COAL: 1966 Ford Mustang GT Convertible – All That Glitters Is Not Gold


All that glitters is not gold.  There is no free lunch.  More than meets the eye.  Pick your cliche, and it may apply here.  The only one that may not apply is to never look a gift horse in the mouth, because in this case, I probably should have looked more closely.

I’ve been putting off writing about this car for the Car of a Lifetime (COAL) series because it corresponds to some significant unpleasantness in my life, and at the same time, it may generate criticism, but what can I say; it’s real, it happened, and so here it is!

big chill porsche

1968 Porsche 911T Targa in the movie The Big Chill

I was never a Mustang guy; always loved them but I didn’t lust after them like many did.  I also was never really into convertibles as much as other folks.  Again, I thought they were cool, but I tended towards fixed roof vehicles among my favorites.  The one “convertible” I most lusted after growing up was a 911 Targa, just like the one in The Big Chill.  I vowed to my roommate in boarding school at the time, that someday I would have a Porsche!

Fast forward nearly twenty years, and my roommate from boarding school had started his own successful investment bank and had already had his Porsche, a 1999 911 Cabriolet.  He was living in Los Angeles with his wife and two young sons, and I was living in Potomac, MD, with my wife and three kids.  He called me up one day and said, you know, we should buy a classic car together.  I said really, how would that work?  He said we’ll buy it together and one of us can drive it for a while and then we’ll switch.  Well it didn’t quite work out that way, but I’m ahead of myself.


The First Television Commercial for Mucinex

You see my buddy had raised multiple rounds of capital for Adams Respiratory Therapeutics, the makers of Mucinex, and when they subsequently went public, the 1% of the company he owned was suddenly worth $10 million.  He was feeling generous and I was the recipient.

I said, ok great, LA is the place to buy a classic car, I’ll fly out there and we’ll pick one out and then you can have it first.  He said, let’s start in DC.  I said, ok we’ll buy it here and then we’ll plan a road trip to get it out there.  He said ok but no rush.  So we started looking.  We narrowed down to restored muscle cars as our category as they had not yet been completely played out and he and I both grew up on imports and were excited to try out something different.

amx amx3

1968 AMC AMX, the Ultimate Contrary-Mobile

Well, I picked out a 1968 AMC AMX with a 390 and a 4-speed stick at the local classic car dealer (they will remain nameless to protect the guilty) because it was perfect for what I like, even though it was a bit too restored for my taste.  It looked like the Mad Max mobile, and it was anything but average.


But my buddy said, what about the Mustang Convertible at the same dealer?  The Mustang was nearly twice as expensive, but he liked it, and he was paying the bills, so I went for a test drive.

It was really quite a nice car to drive.  It was a 1966 Mustang GT Convertible 289 4-barrel with a 4-speed transmission on the floor.  It had 83,000 miles and was restored.  It was nicely powered, everything seemed to work, the top went up and down, the original radio was in position with a CD player in the glove compartment, and it even came with records and a certificate of authenticity.


A deal was struck, and my friend wired the money to the dealer.  I paid the taxes and fees.  I went down and picked up the car, and took it across the street to fill it with gas, and I couldn’t get it started.  I called the dealer but they were unhelpful, and so I got a jump at the gas station and headed home.


AAA, Can You Help Me with My Brand New Classic Car?

Well the next morning, the Mustang wouldn’t start again.  It occurred to me suddenly that I had never started the car successfully on my own; it was always running for me when I got to the dealer!  I got the car towed back to the dealer and they diagnosed the problem, a bad distributor.  I said no problem, just fix it, figuring they would feel bad for delivering a non-working vehicle.  They said that price was “as is”!  We had an argument but eventually I agreed to pay for discounted work.  I can’t remember how much they charged but it felt like a rip off.


AAA, Can You Help Me AGAIN with my Brand New Classic Car?

So I drove home and parked the Mustang, and the next morning went to drive it, and again it wouldn’t start!  This time I got the car towed to the Exxon station.  The dealer had replaced the bad distributor with another bad distributor, or never even done the work at all.  It was a quick fix and the car was fine from then on!


Like a cross between cliche-mobiles, and cooler than both combined

I loved driving the car whenever I could!  To me it drove like a cross between a 911 and a Mercedes 560sl, and it was cooler than both combined.  I loved working the gears to get the most out of the 225 horsepower V8, and while its steering was a touch vague at speed, it was manual steering, and the GT included fast ratio steering, so it went where it was pointed.

There were a few nagging annoyances, like a shimmy if you didn’t thread the clutch just right.  (It was diagnosed as a flywheel issue, but as not worth fixing.)  Also, the back seat seat belts didn’t work, so I couldn’t comfortably drive the kids around in the back seat.  Finally, the combination of lap seat belts and a non-collapsible steering column terrified me in the case of an accident.

My friend came out to visit a few times, and we had some fun driving around, and while he was visiting the second time, he said hey, let’s trade that car on a different one, we’ve had our fun with it.  He said this time let’s get a car your wife would enjoy to drive as well.

So I listed the mustang on eBay, and sold it to a guy who flew in from Kansas for the car.  He agreed on $28,000 to get me to stop the bidding on eBay, but when he inspected the car, he said this is a clone.  A good one, but a clone.  I was in no position to disprove him and we agreed on a reduced number of $27,000.


We plowed the money back into a 2003 Porsche 911 Cabriolet and I made up the difference between the $27,000 and the $30,500 for the Porsche, plus the taxes, tags, etc.  My wife loved the car, but within three months, we were separated, and eventually divorced.  My friend decided he’d rather remain friends with my wife than me, and by the time I dumped the Porsche, I’d lost thousands of dollars and a friend of 21 years.