A Mustang restoration is something akin to running the Native American gauntlet. You might take a healthy beating from one end of the line to the other, but once you make it through, you're off the hook--safe and sound. Sometimes, however, safety and security is an illusion, and the end is not always where you think it is. Dennis Fields of South Wayne, Wisconsin, who restored this '67 hardtop, knows this simple truth all too well.
The story of his award-winning Mustang begins in 1982, when Dennis' brother bought the car from a coworker who was moving to California. Although the car exhibited some previous sheetmetal damage in the left rear quarter-panel, the taillight panel, and the decklid--and the mileage was what you would expect from a 15- year-old car--the solid unibody structure and factory options made it worth the purchase. Dressed in Dark Moss Green, the vinyl roof hardtop boasted the Sprint package, a 289 2V, Styled Steel wheels, air conditioning, power steering, power disc brakes, and a three speed tranny.
For the next several years, Dennis' brother tinkered with the Mustang whenever time permitted. Eventually, a change in career for his brother led Dennis to take possession of the hardtop and rescue it from "terminal storage" in 1987--a year after marrying his wife, Kelly.
"My wife saw the car for the first time," says Dennis. "It was covered with an inch of dust, bird droppings, and a lot of surface rust from poor storage. Her first question to me was, What are you going to do with that?' After I filled her in on my plans, she said, "I'll believe it when I see it.'" Only upon completely disassembling the Sprint Pony did Dennis realize the extent of the work that lay in front of him. Years of Wisconsin winters, he said, had taken a serious toll on the car. "The car was in very sad shape," says Dennis. "It needed new floorpans, fender aprons, quarter-panels, trunk floors, framerails, a taillight panel, and a rear decklid." And that was just for starters. "But with the help of family members and a few close friends, we performed all the needed sheetmetal repairs."
Then in 1993, after four delays due to relocating, Dennis sprinted to get the Mustang finished.
"The car went to Zeitler Auto Body of Monroe, Wisconsin, for priming and painting," says Dennis. "Veaver Auto Parts of Mount Horeb [Wisconsin], did the machine work on the engine, and I assembled it myself. I received the car back [from the body shop] in July and started the assembly process. It went to Tom's Upholstery of Madison [Wisconsin], for the installation of the headliner, the vinyl top, and re-covering of the seats. The final assembly stage was completed in August 1993."
With all the hard work behind them, Dennis and Kelly entered their first show near the end of the year and took a Second Place win. After attending a few more local shows that fall, the following spring the couple took their Sprint to the 30th Mustang Anniversary Show in Charlotte, where they earned a Best in Class award. Good times had indeed arrived--or so it seemed.
"Shortly after returning home from Charlotte," says Dennis, "I decided to do some repairs on my house and garage. I parked the Mustang on the street and parked two vehicles behind it. Later that evening, I was cleaning up and getting ready to put the '67 back in the garage. I moved the two vehicles from behind the Mustang, leaving the Mustang unprotected for about 15 minutes. "Big mistake.
"A 76-year-old man pulled the ol' step-on-the-gas-instead-of-the-brake trick (he was lucky to reach age 77!). The car had $8,500 in damages that took us back to where we had started. The rear end was completely damaged again. "I took the car to Mark's Mustangs in Milwaukee. New quarter-panels, trunk floors, complete framerails, a taillight panel, a decklid, a complete repaint, a vinyl top, and a rear valance were put on for the second time in less than a year. We were not going to settle for anything less than what it was before the crash."
Since going through the restoration for an unbelievable second time, Dennis and Kelly have picked back up on the MCA show circuit, with the hardtop now earning Gold awards in its class. The Sprint, Dennis tells us, is now relegated to only national shows. Few Mustangs have run through the restoration gauntlet more than once. There is no doubt, though, that the character and quality garnered from the second go-round has sent Dennis and Kelly Fields' '67 hardtop into the Gold zone.