As an Mustang Club of America National Head Judge of exceptional integrity with more than four decades of Mustang experience, Wally Short and his wife, Janice, have been having a ball with Mustangs since Lyndon Johnson was president.
"In May 1966, my entire Air Force civilian office staff, some 20 people, had at least one Mustang in their families," he recalls. "Even my commanding general had one."
In the interest of office self-preservation, Wally felt compelled to buy a Mustang as well, but with limitations. It couldn't be a convertible because they were too noisy. It couldn't be a fastback because there wasn't enough rear-seat room. "So I had to buy the prettiest coupe out there."
Stationed in Southern California, Wally visited Garner Ford in San Bernardino. "They had more than 100 new Mustangs on the lot," Wally says. "It was unbelievable. There were so many to pick from." As he walked the rows of Mustangs, it became confusing and challenging-there were so many colors and options. But when he spotted a Dark Ivy Green Metallic hardtop, he knew he'd found what he wanted. "It was my dream car," he says with a glow in his eyes. He never dreamed he'd be driving the car today.
After viewing these photos of a beautiful GT hardtop, you may be surprised to learn that Wally didn't buy a GT when he signed on the dotted line. On an Air Force salary, it simply wasn't in the cards. However, Garner Ford's parts department had all the goodies to turn Wally's new hardtop into a GT on the outside. As many Mustang owners did back then, Wally bought foglamps, GT stripes and badges, and a GT gas cap. In those days, no one cared if it was an A- or K-code factory GT.
Because it has had GT Equipment Group accessories almost since day one, is it a real GT or a wannabe? As an MCA judge, it can be tricky for Wally. While there are the passersby who notice the C engine code in the VIN and make their comments, most have no idea what's before them. They see what seems to be a pseudo '66 Mustang GT, but they don't know its long history.
In the beginning, Wally and Janice's hardtop was a daily driver, with Wally commuting from Huntington Beach to the Los Angeles International Airport until 1972 when he was transferred to Kirkland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wally retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975.
Although retirement ended Wally's career, it marked the beginning of a new one for his Mustang. Because it was a well-worn used car by 1975, he and Janice signed it over to their daughter and her husband in California, where it was driven daily until 1984. They sold it to their friend Rich, who had multiple sclerosis. He drove it for 14 years, wheelchair access and all.
When Rich needed a van for easier access, he offered the Mustang back to Wally, with its odometer reading 300,000 miles. But when the hardtop arrived in Albuquerque on December 25, 1998, it had been completely restored as a Christmas surprise.
The Ivy Green hardtop rolled off the San Jose assembly line in April 1966, just a month or so before Wally strolled onto Garner Ford's lot for a closer look at the vast assortment of Mustangs. Ford fitted this Mustang with the 200-horse 289-2V engine, C4 Cruise-O-Matic, and 2.80:1 peg leg gears. Thousands of others were equipped just like it.
During the 1998 restoration, everything was done to make the car authentic to 1966, right down to Styled Steel wheels and GT dual exhaust trumpets. Although the original 289 is long gone, Wally and Janice have a '66 289 engine that has been rebuilt with 4.030-inch cast pistons, fresh bearings, and a 1M crankshaft. We like the Cobra dress-up kit with hollow-letter valve covers, a dealer item from 1966. Beneath the open-element Hi-Po air cleaner is a 600-cfm Holley 1850, which pumps up the power and torque. A Pertronix Ignitor module eliminates points to improve reliability.
Inside, Wally and Janice enjoy the most popular Mustang interior ever-the Interior Dcor Group, affectionately known by enthusiasts as the Pony Interior. Underdash, period-correct Ford air conditioning beats sweating in the New Mexico heat.
When we asked Wally and Janice what they like most about their 42-year-old Mustang hardtop, they agreed it was a 50/50 split between styling and the driving experience. Wally adds, "If I had to pick one or the other, I'd go for that unique Mustang styling!"
Wally's World Wally Short served in World War II as a belly ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress. He remains a private pilot with more than 50 years of flying experience. He loves the P-51 Mustang World War II fighter plane. He has been president of the Rio Grande Mustang Club in Albuquerque more times than anyone can count. He has been an MCA Gold Card Judge since 1985.