Eighty-year-old Ben Hunsaker Davis of Salt Lake City, Utah, has appreciated automobiles all his life. During junior high, while waiting for his father to pick him up, he learned to identify many of the cars driving by. In those days, there were more types of automobiles than today. Many of those classic coachbuilders have disappeared along with the nameplates that came from Detroit, Kalamazoo, South Bend, Kenosha, Toledo, and other cities around the Rust Belt.
"My son, Steven, was 17 in 1974," Ben says. "We weren't as close as I wanted because I traveled a lot for work. Because I liked older cars, I thought maybe he would also. He was mechanically minded and good with his hands." That's when Ben began looking at vintage cars. He considered a Corvette but couldn't afford one. His thoughts turned to the Mustang.
Ben knew 1965 was the first year for Mustangs. While he was a busy father in the '60s, he remained attuned to the new car marketplace. It was hard to miss Ford's sporty new car. As those first models grew older, Ben decided to look for a convertible he and Steven could work on.
While traveling on business in Salmon, Idaho, Ben spotted a group of kids in a '66 Mustang. "I saw this young man in a convertible loaded with girls," Ben says with a chuckle. "I asked him if he was interested in selling. He said no because he'd owned it only a few months. I offered him $50 more than he paid for it. He wasn't biting. So I told him I'd call him in a few weeks." When Ben called the young man a week later, he was interested in selling.
But when Ben brought the convertible home, his father and son plan didn't work out. He and Steven never got together on the car.
Later, Ben found a silver '66 Mustang GT fastback on the lift at a Ford dealership in Logan, Utah. He discovered it belonged to the dealer. A mechanic was going to buy it, but he couldn't afford the taxes, title, and tags. After some haggling, Ben got the car for $173.
"This was Steve's car, not mine," Ben says. "I told him I purchased a Mustang for him and that I would be happy to help fix it." Over time, Steve began to see the value in his father's gesture.
Steve's Tahoe Turquoise fastback is now a wonderful street-driven treasure. It isn't a restomod, but it isn't a high-end, concours-restored MCA national champion, either. It's the kind of GT fastback old-timers fondly remember. The nostalgic four-barrel 289 has twin trumpets and the stock dual exhaust. Classic Mustang small-blocks make their own unique sound that tells us-without looking-that Mustang power is close by.
The cool thing about this Mustang GT fastback is the driving experience. It's easy to get lost in the sound of a vintage Ford Top Loader four-speed and genuine feel for the road. Driving a classic Mustang isn't the same as motoring along in an '07 GT-they're from different worlds. Behind the wheel of a classic, you must stay ahead of the car because it's unforgiving of negligence. It wanders and the brakes aren't as responsive as the four-wheel disc brakes of today. Put away the cell phone and Palm Pilot. This is about real driving with manual front disc brakes, heavy-duty suspension, 3.00:1 cogs, and skinny-by modern standards-P195/78/14 Goodyear tires.
If you like the Tahoe Turquoise finish, thank the Mustang Ranch in Salt Lake City, Utah, for incredible craftsmanship. Examples from Brent Reed and his staff roar around Salt Lake City.
Ben will tell you how important family ties are. It wasn't until he reached retirement that he reflected on the son he couldn't spend time with in the course of a busy career. It was through a mutual passion for classic Mustangs that these gentlemen learned something about father and son bonding.