"It's an affliction. I've got Mustangs stashed in garages all over. I can't help it," said Brad with a wry smile. "It's the old second-childhood story. When I was in high school I couldn't afford any of this stuff."
Brad graduated in 1971. In the last six years, his two sons have graduated from college and left home. Looking at Brad on the street, one may not guess he'd just picked up a 289 engine balancer for $15, in case he needed it later, or that after working at the Nevada Credit Union all day, he works on Mustangs at night and on weekends.
Eleven cars populate the family stable today, and that's not counting the late-model. We didn't know Mrs. Beal drives a '98 Mustang convertible until we noticed an extra set of modern wheels in one of the storage buildings.
Brad met us coming from work on Tropicana Avenue in Las Vegas in his '66 beater. "This is the least car in my collection," Beal chuckled as we shook hands. A Mustang Monthly subscriber since he got in the hobby, Brad explained his son recently gave the '66 back to him and he'd cleaned it up to drive.
I hopped in the passenger seat, and we sailed away into 21st Century traffic, trying to understand our shared affliction with Mustangs. Here we were in a car close to 40 years old, so I posed the question: Why shouldn't we both be happy in that Lexus sedan next to us?
"I don't think I can fix it if it breaks," Brad said. "At least I have a shot at fixing an older Mustang."
We drove to Brad's home, where he has six cars stored. He flipped open the glovebox to retrieve the remote that opens the gate to his affluent neighborhood. A few minutes later, a second click opened a garage door, revealing a stunning red '66 convertible beside a '30 Model A. The third slot was occupied by a white '57 Thunderbird. A refrigerator with soft drinks and bottled water was evidence of many hours spent here.
The Model A roadster didn't fit the profile. Brad explained the one-acre lot for the new home he was building was, by accident, " '30 Ford Avenue." As a result, he felt compelled to buy a '30 Ford. The new house will be built with a three-car garage for "everyday" cars. A garage out back will house six Mustangs with space to work on them.
"Don't need a big house," Brad proclaimed. "Need a smaller house, more garages." Imagine Mustang collectors the whole country over in the same process of trading bedrooms for garages and SUVs for Mustangs!
The bulk of Brad's Mustangs was housed where storage space is cheaper, in Boulder City, a 15-mile trip in the '66 coupe. As we drove, Brad reminisced. In high school, Mustangs were all the rage, but he had no money. A tinge of adolescent angst came through when Brad said, "I wanted one for years and years."
The first buy was a '70 fastback that Brad restored and gave to his son when he graduated from high school.
"What we really wanted was a '70 convertible," said Brad. "We finally did find one, which we still own. Then we decided we wanted a '68 fastback. We found one of those, too. Then a gal came along with a Mach 1. We made a low offer, and she surprised us."
Brad told his philosophy on restoring: "Some people like 'em customized, some don't, some like perfect. Me, I just want something that looks nice and runs good. If it's not fun, why do it?"
Soon we were in Boulder City, where Brad stores the '68 fastback and his '69 Mach 1 in a garage built around 1930. As Brad peeled the covers off the '68 fastback, dust rolled off the back window.
"Dust is a problem here," complained Brad. "There's dust everywhere. Bought this '68 off a guy in town. His kid was driving it to high school, but when he went to college, he sold it to me for $3,500. The interior was trashed, but we saved the paint."
Brad opened a second garage door and pulled the cover off the Mach 1. "I think I gave the lady $5,500 for it," he said. "We did everything on this one . . . well, we didn't pull the 351, but we repainted it and replaced the chrome and interior."
The pride of Brad's collection was next, stored in a modern facility a mile or so away. Funny thing, it's a six-cylinder-not a muscle V-8. Brad seemed to enjoy talking about the 80-year-old original owner as much as the car.
"She gave me the original paperwork and purchase order," explained Brad, "but she didn't have the window sticker. She bought it on February 9, 1966, from California Motors Ford in Glendale, California."
Hoover Dam was less than 10 miles away, and we couldn't resist a cruise with the top down. First, we took a quick peek at Brad's '67 convertible. He talked diplomatically of the two women, "romantically involved," who sold the car.
"What appeals to me is the factory four-speed," said Brad. "When I went to look at it, it wasn't ready. The owner said her girlfriend had put a new carburetor on it, and it wouldn't run. So we got to tinkering with the carb. In a matter of minutes, we had it running so we could test drive it. We brought it home."
The six fired up the third try. Each time, Brad pumped the gas pedal four or five times. The air was perfect for an open-air drive. At Hoover Dam, we rolled to a security checkpoint, and an officer announced, "Sir, you'll have to leave that car here."
He was joking. Three policemen told us how nice the Mustang was, and it turned heads the whole way through Hoover Dam. Even with a six, Brad Beal had arrived.
Beal is one of the millions of post-World War II baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, who have raised their kids and are now buying the cars of their youth. These people have disposable incomes and have entered their prime money-earning years. They no longer need a sedan to haul the kids. They fall smack dab in the middle of the group who favor the '60s and early-'70s performance cars.
One of the last things Brad said during our visit was, "I might even clean up that little '66 convertible someday." Actually, we'll look for a full-blown restoration once the new house is built. Watch and see-baby-boomers like Brad are also overachievers.