Car collections are like barbecue joints-they're scattered all over the country, and the really great ones are never advertised. Case in point is a batch of low- and no-mileage Fox-body Mustangs that inhabit the second floor of Daniel Carpenter's restoration-parts business in Concord, North Carolina.
A few years go, Daniel, whose father Dennis made a name for himself in the vintage Ford reproduction-parts business and built a large collection of his own, began looking for a clean, well-maintained '85-'86 GT to replace a favorite car from his teenage years. What he discovered was an informal network of individuals who, for one reason or another, had bought desirable Fox Mustangs, but never or seldom drove them.
His first find was an immaculate white '86 GT, with T-tops, showing only 37 miles. It had been ordered in New Jersey during nice weather, but delivered in January. Thinking the car was too nice to subject to the Rust Belt winter, the new owner placed the car in storage before the dealer had a chance to prep it or remove the factory stickers. Apparently, he discovered Ford would be introducing a new look for the Mustang in 1987, and felt the '86's final-year model status would make it more valuable with time. The GT did not leave its sheltered existence for 14 years, until its owner put it up for sale-asking only the original sticker price, still stuck to the window.
Massachusetts was the original home of Daniel's next find, another '86 GT T-top car-a red one. The first owner had worked for Ford most of his life and was an active member of the Mustang Club of America. He'd ordered the GT to his specifications, including a deleted hood stripe and manual window controls, but divorce forced him to sell the Mustang and other items in his collection. It sits in Daniel's building today with only 325 miles, the result of several trips to the Ford dealer for warranty and recall work, according to the original owner.
Daniel unearthed his next gem in Wisconsin in the form of a '79 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car replica-a 5.0-liter with a sunroof and a four-speed manual transmission. With only 2,402 built with that power combination, rarity was assured. But the fact that it had never been dealer-prepped or driven made it impossible to pass up. Eleven miles show on its odometer, and the car's front spoiler remains sealed inside its shipping box, not having seen sunlight since the day it left the factory 24 years ago.
No collection of '80s Mustangs would be complete without an '83 convertible, the car that would eventually cause the demise of the T-top and capture a large portion of the drop-top market for Ford. Daniel's late-'83 GLX is powered by a 5.0-liter hooked to the newly introduced T5 five-speed transmission. The GLX, which has been driven only six miles in its lifetime, is one of the most luxury-oriented cars in the collection, as it came standard with plush carpet, all power equipment (except for the manual rear windows), and Premium Sound. It originally belonged to a boat dealer who bought Corvettes and stored them undriven. The '83 was his first Mustang, which Carpenter thinks explains the absence of high-performance TRX wheels.
Ohio was hiding a white '89 GT hatchback, the next addition to this growing group of ponies. A coal-mine engineer had purchased it, but was too obsessed with the car's cleanliness to drive it. He had the oil changed every year and ran the engine to keep gaskets and internal parts from rotting and rusting. The car was stored on wooden blocks-another car delivered in winter that never made it out of the garage-but managed to travel 275 miles over the last 14 years.
The high-performance influence of Saleen is represented by a green '90 supercharged convertible wearing serial number 90-0010. Judging from the crispness of the black top, it's a safe bet the car's 80 miles were accumulated with it in the closed position. The Saleen found its way to North Carolina from Indiana.
Daniel actually drives one or two of the cars in his collection, but only if they already have some miles on them, high mileage meaning more than 500. His yellow '93 LX convertible was owned by a retiree in Florida and had only 3,300 miles registered when Daniel purchased it. He put another 300 miles on the convertible before tucking it away.
After traveling the country to find Mustangs, a black '85 LX coupe was practically in Carpenter's own backyard. A retired DMV worker in Asheville had ordered the car to look as much like a police pursuit vehicle as possible, including the base vinyl seats. When he passed away, the 5.0-liter coupe had only 1,100 miles on it. His widow let it sit in the basement, where it attracted a blanket of dust. The dry climate preserved the cop-car copy, and there's not even a hint of surface rust on the chassis.
Carpenter has found and bought his share of low-mileage '93 Cobras (such as his Teal 4,000-mile car) and Cobra Rs, but his display currently features the one he considers most special. Since several of the 107 Rs built were stored away by collectors and speculators, it's almost impossible to consider them rare. Desirable, yes, but rare? While everyone knows of a no-mile R in a collection somewhere, Carpenter's R is the second one produced.
The Mustang parts reproducer almost passed on his next car because it didn't fit the traditional 5.0-liter musclecar profile of the rest of his collection. He heard about an '8511/42 SVO with 380 miles, black with the Competition Prep (delete to you and me) package. It was ordered by a performance enthusiast whose 10-car garage was nicer than most living rooms and kept its inventory dry and protected. He specified the SVO be built without the optional dual-plane rear wing-a request reflected in the window sticker-but when delivered, it featured the trademark spoiler. Perhaps it was this disappointment that led him to eventually sell it.
Carpenter's latest find is a white '93 Special Service Vehicle coupe that was never sold to the intended government department in South Carolina. Dealerships were in the habit of ordering a just-in-case car, so to speak, as part of a fleet agreement, and several found their way into private hands over the years because of this practice. Collector and Ford dealer Jacky Jones in Georgia sold the 5.0-liter LX five-speed coupe to Daniel with only 347 miles showing.
Located less than a lap away from Lowe's Motor Speedway, Daniel's collection is not open to the public, but its owner works with car clubs and individuals for private viewing. It is also accessible during the biannual Food Lion AutoFairs and other large car events in the area.
For more information on Daniel Carpenter's collection or his reproduction Mustang parts, call 704/786-0990, or write to 4310 Concord Parkway S., Concord, NC 28027.