Meet My Grandma Mustang

Posted on: May 30th, 2023 by

This is my Grandma “Mustang”.

In 1979, Grandma Mustang retired to a small town in Florida so my Grandpa could live out his retirement dream of fishing from a john boat on a brackish canal in the sweltering south.  I’m paraphrasing this from childhood memories.

Pennies were tight, but they found a 936-square-foot house on a waterway that was infested with gators, minnows, lily pads and water moccasins.  They made it home with quilted toilet roll holders, a window-mounted AC unit, a woodworking shop and a red shed that looked like the type Bob Evans would have had.

Gator Eyes At Night

A year or so later, my Grandpa caught an 11-pound bass that Grandma Mustang forced him to have mounted instead of pan-fried. He always regretted that decision.

Grandma Mustang also had a little black and white poodle named Cricket. Cricket had an overactive libido. Within five minutes of entering the 936-square-foot house with quilted toilet rolls, I would be greeted by a rhythmic pounding on my right leg. Boy, I hated that dog. Don’t get me wrong. I love animals. I’ve never flushed even one goldfish. Cricket and I had a strained relationship.

Some of my memories from visiting my Grandma Mustang include baking Jell-O cake, manicured gardens, flashlighting the canal to see “gator eyes at night”, (BTW that’s a great title for a country song) reading her National Enquirers and Saturday nights watching Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and Hee Haw…in that order.

On one unfortunate visit while fishing, I hooked an alligator’s foot and dragged it into the john boat. I still do not recall how I survived. I must have repressed the epic life-or-death battle with the three-footer that ensued. I probably cried at some point…

The Find of My 13-Year-Old Lifetime

Why am I talking about my Grandma Mustang? Well, as you can imagine, this is a 40-year-story about said Mustang. Back in 1983, when I was an all-out awkward buck-toothed, bowl-cut, coke-bottle glasses wearing pre-teen, I had just discovered cars. Specifically, Mustangs. I also discovered girls but that’s a much more tragic story for another time.

On one visit, I found this 1967 Ford Mustang GT Fastback down the road from Grandma Mustang when we took a walk to see the Sandhill Cranes. I just had to have it. The car, not the cranes. They are protected.

I scrounged together my $3.00 weekly allowances and my pathetic coin collection and all total, I had $78.56. Having no concept of what cars actually cost, I thought I could make a pretty strong offer. After all, by 1983, a ’67 Mustang was just an old car, right?

I was a super shy kid but I worked up the nerve to knock on the door. A disheveled old dude, who was probably 26, came to the door. I never made an offer. However, I was able to whisper through nervous spittle that “I like your car”. This was a big step in my ability to talk to strangers. Today, most of you have experienced that if a cool car is involved, talking to strangers is now one of my strengths. That is probably how I met most of you:)

The Hierarchy of Desire

Over the last 40 years, as I learned more about Mustangs, became a certified MCA and Ferrari Judge, dove deep into classic car ownership and lived and breathed cars on a daily basis…a nightmare slowly crept into my subconscious. And it began to haunt my dreams. I’ll give you the details in a minute…

When it comes to the scale of desirable 1967-not-Shelby-Mustangs, there is a definitive hierarchy of desire.

Let’s start at the bottom with the “Eh…” cars. Ford’s GT package, which could be optioned on various models, included fog lights, rocker stripes, better handling, etc. 1967 was the only year you could have a Mustang GT with the base 289 two-barrel “C-code” engine with 200 horsepower. When these cars are seen at a local car shows, those in the know often respond with “that’s cool car but, it’s got the base engine”. Hence the “Eh”.

Fun Fact – When is a GT not a GT?

1967 was also the only year the GT nomenclature identified a 4-speed manual tranny as all of the automatic cars were called “GTA”s….”A” for…well, you know…automatic.

The Most Desired

Next up on the Desirability Scale would be the “Respect” cars. These were equipped with the more powerful “A-code” four-barrel 289 engine rated at 225 horsepower. This was the base engine you had to have if you wanted the GT package in 1965 and 1966.

