My dad was a GM man throughout the first two decades of his marriage. Although it was a Willys station wagon which served as family transportation when he and my mom got married in 1950, he bought a new Chevy 210 sedan in 1953 (the car which brought me home from the hospital), and a new Corvair wagon in 1961. The ‘60s saw the Corvair augmented with a ’63 Pontiac Catalina wagon, then replaced by a used 1966 Buick Sport Wagon.
When the Ford Mustang was introduced in 1964, this 10-year-old car-crazy boy was infatuated with it. Some magazine advertisement at the time offered the chance to buy a promo model, which I did (and which I disassembled so I could paint it.) One advantage of growing up in New York City was the opportunity to visit the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park. The family went six times! Of course, the new Mustang, having been introduced there, was always on prominent display. Dad, who normally didn’t say much, ever so slightly let it be known that he “liked” this new pony car.
In the mid-sixties, we were a typical suburban American family with two cars, what with two working adults and three school-age children in the household. At that time, our transportation needs were met with station wagons (the Corvair, Catalina, and Sport Wagon). But by the late ‘60s, perhaps there was room for something more fun. (Was it a coincidence that my father turned 50 in 1969 and may have been having something of a mid-life crisis?) To my surprise and delight, “we” got just that in the form of a Ford Mustang.
In 1969, my father found a used ’67 Mustang for sale in our hometown of Staten Island, NY. It was a Lime Gold coupe, 289 2V, automatic, vinyl roof, full wheel covers, whitewalls, AM radio, and nothing else. My dad paid $2,050 for it; the number always stuck in my head because of the odd $50. I was 15, and, just two years away from a driver’s license, hoping that someday it would become my car.
In 1971, with that freshly minted license, the Mustang was ‘mine’ to drive. Dad bought a third car so that he and Mom would each continue to have their own wheels. Giving a 17-year-old a V8 Mustang was maybe not his best decision, although I used the car responsibly as transportation to a part-time job, as well as a weekend “cruisemobile” with my high school buddies. Like many teenagers, I considered myself a good driver, but in retrospect, my driving was aggressive, cocky, and naively self-assured.
It is ironic then, that on the morning of December 23, 1971, at the speed of perhaps 10 mph, I rolled through an intersection, having failed to see a stop sign, and was punched by another car. The accident was 100% my fault. The car had 2-point lap belts, but mine wasn’t on. My head hit the steering wheel, I was knocked unconscious, suffered a concussion, and required 10 stitches. (The hospital needed to shave my hairline to sew me up. Today, the scar is well below the hairline!)
This happened in Brooklyn, which is why my speed was so low. I didn’t know the neighborhood, and was looking at street signs. Dad drove to the hospital to see me. I dreaded his scolding, but he didn’t. He was upset, but took it all in stride. The Mustang was totaled. For reasons possibly having to do with insurance, the car was towed to our house, where it sat for several months before he sold it to a salvage yard. My father went back to new GM cars (Buicks and Oldsmobiles), a new Dodge Dart, and eventually moved to import vehicles (Renault, Datsun, Mazda). “Father’s first Ford” turned out to also be his last; he never bought another Ford.
Fast forward to August 2003: I purchased my first collector Mustang, a ’68 California Special, in Lime Gold (my first color choice for sentimental reasons). Dad was in failing health, and never got to ride in it. He passed away in 2006. My ’68 is a story for another time. But every so often, I think back to that ’67 coupe and wonder: did someone rescue it from the junkyard, or did it give itself up for parts so that other Mustangs could stay on the road to be enjoyed today?
All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.