The stray comment, "Dan has an old Mustang in one of his barns," got Kurt Zabel's attention.
"I've had an interest in classic Mustangs for as long as I can remember," said the high school chemistry teacher from Hastings, Minnesota.
In the 1960s, his mom's prom date had been a Marine jet pilot who had bought a new Mustang. Kurt could only speculate--a 289 Hi-Po, a Boss, maybe a Shelby? Pilots don't usually buy economy cars. Kurt wanted more information.
The 260 was stock except for...
The 260 was stock except for 221 heads. The engine even retained the aftermarket emissions system.
However, his mom, Joan, didn't know the answer. She had never seen the car. And the barn was in South Dakota. The only reason she found out about the Mustang was that she got back together with Dan DeVaney, her high school prom date, after her husband died. Not long after their new relationship began, she mentioned the Mustang to her son.
"I began to ask Dan about the car every time I saw him," Kurt said. "All I could get out of him was, ‘Yeah, it's out there.'"
Two years passed before Kurt got the information.
The South Dakota barn hid...
The South Dakota barn hid this ’64-1/2 Mustang for over 30 years.
Dan bought a new '64-1/2 Mustang hardtop, Vintage Burgundy with the 289/three-speed manual, while he was living in Southern California. He sold the car in the early 1970s and immediately suffered seller's remorse. He soon found a replacement '64½ hardtop, nearly identical to his first Mustang with X-code paint but with an F-code 260 instead of the 289.
In the mid-1970s, Dan drove the Mustang back home to Dell Rapids, South Dakota. He parked it under a tarp in one of his parent's barns, where the hardtop sat for the next 30-some years.
Kurt was persistent in his attempts to buy the Mustang. Dan resisted, pointing out that Kurt didn't have a place to store it. In response, Kurt constructed a two-car garage in his backyard. Finally, Dan agreed to let Kurt have the car based on two conditions—he would donate $500 each for Dan's four grandchildren for college funds, and give Dan the front bumper with his old Marine-base parking sticker and the 1979 license plates.
The oddest part of this deal was the fact that Kurt had not even seen the Mustang. "My mom took some photos of the car in the barn and sent them to me," Kurt says. "It probably looked rough to most people, but to me, it looked great."
Kurt used a tractor to tow the Mustang out of the barn. He tried to push-start the 260, but when he dropped the clutch, the tires just skidded.
Back home in Hastings, Kurt uncovered a complete car with no rust or body damage, except for minor dings, and just 60,000 miles. He removed two mouse nests, one behind the passenger headlight and the other in the cowl. Apparently, mothballs kept the mice out of the interior. In the trunk, Kurt found the original black California license plates; he eventually convinced Dan that they should stay with the car.
Peering inside the engine, Kurt could see why it wouldn't rotate. One cylinder was filled with water and completely rusted. Kurt bought another 260 for $30, then rebuilt it. The next summer Kurt tackled the interior and was even able to save the original Vintage Burgundy paint.
Kurt plans to enjoy the Mustang for years to come and someday would like to drive it on Route 66 to California.
Meanwhile, Dan did not get seller's remorse this time. He's happy the car is "in the family" and on the road again.