Bill Gates' 1965 hardtop is a "beautiful little car." So said Bill when it arrived on a trailer at his home in Clovis, New Mexico, in 1989. The Rangoon Red paint is so vibrant that his wife, Joyce, claims the car just glows. Bill says it is almost the same shade as Ferrari red. And with those GT stripes, Bill's hardtop is an obvious favorite at car shows.
Still, no matter how much you say about the eye appeal of this car, there is one compliment that means more to Bill. Concours restorers such as Bill consider this compliment more gratifying than praising the paint and pizazz of the car--topside. The greatest compliment fellow enthusiasts can give Bill and his coach, Kerry Hubbell, is to get down on their hands and knees and eye that undercarriage! As much work as it took to paint the car, restore the interior, and detail the engine with a Ford dress-up kit, what really separates the men from the boys in concours restorations is getting that undercarriage perfect.
Bill is quick to point out there is no such thing as a perfect Mustang, though that didn't keep him from going for a perfect score in concours competition.
His goal was to get into the Gold category at an MCA show. We mentioned Bill got the car by trailer in 1989. It was a happy day for him when the screaming red Mustang arrived because it was a freebie. How many drawings have you entered to win a new car or classic, such as a 1965 Mustang? Well, somebody has to win and Bill, already a Mustang owner and enthusiast, was informed via telephone that his entry had been randomly selected and a rust-free California Mustang would be shipped to his door in a few weeks.
This was high excitement for sure. Bill was delighted with the GT, but restored as it was, the car wasn't quite ready for primetime "Gold" in MCA competition. In the early 1990s, Bill had fun driving and showing the 1965. It brought maximum attention, but ownership wasn't fulfilling for Bill because he wanted the car to win.
All along, he had been correcting little things on the Mustang the judges had pointed out during previous competitions.
Bill's slow restoration came to an abrupt halt after a show in Lovington, New Mexico, in 1992 when, during the judging, he had a heart attack. Medics airlifted him by helicopter to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas. He was there for 26 days when medical personnel realized the medication wasn't working. As a result, Bill needed heart surgery.
Bill's operation was a big success. He had new energy and, with Kerry Hubbell, dove into the restoration with vigor. "We worked on that undercarriage for five weeks, repainting it, took everything out, detailed it, and put the factory markings back," says Bill. "We took pictures and measured everything."
The result was a stunning score of 697 in MCA competition out of a possible 700. Bill says with pride, "The only thing they found was a little dust on the red boot cover on my positive battery cable and a dirty door handle. There was nothing mechanically wrong at all with my car, and they said that was as good a job on an undercarriage as they had ever seen."
Judges just may be Bill's best admirers. He told us, "Man, those judges! They lie down on carpet and look under the undercarriage, and at every screw and bolt on that car!"