standards so a vintage Mustang hit from the side will not do much to protect the driver or other occupants. The gas tank is just under the trunk and does not do well in rear end collisions. It wasn’t as bad as the Pinto, but not that much better either.

The front and rear bumpers are completely useless. They give no protection at all. A very slow speed bump will dent sheet metal and prove to be an expensive repair. Parking lot impacts that do no visible damage to a modern car would do a bunch of damage to a vintage Mustang. I’d park it far from other vehicles if you go to the grocery store or local mall.

Now handling, good for the era but like an untamed beast by modern standards. My '67 came with Wide Oval Firestone tires. They were awful, hydroplaned at 30 mph, and were worn out in less than 12K miles. I found some Dunlop radials in the wide oval size and they were much better. Even with the Dunlops the back end of the car would hop wickedly to the side when taking a hard turn on uneven pavement. In a modern car the reviewer would call it unacceptable. Back in the day most lighter weight rear wheel cars with V8 power did the same thing, but the Mustang was really bad in this regard. How your vintage Mustang handles will depend on the tires you run on it, very good shocks, pretty hefty springs, and still it will just plain hop around on rough pavement no matter what you do.

The cars were and still would be fun to drive, but they are simply unsafe compared to even the poorest scoring current model cars. I haven’t driven a new version Mustang, but I’d bet that a V6 Mustang with a manual transmission would be a hoot to drive and not far off the performance of my '67. A V8 would out perform my '67 on all fronts. If you are looking for a daily driver, test drive a NEW Camaro, Mustang, or Charger and you’ll save money and have fun.

If you just want a vintage Mustang as a hobby car, to take to shows and for nice weekend drives go for a well restored one. Just make sure it has a V8 and manual transmission if possible. The original 6 in a vintage Mustang is just a dog and not fun to drive at all, looks great but no guts. The auto transmission a vintage Mustang is the same auto tranny used on most Fords of the day. It was a 3 speed unit with a floor shift set up. D, 2, and L gave you some opportunity to select the gear but it was a pretty sloppy shift and just not nearly as fun and connected feeling as a 3 or 4 speed manual. The power loss was notable in the auto tranny since the torque converter was very inefficient by modern standards.

The dream may exceed the reality. Great to look at, they were nothing special to drive. Based on the Falcon, they were no ‘sports car’ as far as handling.

You can get a new Mustang for far less than a cherry 1960s Mustang. You can get a reasonably well appointed 6cylinder for less than $24,000. Even a GT coupe is a little over $30,000, and that’s about where you would start for any 1960s Mustang V8. The new ones still look good, are safe to drive, and even get better gas mileage.

@jtsanders, I can second that! Being the owner of a 2007 GT V8, I can attest that it gives all the fun of the original and better safety, mileage and handling. You can buy used S197 (2005 up) Mustangs in the mid-teens with 240 hp V6 or a 300 hp small V8. Either will get over 24 mpg on the highway and have dual airbags. Step up to a 2011 model and the V6 is 305 hp, gets 26-28 mpg on the highway. No need for the V8 to have fun.

1 Like

Thanks for all the tips everyone, and thanks for the detailed spiel @UncleTurbo‌, and @Mustanman‌’s person account. I have no desire to run the risk of incinerating my back seat passengers, among other safety issues. I’ll probably slate the vintage model for a future project car or a weekend cruiser. For now I think I’ll shift my research into a late 00’s or preteen Mustang and get as much of the vintage throwback body as I can, with the perks of a safer car.

Is there anything significantly different between, say, a 2006 and 2013? GT vs. non?

How willing are you to modernize various aspects of the early Mustang chassis while still keeping its exterior appearance reasonably close to original? How able? It may not be possible to add air bags, but it is possible to improve passenger cell integrity, install a collapsible steering column, and duplicate the crumple zone approach to dissipate crash energy. Easier still to upgrade the wheel, tire, and brake package and the suspension to bring its driving and handling up closer to current standards. You might have a bit more difficulty with side-impact bars, but you could still end up with a better situation than none at all if you go through a company experienced in fabricating racing car roll cages.

