COAL: Retiring the Mustang to the French Riviera

I had just ticked off an item off my bucket list: driving a car to Alaska. The Mustang successfully completed the 10,000 mile round trip at the hands of three drivers, performed excellently in the Alcan 5000 road rally, and created three weeks of memories that I will forever cherish. So… now what?

During the Alcan 5000, my new friends suggested that we ship our cars to Europe and do the London to Lisbon road rally. That was the plan, initially. Complete one adventure, plan for the next one!

Things didn’t quite work out that way.

Refurbishment needed

The Mustang needed quite a bit of work after its trip to the Arctic Circle and back. For one, the body and paint was in significantly worse shape. A crack in the floorboard had opened up, scooping up rainwater in soaking it into the carpet right behind the drivers seat. I had effectively sandblasted the rockers and rear quarters of the car. The “O” in the Ford badging on the hood had even fallen off.

A poor repair from a previous owner failed and opened up a nice crack in the floorboard.


The suspension also needed work. The car still had a slight amount of positive camber on the front axle, which I had planned on addressing by doing the “Shelby drop,” a process by which the upper control arm mounting points are moved lower on the body to lower the car and improve the camber curve. And honestly, the car was due for new everything in the front suspension after the thrashing I put on the car driving the McCarthy Road going to and from Kennecott Mines.

Originally, I had planned to run the Alcan 5000 with the Mustang, and then immediately turn around and fix up the car and make it “nice.” But then I ran the numbers for how much it would cost to make it nice. For the cost of bodywork and paint, I could buy another Mustang.

I could try to fix the bare minimum and simply keep the car going. But it would always kill me that the body was in such terrible shape. Really, the floors and the rear quarters needed to be replaced for me to be happy, with a really nice paint job to boot. It didn’t seem right to try bolting on performance parts onto a car that was rusty.

And so I waffled. Every now and then, I’d take the car out for a drive, with its cocked steering wheel reminding me that I needed to address the front suspension.

Another road rally in Europe?

All the while, I was running the numbers in a Google Sheet. If I made it a goal, how much money would I have to save in order to afford this kind of trip, and how long would it take for me to save it?

Cold, hard reality crashed down on me as I crunched the numbers. I’d need a bare minimum of 2-3 years in order to save up the money to pull off a European road rally adventure with the Mustang as my ride of choice. Not only that, this period of saving money would require me to give up most of my motorsports activities.

In 2018, the year I did the Alcan 5000, I was in the awkward position of wishing that the summer was over so I could finally have some fun. In 2019, reverting back to my old ways, I splurged on all of the autocrossing, time trials, and crapcan endurance racing that I had denied myself the year before. Could I go another year (or more) of not doing any motorsports stuff?

Eventually, I came to two conclusions. First, it took a lot of saving money, begging for vacation time, wrenching time, and sacrifice to make the Alcan 5000 happen. Second, doing a European road rally with the Mustang was something that was simply above my station in life; easy (or at least easier) to do if you’re a VP of a large bank or you have the financial wherewithal to run a genuine Shelby Mustang as a rally car, not quite as easy to do when you’re a mere grunt working IT near the bottom of the corporate totem pole.

So I had a car that I wouldn’t be satisfied with unless it had a lot of work done that I wasn’t willing to pay for, and no big adventures left that I wanted to do with the car. I let the logical side of my brain take the reigns, and made the decision to sell the car.

Well, not before I did the last thing I had wanted to do with the Mustang.

Running the Mustang on ice

The last thing I had wanted to do with the Mustang was run it in a rallycross. I had this dumb idea that the Mustang would do great, as it was a small car with lots of ground clearance and plenty of power from its V8. How cool would it be to slide the thing around in the dirt? (I wouldn’t be the only one running a Mustang at a rallycross — one friend and his Fox body Mustang comes to mind when I think about the cars that show up at Detroit Region rallycrosses!)

That never came to pass. But what’s another motorsport with low grip and lots of sliding? Ice runs!

You may remember that I did ice runs with my Saab 96. That car did remarkably well, even with all-season tires on its four wheels.

The Mustang did not do well at all. Even with a set of snow tires that I had bought just for the express purpose of running the Mustang in the ice runs, the car was simply terrible on the ice. I took the car out to a single Saginaw Region ice runs event, and it was enough. The car kept getting stuck, even with its brand new snow tires. One event worker, in exasperation, exclaimed: “John! Why do you always have to be bringing the weirdest shit to these events?” I believe that statement came after the Mustang got stuck near the finish, an amazing instance where the car had momentum heading into the final element, and somehow, the momentum vanished and the car just stopped moving. I remember apologizing to the Jeep that was running behind us, as they must have pushed the Mustang nearly half a dozen times over the course of the day.

The Mustang sits on the side of the ice runs course after my friend and codriver for the event stalled the car, then flooded the motor trying to get it going again. The picture perfectly summed up our event…


All you folks who drove cars like this Mustang in the winter time back in the day, I don’t know how you did it. Though in hindsight, what I should have done was fill the gas tank all the way up, and then dump several sandbags into the trunk. Still. Terrible car in the snow, haha!

Selling the Mustang

I decided to sell the Mustang during the waning days of fall in 2019. Selling a vintage car right before wintertime up where the snow falls is never a good idea. Few people want to buy a car that they immediately have to sock away in storage for several months.

But I thought I’d throw the car up for sale at the lowest price I was willing to accept, and see what happened. If no one bit, I could always store the car inside my garage for the winter and put it up for sale in the spring.

