The Ford Mustang, redux
March 9, 2021
It was on March 9, 1964 when the first Mustang automobile rolled off the assembly line at Ford Motor company’s Dearborn, Michigan plant. Today, the Mustang continues as one of the best selling and most popular cars ever produced by Ford.
For those who have been reading my blog for several years, you may recall that three years ago I posted about the 1965 Mustang here: https://barbaradevore.com/2018/04/17/1965-ford-mustang/
Today’s Tuesday Newsday is going to be a bit of a departure, as I have nothing particularly new from the Infallible Wikipedia to share on this topic. You can, of course, go there and read up on everything you might hope to learn about the Mustang.
What I do know is that the Mustang was a huge hit from the day it launched and has spawned clubs for owners, like the Mustang Club of America, matchbox cars, models, and an almost cult like following for the distinctively designed vehicle.
As with the Volkswagen beetle, or the Porsche, or the Corvette, the Mustang’s of the 1960’s are instantly recognizable and highly collectible.
While the majority of the early Mustangs have ended up in junk yards and recycled, some have been lucky enough to survive down through the years. This is the story of one such Mustang.
We pick up the story of the Mustang my Dad purchased slightly used circa 1966. It is now July 11, 2020 and my father has been gone just over 10 months. Despite being in the middle of the Covid Pandemic, I have estate business to tend to and have traveled to Yakima and am staying with my sister. Her home is situated in the middle of apple, cherry, and pear orchards just west of Selah – a smaller city four miles north of Yakima. Yakima County boasts a population of just under 250,000 people so it is not huge, but is certainly not small either.
On this particular Saturday it’s sunny and warm with a high in the low 90’s. In the mid-afternoon the two of us drive down into Selah in my sisters Honda with a load of items to be donated to Goodwill. From there we head south to a Safeway store in Yakima for a few dinner items. Our intended route is actually a big circle as we head to her place via the ‘back’ way which is to travel west on highway 12, then north on Old Naches Highway, and finally head east up Mapleway Road.
My sister is driving and we are, as is our nature, chatting away. Just as we reach the crest the hill I notice a white convertible about 500 yards ahead of us. It’s distinctive Mustang back end causes me to blurt out, “Look, it’s Dad’s car.”
A wave of nostalgia washes over me. Oh those summers when we drove around with that black rag top down, flirting with boys during forbidden runs up and down Yakima Avenue, not a care in the world with real life still a few years away.
Of course, I didn’t really think it WAS my dad’s car. After all, he had sold the car in the 1980’s and the family lost track of it over the years. Realistically, what were the chances the car still existed? Even so, I urged my sister to get a little closer so we could at least see the license plate. She obliged and I strained my eyes to make out the letters and numbers.
“It IS dad’s car!” I exclaim. “Follow him!”
The Mustang, now at a stop sign where the main road goes right, turns. A minute later we are at the same spot and also turn right. A minute after that, we sail past the road which leads to my sister’s house and are headed back down into Selah, retracing our route from earlier.
On we go, now in hot pursuit of Dad’s car.
“I want to talk to him,” I tell her. From behind we can tell it’s a middle aged man sporting a baseball cap driving the car.
We travel past the school, city hall, the bank, the telephone company, and turn north on Wenas Road. My eyes are fixed on the Mustang wondering just how far he’s going to drive. From my perspective, it didn’t matter. Catching up with him was my goal; being with the car once again important somehow.
My sister pulls into the left lane to try and get up next to the car but then the driver signals a right turn into the parking lot of the True Value hardware store. We sail past.
It takes us several minutes to get turned around but at last we pull up next to the parked – and now empty – car and wait for the driver to return.
Not wanting to be creepy or draw suspicion, I force myself to sit and wait. And wait. And, after five interminable minutes our quarry emerges from the store headed to his car which was once my Dad’s car.
I climb out of the passenger seat of my sister’s vehicle and step forward, catching his attention.
“This will be the weirdest conversation you’ve had all week,” I say and then continue, “But this was my Dad’s car.”
“Really? He must have sold it to my Mom back in the early 1980’s. What was his name?”
“Vincent DeVore. I’ve never forgiven him for selling it.”
This elicits a chuckle. I forge on. “Unfortunately my dad passed at the end of October. But I think it would please him to see what great shape the Mustang is in.”
“I’m sorry about your Dad. My mom died in December. The car was stored in her garage until January when it came to me. She had the leather seats recovered and the whole thing has been repainted. She used to take it to the classic car shows. She loved this car.”
“It looks amazing,” I say and mean it.
“Yeah. I learned to drive in this car,” he says and to which I reply, “So did I! It was the best.”
What then followed was the snapping of a couple of photos of both my sister and I with the car. We also learned that he lives less than a mile from my sister and is the neighbor of my brother-in-law’s best friend. And that day was the first day he’d had the car out and driving around with the top down, reliving just for a short time, his sweet teenage memories in the car of his – and my youth.
As for me, it was only one of several surreal events following my Dad’s death. In a way I found it comforting and, every once in a while, am reminded that even though Dad is gone, his spirit lives on.
*In 1958, license plates in Washington were assigned by county. All plates in Yakima County started with the letter “E.” The Mustang’s plate was likely issued new with the car in 1965. Visit this website for how this all worked. http://staff.washington.edu/islade/counties/index.htm