Sitting on the Silver Springs' mansion lawn during National Parts Depot's Mustang and Ford Round-up, Tom Tate's '67 Mustang coupe, with its Lime Gold paint and "dog-dish" corporate hubcaps, looked plainly out of place among the spit-shined show cars and chromed restomods. But plain-looking Mustangs offer their own appeal, so closer inspection revealed a big-block 390 under the hood and a Decor Interior with the rare Convenience Control Panel and Overhead Console. That's when Tom stepped up to explain the car's immaculate condition: "It's only got 31,000 miles."
The story gets even juicier when Tom talks about how he found the little big-block Mustang. "I was trying to finalize a deal for a '69 R-Code Mach 1, but the owner wouldn't give me a final price. At the same time, I was watching eBay Motors and noticed that this hardtop, listed simply as a '67 Mustang, had received no bids. When my attempt to get the Mach 1 back failed, I called the owner of the '67, found out it was a low-miles 390 car, and struck a deal."
While Tom's eBay find looks plain from the outside, it's actually a well-optioned '67 Mustang. First, there's the 390 "Thunderbird Special" V-8 with the C6 automatic, a combination installed in only 4,403 Mustang hardtops in 1967, according to Kevin Marti's book Mustang: By The Numbers. Second, it has a well-selected group of options: a Limited-Slip differential, Interior Dcor Group, Exterior Dcor Group (wheel lip and trunk moldings, a louvered hood with turn-signal indicators, and a pop-open gas cap), overhead and floor consoles, tinted glass, power brakes and steering, an AM radio, and the Convenience Control Panel, which added four red warning lights in the center of the dash for parking-brake warning, door ajar, seatbelt reminder, and low fuel. Amazingly, all of the warning lights still work.
In fact, Tom's '67 is amazing all over. For a 37-year-old Mustang that spent all of its life in Chicago, the car is remarkably well-preserved. Owners of '67 Mustangs with the Dcor Interior will drool over the perfect condition of the brushed-aluminum panels on the dash, door panels, and consoles. "The interior is a real time capsule," Tom points out. "It's almost as if it was never cleaned because there aren't any cleaning marks on the aluminum. The carpet is like new and the weatherstrips are still soft. Even on the instruments, there's no fading of the red needles or gauge faces. It gives me goose bumps just to sit in it!"
The exterior is just as clean. "The paint is unbelievable," Tom says. "I don't think it was washed very often. You won't find any thin spots or swirl marks in the paint."
In the trunk, Tom discovered the original jack assembly and Firestone Wide Oval spare tire. Judging by the "nubs" still in place, the tire has never been used.
The car was delivered to Tom in Florida with much of the original paperwork, which was preserved by the original owner, Donald Kepplin, who paid $3,581 for the brand-new Mustang, minus a $565 trade-in allowance for a Pontiac Tempest. Included were the window sticker, original dealer invoice dated December 31, 1966, from Fairway Ford in Chicago, Ownercard warranty identification cards, and the State of Illinois title application. There's even a pair of letters from Ford, one warning about losing the power assist on the power brakes in cold weather and the other about steering-wheel-spoke breakage.
From what Tom has been able to learn about the car, Kepplin, now deceased, was fanatical about preserving his Mustang. Tom noticed depressions in the frame from where the car was stored on jackstands. When Kepplin passed away, his widow sold the car in 1994 to friends of the family who lived just a few miles away. Through them, Tom is trying to make contact with Kepplin's wife to learn more about the car's early history, and why Kepplin was so serious about maintaining it.
When the Mustang was delivered to Tom, the trunk and interior were filled with boxes of original items, including the fuel tank, fuel pump, and carburetor, all replaced by the second owner to get the car running again after so many years of storage. On the car were aftermarket Magnum 500 wheels with spinners, purchased by the original owner from a BFGoodrich dealer on May 27, 1968, as evidenced by the receipt for $162.75. However, inside were the original wheels and hubcaps, which Tom cleaned up and reinstalled with reproduction Goodyear redline tires.
Tom admits that when he first made the deal for the hardtop, he intended to replace the 390 with a stroked 427 side-oiler. "What was I thinking?" he says now. "I just didn't know how nice the car was until I saw it in person. My eyes bugged out and my jaw dropped. I still marvel at how nice the car looks and drives."