COAL: 1986 Mustang LX – Our First New Car

Do you remember your first new car? Was it basic transportation, or a dream luxury car? Was it something you shopped carefully for? Was it needed to replace a vehicle that had gone on vacation?

Well here’s our first new car story.

When I married Cindy, part of her wedding dowry was her newish 1983 Mustang hatchback. It was a mid-trim car, brown with the GL package, automatic, air conditioning, rear window louvers and the infamous Ford Essex V6.

At about 29000 miles, it began giving us serious issues. It began burning oil, running hot and the transmission’s torque converter started to chatter. We took it to the Ford dealer where Paul, my father in law had already bought several cars. He knew the service manager so we knew they’d at least be somewhat honest.

They told us that the oil burning (1 quart per 2500 miles) was within the specifications, that the transmission would need an overhaul, but that they couldn’t track down the running hot issue. Additionally, they had called Ford to say that, with such low mileage, these things shouldn’t have failed. So Ford agreed to give $750 (half of the cost of the transmission work) towards either the repair or to be used as trade assistance. We chose the latter.

At the time, Ford was offering some great deals on the 1986 Mustang. I didn’t want another Essex V6, and the high insurance costs stopped my dream of a GT, so we leased a 4-cylinder black coupe.

It was very well equipped as you can see in the brochure pictures I’ve included. And, being the 2.3 engine, there were additional, no-charge options included.

It was a nice driving car, handled decent enough, and was brand new. However, with the automatic, it was so slow. I mean, I’ve seen ketchup come out of a glass bottle faster!

The car was good on fuel, and we did take it on a few trips, including one from Fort Lauderdale to Charlotte. Hilly areas were not a friend of the drivetrain!

At the beginning of the second year, problems began to creep up and we found that Quality Was Not Job One. First the flat surface paint peeled off to the primer. Ford refused to do anything about it. They claimed that most lease vehicles were turned anyway.

However, I was not going to take the excessive wear and tear fine! We decided a Macco touch-up paint job was a cheaper alternative to the high fines that Ford would have charged.

Next up, it started to have a miss, though Ford agreed to repair that. Turned out to be something in the spark system/electronic ignition.

The final straw was that the transmission began slipping going into third. This was at about 55,000 miles and it was near to the end of the lease, so we didn’t bother with it.

When it was time to turn it back in, we were looking at a new Mercury so we just left it at the lot and got a receipt. About two weeks later, Ford called me. They wanted to know if I’d like to buy the car for $3500, and I said no. So the rep said, how about $2500? And asked what my intentions with the car were. I explained that I had turned it into the Fort Lauderdale Lincoln-Mercury and that they were handling it from there since they did a lot of lease returns.

The Ford rep called the Lincoln Mercury dealer and they said they had no idea where the car was. They thought that it had already been picked up. So the rep called to tell me that the car was nowhere to be found!

Getting somewhat concerned, since it was still my responsibility, I called the salesman at the Lincoln Mercury dealer. He said he really didn’t know where the car was, and that he was sure the transporter had already picked it up. I gave him the number for the Ford representative, who kept calling me, and asked if he would call them and assure them that it was in fact turned in.

About two hours later, I got a phone call back from my salesman saying they had found my Mustang and two other cars! Apparently, they had let go of a car jockey for some unknown reason. So to get back at them, he took my car and two other lease returns and park them in amongst some trees in a vacant field, not far from the dealer. He then brought the keys back, went into an unused office, pulled the drawer out of the desk and tossed the sets of keys in behind the drawer!

How they found it or those keys is beyond me, but thankfully I was now off the hook! I tell you that’s just my luck!

Overall, we looked back at the car with fondness. It was our first car that was new, it was our first car together, and at $170 a month for 48 months/72,000 miles we didn’t feel we would go to wrong. It was a fun car for the most part, except for when you called it to go fast!

So share your story. It’ll be interesting to see others first car stories.