Though it doesn't happen nearly enough, few things in life rank better than a good surprise. We're not necessarily talking lottery-winning stuff here, rather, it's the small surprise that sometimes puts a big smile on your face and makes an indelible mark on your memory for years to come. Of course, a good surprise is even better when it relates to a beloved automobile, and Maria Ostrand's '67 coupe had a little something up its sleeve from the moment she first laid eyes on it in 1996, yet she wouldn't discover the details for some time to come.
To tell our story properly, we must first explain that Maria grew up in a bona fide car family. Part of it was two older brothers and a dad who were constantly tinkering under the hood, as well as shuttles to elementary school in the likes of a '64 Corvette roadster and '66 Chevelle. Yes, it was a GM clan, but as Maria aptly puts it, "I always liked Mustangs better." Amen, sister! Maria broke the mold in 1988 when she bought her first Ford ponycar, a '66 six-cylinder coupe, and she's never looked back.
Work took Maria away from her Northwest roots in the mid-'90s, but a call from her father alerted her to a '67 Mustang for sale in his Seattle neighborhood that warranted a look-see. Maria soon hopped a flight home from her Denver work world for Thanksgiving 1996, killing two birds with one stone by enjoying family while investigating the possibilities of a new/old car.
Leo VandenBerg was the selling party, a likable older gent who'd been a crew chief for the Miss Bardahl unlimited hydroplane team in the '60s. Leo had driven the '67 for years, but it had more recently been relegated to little more than an outdoor storage container, and the time had come to move on. As Maria related to us, it was hardly Leo's story of the car's former ownership by several members of the Seattle area hydro scene that sold her on it, rather it was the still-functioning turn-signal hood that seemed to seal the deal. The directional scallops were just one of several things that made her '66 seem plain by comparison, so an exchange of cash and title was completed in short order.
Initially, Maria didn't have much time to devote to her new set of wheels, so it sat for several years before any restoration efforts began. However, she did have a chance to investigate the car's history, and that's when the surprise was sprung.
After conversations with some of the old-timers in the unlimited hydroplane community, Maria learned that her car had been the grand prize for the 1967 Gold Cup race in Seattle. The event was perhaps the most prestigious on the American Power Boat Association (APBA) unlimited circuit at the time, and it was won by the eventual national champion Miss Bardahl, with Billy Schumacher at the helm.
As Maria understands it, such a prize normally went to the winning driver, but it seems her car was received by company-owner Ole Bardahl, reportedly because Schumacher had yet to commit to a contract for the following season. How the car eventually came to Leo VandenBerg isn't clear. Leo had passed away before Maria had a real sense of the history.