My Dad’s Curbside Classic: The One Dollar 1967 Mustang Convertible

[first posted 7/1/2011. CC commentator principaldan/Dan Fruchey sent us this love letter after having been reunited with his father’s ’67 Mustang convertible 

It was a 90 degree day, the sun was bright, and the rural Ohio roads empty.  I left the nearly useless radio off and let the wind and the cackle of the exhaust do the talking.  The sun was in her raven hair and her porcelain skin was glowing… Oh right the car, dang near forgot…

Let me preface this article by saying that I found out more about this car while taking these pictures and talking to relatives.  Some of you have heard me speak of this car on TTAC during different Curbside Classics that Paul did over there, but my knowledge has been deepened.  Paul has a good CC on the first generation Mustangs in general over at TTAC but I’ll add any 1967 specifics below. I will also take this introductory paragraph to apologize for the lack of interior pics, but then again if you’ve seen a first gen Mustang interior, you get the general idea.  I have an interest in featuring this car because it is completely original and unrestored, warts and all.  Surface rust, patina-ed paint, faded dash, cracked plastic window, rusted out rear floorboards, poor weather stripping, it’s all there.  I submit this car because it has a history to me (the history teacher/historian) and it’s not a show queen.

1967 Mustang Convertible, non-GT, 289 V8 selected off the options sheet, Cruise-o-matic transmission (didn’t marketing departments have great names in those days?), dual exhausts installed in 1979, and an upgraded rear differential (more on that later.)  According to the stats I have been able to locate online (YMMV) the standard convertible production was approximately 38,751 units (8%) out of a total production of 472,121 units.  The standard convertible was the priciest ($2,898) of the base models available.  A four-barrel 289 added $158.48 to the price and an additional $197.89 for the luxury of an automatic transmission.  As far as I have been able to determine, this car has NO other options save the push button AM radio that set the original owner back $57.51.

It has four wheel drum brakes, and seeing that it has had three different sets of mag wheels in the years I have known it (34 years) I assume that it originally had steel wheels and wheel covers.  The interior is black vinyl and the only instrumentation is the speedometer, engine temp, and charging gauge plus a non-functioning aftermarket tachometer from the 60s.

This Mustang was purchased new in 1967 by my mother’s cousin who had just acquired her license that year and had a little money to burn.  It was her high school ride for two years until she graduated and after acquiring her first job.  She sold it to her younger brother (named Dan, ironically) who had just acquired his license and here’s where the modifications begin.

Dan promptly grenade-d the rear differential doing smoky burnouts in 1970 or so, and then did what any self-respecting Midwestern teenage farm boy would have done.  He went junkyard searching and came up with the rear end  from a Mach 1, but the year and car is uncertain for the families have drifted apart and I have not been able to contact that branch.  During the time the car has been owned by my father (since 1978) the speedometer has been off by approximately 10 mph, could this be the cause?

Dan has a reputation in the family as a bit of a hooligan and in or near 1973 Dan needed some cash and decided he could part with the Mustang.  (In quizzing my grandmother, neither she, nor anyone else in the family, could remember the exact year.)  The buyer turned out to be his Uncle Harold (aka: “Tub”, my mother’s father) who was a character in his own right, an employee of GM Powertrain, Defiance Foundry (since 1955), and he drove Ford Motor Company vehicles his whole life.

He owned one new vehicle during his entire life (d. 1978) and that was a Ford XL coupe in chocolate brown.  The Mustang he acquired as a “fun car” and continued to drive his 1967 Ford Bronco to work daily while his wife drove a first gen Ford Econoline (four daughters in the family) and then later as the children graduated and left home, the aforementioned XL.  The Mustang gained miles slowly and today has but 85,000 miles on the odometer.

Tub died in 1978 (age 42; don’t smoke 5 cigars a day and eat pounds of processed meat in one sitting, kids!) and my grandmother decided she didn’t want a muscle car around but also wanted the car to “stay in the family.”  My father (her son-in-law) had a passion for muscle cars but with a new baby and his first house under construction, he had no money.  In a move that is very typical of my generous grandmother, she knew of my father and his interest.  One evening after a Sunday dinner (a few months after Tub died) she looked at him and said; “Joe, how much money do you have in your pocket right now?”  My father thought for a moment and said; “One dollar.”

