When I was 16 all I wanted was a Ford Mustang GT. I knew exactly what I wanted too. It would be a dark metallic silver with black seats and the full audio upgrade package. I didn’t really know how I was going to get this car, I just knew I really wanted it.
My grandfather had made it a habit of buying all the grandkids a car. He didn’t do it right off though, he waited until they had been driving and had their first wreck or share of breakdowns in handed down cars first. Now, while he wasn’t in the habit of buying brand new sports cars, he was in the habit of getting them, so I thought to influence him a little wouldn’t hurt. I knew that he had planned to give me his Ford Explorer, so I made it clear to everyone that I didn’t want an SUV. This was a risky move, because I had felt like I had talked my way out of getting anything from him several times when making that clear.
I then went out to the dealership and got pamphlets and information on the new Mustangs, and went to my grandparents house and talked to my grandmother about them and “accidentally” left these materials around when I left in places my grandfather would likely read them. Knowing that he would talk to my dad about the car buying choices, I made it clear with my dad exactly what I wanted. My dad doesn’t respond as well to subtlety, so I just came out and said what I wanted and why to him. I felt the best approach with him was straight blunt honesty on the subject. He in turn did the same, or at least I thought at the time.
He told me that I needed to continue making it clear to my grandfather what I wanted but that I needed to be looking at the kind of cars he suggests to me, but that I might be able to persuade him to get me something close to what I want, even if it isn’t exact. For example, if he sends me to a Saturn or Honda dealership to test out a sedan, test out the sportier cars there as well and report back on both. I might not get a Mustang, but I might get a sports car or at least closer to it.
The day finally came when the car I had been driving died, I had to get rid of it. This left me with no car, and so I was hopeful that I was getting a car, and at this point I just wanted something to be free from my parents or brothers driving me around. My dad took me to several places to look at cars over a few weeks, and one day he suggested we get my grandfather out to the dealerships in town to look with us, since he was going to be the one putting the money down for me. To be exact, it was November 25th, 1998 when we went out to do this. We first went to another dealership and I looked around and purposely didn’t see anything I liked, I had made up my mind that I wanted that Mustang GT and I wasn’t going to find anything else that I liked.
Well we finally went to the Ford dealer and my grandfather asked me why I wanted this car so bad and we looked at it, but there was a Ford Escort out front after that with balloons and my name written on the windshield. My Dad told me that he had talked my grandfather into something more sensible for me and took me over to look at it why my grandfather went in to start the paperwork. I was called in with him, because they were putting the car in my name and needed to pull the car around to clean off the windshield and such before I could leave with it. I was very disappointed. It was really an odd disappointment, where I felt this horrible feeling for not getting what I wanted, but I was still happy that I was getting something. A compact sedan just wasn’t what I was hoping for. I know it sounds horrible of me, and puts me in kind of this spoiled brat category, to be so disappointed that I wasn’t getting the free car I wanted, but a different brand new free car, but I can’t change how I felt. All the same there was paperwork to sign. I don’t even remember doing it. I didn’t even read or look at it. I signed where I was told and just wanted to get out of there at that point. Something I now know I should have done.
We got all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, as it was, and then walked out to the service area, where they had taken my new Escort to get it all cleaned up and ready for me to drive off in. I remember that all I was thinking was what I remembered from my lessons in driving a stick, since the car I had been an automatic and this Escort was a stick, and I really didn’t want to drive off grinding gears and looking like an idiot. We get to the service area and all I see is that my car isn’t there. I didn’t process anything else than noticing that the car I had just spent a good 20 minutes being disappointed in, wasn’t there. I figured they had it parked right outside though, so I didn’t say anything or ask. I knew that I was holding the keys and walking out, I would find it. What happened walking out that door is a feeling that has never really been matched in my life.
We open the door and there is a red carpet and ropes leading to a light silver Mustang LX with my name on it. If I had spent 2 seconds reading the paperwork I was signing instead of being disappointed, I would have found that I was signing the paperwork for a Mustang not an Escort, or paid one bit of attention, instead of being disappointed, I might have noticed that I was holding a key with keyless entry and had just looked at an Escort that didn’t have power locks. This feeling I had, was one that it even hard for me to describe. It was relief, joy and confusion all at one moment. I was in a state that was close to shock, and really forgot what I was supposed to do or how I should be reacting. Finally a service guy came up and handed me the other set of keys and told me to enjoy my new car. My grandfather then asked me for a ride home, and it took all I had to say “of course” to him. That ride is one I have never forgotten. I am actually surprised we made it to his house. It was like I had tunnel vision, but all I wanted to do was look at the inside of the car. I had to fight to remind myself I needed to watch my driving. It was only made worse when I realized that my grandfather was in the car and I needed to make sure I drove really well so he wouldn’t think buying this car a mistake.
