For the past 46 years, a Sauterne Gold '66 Mustang convertible has played a significant role in Ann Dahmer's life. It was her mother's first new car, and later became Ann's college graduation present. Ann has owned the convertible ever since. It was recently restored by Buckeye Automotive Restorations, and Ann made the trip to Jacksonville last May for the debut of her refurbished family heirloom at the Mustang Club of America's River City Nationals.
Ann clearly remembers the excitement around the Dahmer household when her dad decided to buy a Mustang convertible for her mother. "I was 10 years old," Ann told us from the show field. "My dad worked for General Motors and had a '62 Thunderbird. In 1964, he knew the Mustang was coming but he said, 'You should never buy a car in its first year.' So my dad ordered the convertible in 1965, right at the beginning of the '66 model year. I remember my mom brought home the color chart to figure out what color she wanted. I specifically remember the Sauterne Gold name because it was hard for me to say."
For Ann's mom, Marguerite, it was a classy color for a classy lady. Ann recalls that her mother always "bucked the trends." Few women played golf in the 1960s, but one of Marguerite's criteria for her new car was that her golf clubs had to fit in the trunk. She was also one of the first married school teachers in Michigan.
"I remember us going down to Weineke Ford in Saginaw and getting this car," Ann continues as she reminisces. "My mom just loved it. Of course, I did too. I can remember, as a kid, my mom telling me to hop in the backseat to unzip the rear window because we were putting the top down."
Other than the classy color, the Mustang is basic, powered by the 200 cubic-inch six-cylinder and automatic transmission, even though Ann recalls trying to talk her mom into a stick-shift. The only option is power steering.
Ann laughs when she remembers the time her father ran the convertible through a car wash. "The Mustang was still brand-new and we got some mud on it on the way to church. We drove through the car wash in our Sunday best but quickly learned that the convertible top was not waterproof! It's never been through a car wash again."
During high school, Ann occasionally drove the convertible, mainly during her senior year after her mom bought a new '72 Mustang. As an incentive, Marguerite promised to give the convertible to Ann when she graduated from college. Ann kept her end of the bargain by graduating from Kalamazoo College in 1978 and the Mustang has been in her possession ever since. It was her daily driver at first. Then, like so many Mustangs, it was put aside due to maintenance issues.
"I was going to get it restored while my mom was still with us but she got sick too quick," Ann says. "So unfortunately I didn't get it done before she passed away in 2009. I was just going to get it drivable again, but then I met Nate Miller and his dad, John, from Buckeye Automotive Restoration. They said they could really get it looking good. So I thought, 'That would be cool.'"
Nate certainly understands the family connection. His mother, Kathy, still owns the '64¢ Mustang that she received as a high school graduation present in 1964.
The goal for the restoration was to return the car to its brand-new condition, just like Ann remembered it from 1966. Utilizing their experience from restoring other first generation Mustangs, Nate and John added all the details for a concours-correct '66 Mustang, right down to the overspray on the steering column at the firewall. As a finishing touch, they added a dash plaque with Marguerite Dahmer's name underneath the original AM radio.
Based on Ann's reaction when she saw the completed car for the first time at Jacksonville, the father and son team at Buckeye succeeded. "It's amazing!" Ann said as she walked up to the convertible at the show. "This is the first time I've seen it like it was when I was 10 years old. It just takes my breath away!"
Ann notes that her father had the Mustang repainted several times over the years but the local body shops never got the Sauterne Gold right. She says the guys at Buckeye nailed the original color, code Z on the Mustang paint chart. She was also mesmerized by the restored parchment with gold interior, code D8.
"The color of the carpeting is just right," Ann exclaims from the driver's seat. "And the sill plates were all bent up. They're perfect now."
After the excitement of seeing the restoration for the first time at Jacksonville, Ann started looking forward to showing the Mustang to her father, who still lives in St. Joseph, Michigan. "That will be a big deal when my father sees it," Ann says. "It'll happen at a car show in St. Joe in August. And then I don't know. I'll drive it, but maybe just in parades! Or maybe I'll just sit back and look at it!"