That's exactly what he did-he literally drove it off the showroom floor. The car was a base model Wimbledon White six-cylinder hardtop. He was very proud of that car and everyone in town knew us by that little white Mustang. In 1979, I traded a '74 Mustang II that was originally bought for me for the '66, which my sister had been driving. My father and I fixed some minor dents and rust, and gave it new paint and bumpers. The car-restored to almost new-was now mine to drive to high school and college. Often asked if I wanted to sell, I never considered any offers; it was part of my family. Then in the summer of '82 it was stolen from where I worked. My heart sank, and I still remember the long silence on the phone after I broke the news to my dad that his "baby" was gone.
We purchased a used '79 Mustang as a replacement, but for years we looked for the stolen '66, even to the point we would follow one for miles to see if it was ours.
In the years that followed, my dad and I attended many local shows and talked about the day we would get another '66 Mustang. It wasn't until the end of 1995 (by then my father had retired) that we decided to get serious-but this time it would be a convertible.
After looking at some cars within our budget, I found a '66 convertible, six-cylinder automatic in June 1996. The car needed the major rusted convertible repairs (floors, torque box, and so on), but showed promise, so we decided it would be a good project for us to tackle together. The disassembly began and we assessed what needed replacing. My dad and I headed off to Virginia Mustang to purchase the items for the first phase of restoration-a trip he would make often because birthdays and Christmas always included Mustang parts.
Unfortunately, in 1997 my dad's availability became limited when he was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo treatment. Still finding some time, restoration work continued, but at a slower pace.
Spring of '98 brought a new job for me and major surgery for my father. The restoration came to a temporary halt. As 1998 ended, I decided I didn't want to go another summer without a Mustang to drive and began the search for one that was already restored.
Maybe we could find a Mustang that my dad and I could take to the 35th Anniversary in Charlotte. After several months that included car searches around the country, I nearly gave up until I stumbled across a '66 289 Candyapple Red convertible 20 miles from my home. The car-restored five years earlier-still looked and ran great.
I bought it and couldn't wait to show it to my dad. He was thrilled to see it, and we went for a ride through the old neighborhood. It was too late for Charlotte, but we talked about taking a ride to Virginia Mustang for a few items and maybe taking it to a June Father's Day show. Along the ride, my father expressed how much he liked the car and stated that, when the time came, he wanted the car to lead his funeral procession.
Unfortunately, my father's health took a drastic turn over Memorial Day weekend, and he passed away later that week. We honored his wishes as the Mustang proudly led the procession from the church to the cemetery. The top was down and it was a nice day, so I know he would have enjoyed the ride. Even though we never made the Father's Day show, I can look back on all the fond memories I had with my dad, especially those that involved Mustangs. I still hope to finish the restoration on the other '66 Mustang in his honor.
Mustangs will always be one of those special bonds that I hope to carry on with my two small children, who both love to ride in "Daddy's red Mustang," or help when I work on the other "broken" car.