Up one spot was the mighty, big-block 390 cubic inch V8 engine with 320 horsepower. This was the first year the Mustang had a big-block engine and it was a big deal as the Mustang grew exponentially to fit the engine between the shock towers. However, the truck-based engine did not quite live up to expectations. Highly desired today, it did not perform as anticipated in ’67.

At the top of the scale is the high-revving, Shelby-shared, K-code 289 V8 with 271 horsepower. The K-code, with a few modifications, powered the Shelby GT350s, Cobras and GT40s that ran at Le Mans. The GT40s lost, but they still participated and were replaced by the winning 427s you cheered for in Ford vs. Ferrari.

The K-code, also known as the Hi-Po for High Performance, was incredibly rare for 1967 as Ford was transitioning to the 390 big-block. Ford produced only 120 coupes, 50 convertible and 319 fastbacks. To many, these are the most desirable 1967 Mustangs. The 390 fans will disagree. For you math whizzes, only 0.13% of 1967 Mustangs were K-Codes compared to the 0.89% for 1965 and 1966 K-Codes (still super rare).

Beginning in 2002, my brain began asking the question, “which engine was in the Grandma Mustang?”

Mystery Solved?

In February of this year, I had a chance to find out.

Grandma’s 936-square-foot house had deteriorated to a point of teary-eyed sadness yet it was inhabited by a newlywed couple who never experience it’s manicured greatness. The canal was overtaken by vegetation and was unfishable.

The Mustang had disappeared but I eventually found it down the street as the owner had moved sometime in the 1990s. Partially covered with a blue tarp, wet leaves and unidentifiable muck, it was accompanied by two other decrepit cars of questionable condition. Even though they were covered, I could see their graceful fender lines and sculpted bonnets. With various puddles of colored liquid under each car, I just knew they were British. Hey-Oh!

40 years later and being more secure in my insecurities, I knocked on the stranger’s door again grasping the picture from 1983 firmly in hand.

The 26-year-old is now 66 and he did not remember the terrified pre-teen who showed up on his doorstep 40 years ago. He showed minor amusement when I relayed the story and I showed him the picture of his car from 1983.

Unfortunately, the Mustang had been deteriorating ever since and it was being “saved” by plans for a future restoration. A very common and sad occurrence in the collector car hobby.

This was my moment. My moment where my fears would either be affirmed or destroyed. Where my restless nights would increase exponentially or dissipate immediately. I gathered myself and asked, “can I pop open the hood?” He agreed and after a few moments of rust-covered labor, I was looking a one of the 289 small, block engines. But which one? The C, the A or the K?

Fears Alleviate?

The fifth digit in the VIN on the fender apron was a “C”. The base V8 engine for 1967 and the least desirable powerplant for any GT model. Whew. Good. Tragedy averted.

No more restless nights of worry or concern.

This is just an old Mustang not worth thinking about. Who cared that it has its original body panels and drivetrain? Its four-speed transmissions is rare and fun, but no thanks….overrated. The interior is all original…big-freakin-whoop-dee-do. Yes, it is a fastback. The most desired body style that has been iconized in movies such as Bullitt and Gone In 60 Seconds….ho hum.

However…it is Dark Moss Green which is one of my favorite colors. The floor pans are solid. Everything is there and complete…

IT MUST BE SAVED! I could not live another day without this car in my garage. I owed it to my 13-year-old-self, to Grandma Mustang, to Mr. Ford and to auto enthusiasts everywhere to resurrect this pony to its 1967 glory and to share it with the world. It must happen.

And…it is still not for sale. So the restless nights must continue. Not knowing was the curse and now, somehow knowing is even worse. At least I will have company:). Thank you for reading and for sharing in my frustration and misery.

This is my Grandma Toyota Tercel hatchback. She will not be the subject of a future newsletter 🙂