I wrote up a long, detailed description of the car, took a bunch of photos, recorded a couple of videos, and put the Mustang for sale on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay Motors. I listed the car for $10,000 on Facebook and Craigslist, and for $11,000 on eBay Motors. (Why not Bring a Trailer, like I did with the RX-7? Well, the Mustang was definitely not good enough for the Bring a Trailer crowd, with its terrible body and paint, and horrors of horrors incorrectly pinned badges on the front fenders!)

A 1966 Ford Mustang with an A-code V8 motor, a 5-speed transmission swapped in, and an added TrueTrac limited slip diff ought to be pretty appealing at 10 grand, I thought.

Facebook Marketplace got me one or two flakes, but no other interest, surprisingly enough. Craigslist was also a similar situation: pretty much nothing but crickets.

eBay had a little bit more action. There were some folks who read the description of the car, and of the things that I had done with it, and helpfully sent me messages telling me not to sell the car, and that I would regret selling it if I did. Thanks, I guess?

With so little action, I was expecting that I was going to store the Mustang for the winter and try again in the spring. So when an email message popped up in my inbox in poorly written English, I didn’t think much of the message at first.

The sender was a man on the southern coast of France, and he was interested in my car. Could I send him some more information? I quickly answered his questions, and moved on with my life, not expecting to hear from him again.

But lo and behold, he responded. And he had more questions. Could I take a video of the underside of the car? Hmm… why not. While I did my usual hanging out with a friend — who happened to have a lift — we put the Mustang up in the air. With my cell phone, I took a quick five minute video of the body and the underside of the car, pointing out all of the issues the car had.

Now things were getting serious. The gentleman in France asked if I was willing to budge on the price. I wasn’t. “If you like the car, just click ‘Buy It Now’,” I told him. I expected that that would be the end of the exchange.

The next day, I had a notification from eBay congratulating me on selling a car. Wow, I thought to myself, he really did it.

He paid the deposit using PayPal, and the rest using a bank wire. I nervously waited for the money to appear in my bank account. When it did, it finally hit me that this was really happening. This Mustang was going to France.

I did another video for the buyer detailing what I had in the garage for spare parts, and let him decide what parts would be packed into the car for its trip across the ocean. All of the OEM parts I had for the car, save for the spare hood and trunk lid that I had, went with the car to the buyer; I packed the ever loving shit out of the trunk and the interior, with all my suspension and interior spares, the two original seats, the “original” center console, a new carpet, and some engine performance parts, all fitting inside the car.

I told the buyer that I could assist with loading the car onto a truck, but all other aspects of shipping were on him. He was okay with that. In October, he sent for an auto transporter, picking up the Mustang from my house and delivering it to a port in New Jersey, where it would be readied for its voyage across the Atlantic.

The Mustang leaves my garage. =(


A few months after the Mustang left my garage, I emailed the buyer. I hadn’t heard from him since the car was picked up from my garage. Did the car make it to the southern coast of France?

The Mustang makes it to France!


He emailed me a picture of the car, wearing a new set of plates, at its new home. He also emailed me some pictures of the other two Fords he had in his fleet: a K-code fastback Mustang, and a Galaxie 500 with a 427. Suffice to say, the ’66 Mustang is in good hands!

Acknowledging my constraints

If there was one car that my friends thought would stick around forever, it was this Mustang. So why did it end up leaving? Did I really give up my rootin’ tootin’ V8 burbly style icon Mustang for a… Volvo station wagon?

I didn’t realize it until after the Mustang had gone, but it was a car that encapsulated a special time of my life. I was fresh out of school, working at a big company but with few responsibilities to bear, with no obligations to family or kids, and a lot of time and money on my hands. I spent a lot of that time on money on a slew of interesting old cars.

But now I’m older. I’m still single (gee, no surprise there!), but I have more responsibilities at work, a house that needs attention, and am heavily involved with the Detroit Region chapter of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), at first as an event organizer and now as the Region’s Solo Director. I simply don’t have the time or the energy like I used to to keep a massive fleet of cars around.

I came to that realization when I had four cars inside my four car garage and I couldn’t put my leaking C5 Z06 Corvette in shelter and out of the rain. At that point, I realized that the cars owned me, not the other way around.

And so the selloff began. Cars that I never thought I’d get rid of — my beloved Subaru XT Turbo, my Morgan Plus 4! — I got rid of. The fleet dwindled down until it was just four cars.

And then, there were three. With the Mustang gone, I was down to what I decided that I could comfortably handle, two project cars — the Mazda Miata track car and the (absolutely, completely rust free!) Volvo 245 — and my Fiesta ST, a modern driver that I didn’t need to wrench on. (Or that I’d have the dealership or my indie shop wrench on, as it would be.)

My friends used to joke that I bought a car every couple of months. I’ve now gone two years and counting without buying a car. I acknowledge that isn’t difficult for normal people, but for someone with serial car ADD like I have had in the past half dozen years, it feels like a great achievement. (Though who knows how long the streak will continue!)

I know that it’s not typical for a COAL writer to write about a single car over several posts, but I had done so much with the car that I felt like its stories deserved more than a single post. The Mustang was at the center of so many memories with so many friends, and personal getaway capsule for when I desired aloneness and self-reflection. It’s not often that a car transcends its mere metal, mortal self and becomes a figurative Car of a Lifetime. I feel so lucky to have had this car, to have done the things I have done with this car, and to have done those things with those who are now my closest friends.

It does make me happy that its adventures will continue on, even if I’m not the one behind the wheel of its future road trips. Enjoy the French Riviera, little Mustang. You deserve it.

And as this my last COAL post, thanks to all of you for reading along!