T5: German for Mustang

In 1965, the top-selling Mustang in the U.S. was an affordable and attractive Ford coupe. In Germany, the year’s top-selling Mustang was a hulking commercial truck.

Decidedly less sporty than America’s coupe, Germany’s Mustang truck was an ungainly presence on the road, and its two-stroke diesel engine was a noisy, smoking slug. Produced by Krupp Motoren und Kraftwagenfabriken in 1951-68, the Mustang truck’s primary claim to fame was that it — and Krupp’s copyright — set up a roadblock for Ford’s plans to market its Mustang in Germany.

If you were a G.I. in Germany or a Nordic fan of American cars, you couldn’t buy a Ford Mustang, but you could purchase its doppelgänger: the Ford T5 – a car bearing the cryptic alpha-numeric code that Ford had assigned it during development.

Marketed in Germany from 1965 until Krupp’s copyright expired in 1973, the T5 was a Mustang lookalike and drive-alike. A casual observer would be hard pressed to think it was anything other than a Mustang, but there are minor differences. The 1965 T5s had unique hubcaps with a plain center, rather than the galloping horse and “Ford Mustang” badging. The Mustang name on the front fenders gave way to a T-5 badge — Ford couldn’t decide how to spell the two-character name — and the Mustang ID on the steering wheel was banished. Most T5s had clear parking lamps rather than amber, and some speedometers were calibrated in kilometers. Practical modifications included extra bracing to fortify the body and a heavy-duty suspension.

Whether the lack of a proper name and badges impeded German sales of Ford’s pony car no one will ever know, but the T5’s existence created both a subset of Mustang collectibles and a group of enthusiasts who find them fascinating.

Perhaps the most enthusiastic is Gary Hanson, a 73-year-old owner of two T5s and the man behind the T5 registry. He bought his first, a red ’66 fastback with a V-8 and manual transmission, sight-unseen in 1977, enlisting a relative to make the out-of-town purchase. When he got the car home, he was confused.

It looked like a Mustang but the Mustang name was nowhere to be found, inside or out, and the badge on the fender said T-5. Hoping to learn why his car had apparently been disinherited by its maker, he called a Ford archivist at corporate headquarters. She had never heard of the T5, but suggested he call the export office. They, of course, knew exactly what it was.

In 1985, Hanson located a silver ’66 fastback T5 in San Diego and discovered that its consecutive unit number, an indication of its production sequence, was just one number away from his red car. So today he has a pair of restored T5s, silver and red, fraternal twins separated at birth.

Over the years, Gary became a T5 expert and, as surviving T5s were located, the registry he founded grew. Production numbers for 1965 and ’66 model years have been lost, but 3,631 T5s were built in 1967-73. To date, 451 have been located; fewer than 300 are in the United States. Most of these were probably sold to American soldiers stationed in Germany and were shipped home when their owners’ tours of duty ended.

To T5 enthusiasts, the cars are highly valued, a seemingly common pony car that’s got an interesting back story? The T5 is most certainly that.

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