Unrestored Mustangs are the undisputed gems of our hobby. OK, not all of them are gems, but those cars that have survived the decades untouched and unscathed earn a venerated spot within our ranks. Those original Mustangs with remarkably low mileage are even more endearing to those of us who value these unmolested historical snapshots.
Throughout the years, we've come across a few ultra-low-mileage ponycars, and without exception, each one boasts a special story. After all, it takes a mighty unusual chain of events (or lack thereof) for any car to cruise through three-plus decades without showing its age or suffering at the hands of sometimes numerous owners. These stories of survival are remarkable in their own right. The tale behind John and B.G. Skavlem's 6,074-mile '66 Sprint hardtop is made even more astounding thanks to a surprising reunion between the car and a casual acquaintance from 32 years in its past.
This story began in December 1987 when ponycar guru and Mustang Monthly columnist Bob Perkins purchased an unrestored 6,053-mile hardtop that had passed through a few collectors' hands since leaving the possession of its original owner. John Skavlem of Terrace Park, Ohio, was in Wisconsin visiting relatives and attending the Iola Swap Meet in 1990 when he decided to take a swing by the home of friend Bob. It was there that John spied the curious little six-cylinder and, being a connoisseur of '66 Mustangs, made a deal with Bob to buy the car.
As could be expected, the Mustang was in phenomenally good condition, given its extremely low mileage. The Sahara Beige topcoat was in excellent shape, as were the original Goodyear tires, wire wheel covers and spinners, and the parchment interior. This particular Mustang came with the Sprint Package B-which included, in addition to the I6 engine, a C4 automatic tranny, a chrome air cleaner with Sprint decal, a center console, and body-side accent stripes.
"The original owner of the car," John said, "a schoolteacher from Weeping Water, Nebraska, had purchased it from Sample Hart Motor Company in Omaha on August 29, 1966. Many of her original papers are preserved. She sold the car on July 16, 1979, with 5,955 original miles. We have the original notarized statement reflecting this transaction."
With this carefully preserved Mustang in their stable, John and B.G. set out to make the Mustang more presentable for the inevitable Mustang Club of America show circuit.
"There has been no restoration process," John said, "but we have spent well over 200 hours cleaning and preserving. The car was dealer-undercoated, and we have removed this undercoating from those components which should not have been sprayed, such as the driveshaft and springs. Removal of the undercoating did reveal many original stickers, tags, and paint stripes. While the undercoating did create a mess to some of the undercarriage, it did act as a preservative in other instances."
The Skavlems took possession of the hardtop in March 1991, and by August of that year had entered the unrestored class at the MCA Grand National in Kingsport, Tennessee. Naturally, the car has won a Gold award in every unrestored class showing it has entered, and even managed to take a Silver award in the Thoroughbred class at one MCA show.
"Since the car is unrestored," John explained, "there have been no long searches for parts. Our search efforts have been centered on trying to assemble a large group of the Rotunda accessories which were available for the '66 Mustang. A child car seat, a clothes rod, tissue dispensers, a vacuum cleaner, a reflector flare kit, a luggage rack, a canvas luggage carrier, and license plate frames are a few of the approximately 35 accessories we have found."
Now you would think that would be the end of the story-not a chance. In fact, this is where things get really interesting-and weird.
In September 1998, John, B.G., and the couple's Sprint hardtop returned to Tennessee, this time to participate in that year's MCA Grand National held in Franklin. On the Saturday of the show, B.G. was pony-sitting the car on the show field when she was approached by a man and woman who were extremely curious about the Mustang.
Martin Rupp and his wife, Tari, had converted to the Mustang faith about the time the SN-95s hit the showrooms. Since then, the couple has obtained three vintage ponies and has been enjoying the Mustang lifestyle to the fullest. The Rupps were from Weeping Water, Nebraska, and had driven their '67 hardtop on the final 120-mile leg of that event's Pony Trails cruise. Martin and Tari had to leave for home that Saturday evening, but before hitting the highway they decided to make a pass through the show field. When Martin saw the Skavlems' hardtop, a familiar twinge tickled the back of his mind.
Martin remembered that his fourth-grade teacher, Miss Katherine Ellis, had purchased a new Mustang in 1966. It, too, was a Sahara Beige hardtop. Closer inspection revealed that John and B.G.'s ponycar had been delivered through the Sample Hart dealership in nearby Omaha, as evidenced by the dealership emblem on the bumper. Could it be? Maybe, but Martin didn't remember a luggage rack on the back of his teacher's car. He approached B.G. to ask a few questions.
No, B.G. explained, the luggage rack was not original to the car. That was an accessory John had added using a '66 FoMoCo removable installation kit. And who had originally owned the car, asked Martin. A woman from Weeping Water, Nebraska, B.G. said, by the name of Katherine Ellis.
At last, the final pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
Martin explained to the Skavlems the relationship between himself and Miss Ellis, and offered an answer to the perplexing question of why the car had managed such low mileage throughout the years. He told John and B.G. that Katherine Ellis lived close to the school where she had taught for more than 30 years, and that she had little other use for the car. When she sold the Mustang in 1979, the Pony had racked up only 5,955 miles under her ownership.
Miss Ellis passed away in 1984, and a few additional miles had been added in the ensuing years. Understandably, the Skavlem hardtop is limited to trailer-on-and-trailer-off driving.
Although we applaud folks who put their restored Mustangs on the road, we'll concede that this is one Pony we hope never again sees the open highway. It's too darn special.
It certainly was a special day for my wife, B.G., and I to meet you at the Mustang show in Franklin, Tennessee. We have often been asked about the early history of the car, and the only info we had, unconfirmed, was that Katherine M. Ellis was a schoolteacher who obviously drove the car very little during the period from August 1966, when she purchased it, until July 1979, when she sold it with 5,955 original miles. We have her signed statement of that sale.
We would greatly appreciate you giving us a few comments about Miss Ellis. I believe you mentioned that she lived close to the school. Your thoughts would be most welcomed.
It was great to meet you! We love our little Mustang, and feel we are preserving a piece of history. There are few, if any, better preserved original early Mustangs in the country.
I think finding Miss Ellis' car and meeting you and your wife was the highlight of our trip. Most everyone in town had Katherine for a teacher, and remembers the car. I am sending you a local newspaper article about the car and Katherine.
The one memory of my fourth-grade experience was in the first week at school, saying "yeah" and not "yes" to Miss Ellis, and having to stay after school and write "yes" 100 times on the blackboard, and then clean all the blackboards. Needless to say, I learned to say "yes." She also had a 12-inch ruler that could sting your knuckles or bottom, depending on how bad you were. All that said, she was a great teacher, and I learned a lot. Today, she probably would be put in jail; too bad for today's children.
Well, enough rambling on. If you are ever in this part of the country, please come and visit. Also, someday, should you wish to part with your little car, please call me. I would love to bring it back home. Best wishes and happy pony trails,