EFI and overdrive transmissions can work nearly as well from an aftermarket direction for driveability and fuel consumption as they do for the OE’s, at least up to within only a few years ago.

Take a look over at or to see what some have done to bring various 1960’s cars into the 21st century. P.S., you don’t have to spend nearly as much money as some have.


There are times I wished I had kept the 1968 Javelin that I once owned. The Javelin was the AMC answer to the Ford Mustang. My Javelin did have the shoulder harness as well as a collapsible steering column. However, it still used drum brakes all around. I liked the styling better than either the Mustang or Camaro. I purchased my Javelin used and got a good price because it had a 6 cylinder engine.
I traded the Javelin because it was not a good family car after we had a baby. The rear seat was too cramped to take people with us and the size of the trunk was only suitable for a mouse on a field trip. The AMC 232 six in that Javelin was a reliable engine, however.

In addition to the trunk/gas tank issue the early mustangs didn’t come with head restraints. Our friend’s wife broke her neck when the car was rear ended and she was taken off life support a couple days after the accident. It’s been 20+ years and he still wishes he had just sold the car when she asked him to.

I attended a classic air-cooled VW show last weekend here in San Jose. Owner’s brought their VW’s from the late 1940’s (where the turn signal is a sort of lighted stick that pokes out of the door pillar when you want to make a turn) to about 1975 when US air-cooled VW’s stopped being manufactured. It was nothing but VW enthusiasts. Almost all of the vehicles were driven to the show. Some from hundreds of miles away. And most everyone there seemed to be having a great time.

So classic cars, it’s a compromise. They aren’t as safe. But they can be a lot of fun. I’d say if this is something you like, willing to take on some risk, then take some common sense safety precautions where you can, keep the car well maintained, pay up your life insurance, buy one and enjoy your new drive.

If I were doing this – and I do plan to, but with a VW Beetle, not a Mustang – but I were buying a Mustang I’d only consider a 1964 1/2 or a 1965. Those were the only models in my opinion that had the true “looks-like-it-is-moving-standing-still” Mustang look.

@Chrisopolis, the new retro body started in 2005 with a 300 hp V8 in the GT and a 240 hp V6 in the base. The 2011 model gets a new 305 hp direct injection V6 as the base motor (much nicer, smoother, more power). The 2005 to 2014 cars have a solid rear axle but it handles much better than the 2004 and earlier cars. I’d go with a V8 in pre 2011 cars and the V6 in post 2011 cars. Otherwise the cars are pretty similar. The redesigned 2015 brings a new independent rear axle. Better for ride and handling.

All the of the posts so far are right to a point. The way I look at is if you can afford it go for it. Anyone can buy a late model Mustang. A 60’s one will stand out. I used to ride a custom Harley. Yes it rode a little ruff, but when I pulled in anywhere mine stood out from the rest. But that’s me I like to be different.

A 60’s one in good condition with some upgrades can be a daily driver. Disk brakes and elc ignition would be my first upgrades. These are easy upgrades for most DIY’ers.

People die everyday in new cars just as they did in old ones. Do you think a Smart Car is safe in a crash with say a pickup? I all most hit a Saturn in the drivers door with my haft ton 4x4 pickup at 50 MPH. If did do you think the girl would have lived? The cop and I did not think so. If I have to live everyday worrying about being hurt or dying because of what I drive, why would I want to live? Is a new motorcycle any safer than any 60’s car? Buy what you want, live for today and whatever you buy have it checked out top to bottom.

Death rate in the 60s was FIVE TIMES the death rate now. Not a small difference. No way to address most of the problems.

So what if it is? People get hurt and die everyday, it’s a fact of life. Sill no reason not to live life to it’s fullest. “No way to address most of the problems” Just as with a new car. Look at GM or Toyota. All of the recalls. Makes you feel safe? We need to get over this need to think we all should never be hurt. From kids to adults it happens. Live for today for there may not be a tomorrow.