She paused and said, “I’m sick of paying insurance on that Mustang.  I don’t drive it but I hate the hassle of trying to sell it myself.  You give me that dollar and I’ll sell you that car.”  Not being a stupid man, my father bit and thus was born the legend of the $1 Mustang.  The car then entered its most stable period of ownership, having one owner for the next 33 years (and counting.)

When my father acquired the car the exhaust needed replacement and a local custom muffler shop gave it true dual exhausts with cherry-bomb mufflers.  The drum brakes were redone at that time but my father working for little more than minimum wage and with a toddler at home and one on the way did little else besides routine maintenance to the car.  It kept the genuine Cragar SS wheels and street legal slicks (as he purchased it) till 2001.  My father did not install the period correct factory wheels and Goodyear tires seen here until last year, at which time the entire brake system was finally drained, upgraded lines were installed, and the Mustang finally had a firm pedal.  The rear floors are still soft and need to be replaced, no one is allowed in the back seat for that reason.  The rear window is yellowed and cracked; water intrudes if you drive in the rain because of the poor top sealing.  My father is slowly making improvements but no full restoration is planned.

What does this car mean to me?  I’ve driven it a half a dozen times, including the picture (above) I’ve included from my senior year of high school.  This car always represented “coolness” to me, the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” that enabled my father to endure pedestrian vehicles that he needed to own for the sake of his family (1978 Chevy Monte Carlo/1982 Chevy Celebrity 4cyl – family car for 10 years before it became mine/2002 Chevy S-10 Blazer.)  As a boy this car silently taught me that it was possible to be a “man” (provide for your family, teach your children solid values, treat women with respect, be a productive citizen – as the farm community around me defined it) and still have something that was owned for the pure pleasure of it, something that was fairly frivolous, something that validated your subscriptions to Hot Rod and Car Craft that you maintained, a vehicle that gave you a legitimate reason to own a decent set of automotive tools and still tapped into some of your primal instincts.  I still aspire to that, I am still searching for that frivolous car at age 34 and soon to be married again. I know the window is rapidly closing (July 2012 I get hitched.)

I took these pictures during a two week visit to my parents in Ohio and the World’s Greatest Fiancé™ was with me.  I had to get back behind the wheel of that 67 and these pictures are as the 4th and longest-term owner, my father (Joe), got the car out of winter storage for his #1 (and only) son.  I admit to having ulterior motives in my request. I wanted to to get behind the wheel again and check the car out but I also wanted to see if I could generate a little “car lust” in my fiancé.  Dad has been grumbling about selling (to buy a motorcycle!) and no matter what plays out I wanted one ride with my soul mate at my side.

It was a 90 degree day, the sun was bright, and the rural Ohio roads empty.  I left the nearly useless radio off and let the wind and the cackle of the exhaust do the talking.  The sun was in her raven hair and her porcelain skin was glowing… Oh right the car, dang near forgot.  Manual steering and drum brakes take some getting used to; I was reminded why car wheels were of such an enormous diameter.  But the acceleration, the exhaust note, the rush of a four-barrel carb coming open, wind in your hair, flat hood stretching out in front of you, smooth two lane country blacktop ahead of you.  Smell the farmed ground, the livestock, and the straw.  She did didn’t say much, my fiancé, but she said the noise made talking difficult.  We embarked on a circuitous country route that I remembered from my teen years (it had been 7 years since I had seen Ohio) and just enjoyed a country drive.

After it was all said and done and my Dad’s baby was firmly back in his hands, my lady locked her brown eyes with mine and said simply; “Indulge yourself and get whatever you want for your next car.  You’ll have it paid off before we have too many kids and once it’s paid off, what reason do you have to get rid of it?”  God I love that woman.  Is a 1967 Mustang about to have a 5th owner in the same family?  We shall see.  Is a truly exciting vehicle in my future that will inspire my children the way my Dad inspired me.  You bet.

Thanks for indulging me, CC.