Now it wasn’t a GT with dark grey exterior and a black interior, but I actually was glad later on that it wasn’t. It was a LX with light silver exterior with a grey and black interior. She was beautiful. Later on, when gas and oil prices started shooting up, I realized that while I wanted a GT, it was better that I had an LX. Today, I don’t think I could afford to drive a GT regularly. Plus, I live in Oklahoma, in the summer I can feel how hot the black trim on the interior gets, and I am grateful that the seats are a light grey cloth.
I do love that car. It got me through high school a part of college. I drove it on all my dates, until I drove it to my wedding. I drove both my children home from the hospital in the back seat of it. I have had some of my best and worst moments in that car. I drove her home with 3 miles on the odometer, and have put most of the 173k that is on her now. In 2006 I was in a bad mood, and I needed to go to the store. I knew I should have waited for my truck to get back to me, but I was mad and wanted to go then, and that is exactly what I did. The reason I shouldn’t have gone out was the ice on the roads. Coming back from the store, going less than 20mpg, I drifted off the road after hitting a patch of ice and hit a light pole on the side of the road. I bounced off it like pinball hitting one of those spring bumpers. Got my car home and saw the sad sight of a Mustang that was no longer able to drive on the streets. She ran perfectly, but the body damage to the front was too severe.
I wanted her fixed right away, but I couldn’t afford it myself. I drove her down to my prefered body shop and got an estimate to fix the body damage, but it was more than anyone was willing to help me pay. Most the people, friends and family, that I know told me to give it up, she’s wrecked and its time to move on. This sort of thing happens after all. She now sits, 7 years later, at my dads house. Not as some derelict car out in the field, but parked next to the rest of the cars in the driveway, off to the side so she’s out of everyone’s way. Unlike everyone else, my dad for some reason understands my attachment to this car, or at least supports it, but I still haven’t been able to fix her up. In the time since the wreck a lot of stuff has changed in my life. I said at first, I am going to fix her no matter what, but she keeps going to the back burner. First I hurt my back and had to drop a semester at school, leaving me with a reduced overall income, I’ll have to save later. Then I went through a long divorce where I ended up spending most of what I had saved up on lawyer fees, and paying off bills, I’ll have to save later. Then following my divorce I was left with a house I could no longer afford on my own and a long list of court and lawyer fees, I really have to save later. I finally got that all paid off and the house sold, and I had to find a place to live with my kids, couldn’t live with my parents forever. Taking what I had left in savings and the little I had in cash, and a couple personal loans, I got my deposits down and utilities turned on in a small place, I have to save later. We are seven years out and the account I have set for fixing my car has $300 in it, and it will take about $7k to fix the body on her.
There was a time that I never went a day without at least starting her, even after the wreck I started her everyday, changed the oil, charged the battery, regular maintenance stuff. Until one day when regular wear from not driving her took hold and the fuel started leaking, then the battery started having trouble turning her over, then one day a mouse got up in the engine and chewed through the alternator cable, and she hasn’t been able to start since. That’s been almost three years now. So many people tell me how a wrecked 98 Mustang isn’t worth the $7k to fix up the body, and likely another $2k to replace tires and molding and get her painted. Not worth the unknown cost of getting her running again and keeping her in that condition, or even more if I decide to try to fix her all up to new condition. That feeling in that Mustang, when I was driving away from the dealership, at a point that I had that tunnel vision and was overwhelmed by joy and excitement, but the confusion had started to wear off. When I was still expecting this to be some sort of joke, but so happy just to be driving my grandfather home. I still feel that when I get in my Mustang. Even today, with her front end all messed up, the steering wheel needing replaced and door hinges messed up to a point that the driver’s side door is almost falling off. Even with the seats torn up and the engine needing major work and care from me, even if I get the money together to fix the body, I still get that feeling every time I sit in that driver’s seat. Sure that feeling isn’t as strong as it was that first day, but it is something that is really special.
You might look at her and see an old junked car that needs hauled off, but I see a friend that I have had to put off a little too long. The only thing in the world that ever has given me that particular feeling of excitement and joy that makes her worth every penny of what it costs to fix her. It’s not about what she’s “worth” because I will never sell her. It’s about what she’s worth to me, and I haven’t been able to put a price on that yet, and likely never will.