Lifting the Pony

Pegasus?

Pegasus?

One of the first things we did when we got the car home was call our mechanic and friend, Joe Frizell. I had interned at Joe’s Garage two years ago, so when we zeroed in on this car, we sent the specs, along with pictures and video, to Joe, and he gave us a list of things to look for and questions to ask. Now it was time to get his seal of approval in person, and also get a better sense of what was going on underneath so I could begin to build a budget. It being summer in the Hamptons, Joe was swamped during the week, so he invited us to stop by on a Sunday morning, his day off.

Dad and I met Joe and his son at the garage at 9am. We checked the car outside, and then I maneuvered it onto the lift. It was pretty cool to see my car go up on the lift that I had seen so many other cars go up on.

Under the engine

Under the engine

Inspection confirmed most of the same things we knew from the seller. Power steering was leaking, probably causing the front wheels to be out of alignment, the rear needs work, brakes were leaking, and there were a few minor rust spots. The only real area of concern when it came to rust was the body underneath the right rear seat. You can poke your finger up through some of the little holes and push against the carpet. This is something I’ll be working on.

Overall, Joe said it was in great shape. He said he would help working on the front end, and referred us to a colleague of his for the work on the back end. I’m set to do all of the interior work by myself, which will be fun, but quite a challenge at the same time.

The Journey Home

We officially purchased the car on Thursday, June 20th. My Dad, Mom and I drove into New York City to complete the paperwork and drive the car home. We had contemplated getting it brought out on a truck, but it turned out to be too expensive. Since the seller had driven it from her country home in New Jersey to NYC, we felt fairly confident it would make the trip out to Sag Harbor, but we planned a convoy, just in case. Dad would drive, as I still only have my Learner’s Permit, and Mom would follow. I would ride shotgun with Dad.

In the city

In the city

Driving a newly purchased ’66 Mustang through downtown New York in mid-June was quite the experience. No air conditioning meant windows needed to be down the whole time, and the combination of city noise, and, later, highway noise, was pretty rough on the ears. The driver’s seat is broken, so Dad was bounced around a bit, but once we got through the insane traffic and up to cruising speed on the highway, it was a blast (of wind in the face).

On the highway

On the highway

I felt a strange mix of nervousness, excitement, and disbelief that the car was actually mine, all at the same time. From time to time, other classics would pull up beside us. We would exchange thumbs up with the drivers, and continue on our way. Clearly, we were now members of a very special club, one that required no secret handshake, but simply a nod or a honk.

It seems like everybody that comes up and admires the car has a Mustang story. The day after we got home, we took the car to Long Beach to give it a photo shoot in the sunset. Every person who drove or walked by stopped to admire it and share their own stories and memories of the Mustangs of their youth. “Iconic” seems to be an understatement when it comes to this car.

Sunset 'Stang

Sunset ‘Stang

Finding the Car

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Visiting the Mustang for the first time

When I started thinking about the project, the dream situation that came to mind was restoring a 1960’s American muscle car – something like a Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro. I started looking on Craigslist, Ebay and in various car and auto magazines for anything that might work. I had opened my mind to anything in the 60’s to 70’s range that seemed to fit the bill in terms of being the right balance of not-too-much work and enough work to keep me busy, as well as the right price.

camaro

’79 Camaro, too much work

I visited and briefly entertained the idea of a 1979 Chevy Camaro Z28, but it turned out to be too much work for the timeframe of completion for the project – about six months.

One night I was doing my routine search of Craigslist when I spotted the first car that was a remote possibility. The listing was for a 1966 Ford Mustang with 110,000 miles, in need of some cosmetic and mechanical work, but otherwise in good structural shape, and running condition. Further inquiry revealed that it was originally a California car, now living in New Jersey with its third owner – all of which I took to be a good sign. The photos looked good, but then the owner sent us a video, which we shared with our mechanic, Joe, and from that point, it only took three weeks for the car to pull in to my driveway.

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Mustang Interior

A week after receiving the video, on Thursday, June 14th, we met the owner in lower Manhattan to see and test drive the car. While we were looking the car over, a man approached us, thinking we had broken down. We explained we were considering purchasing the car and he proceeded to sing its praises. He told us what a perfect first project car it would be, how great of a condition it was in, and how easy it would be to obtain and replace any parts. We still wonder if he was a plant by the owner… It didn’t matter, we were sold anyway.

The following Thursday, June 20th, we went back into NYC, check in hand, and the purchase was made in the owner’s extremely cool Tribeca loft. The guys in the garage where the car was waiting looked at us enviously as we picked up the keys. Apparently they had been lusting after it too. We then began our journey home.

The Project Begins

Ready to start

Ross School seniors have a unique opportunity: they get to spend their last year of high school focusing on a personal passion. We embark on a “Senior Project” – something that we’ve been thinking about and planning for since we started high school.

Cars have been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. In fact, if you ask my parents, they’ll say I’ve been pointing at cars and trucks since before I could speak. As a kid, my room was filled with Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, my shirts, sheets and walls were covered in cars and trucks, and I would only read books and watch videos with automotive themes. My first car was a battery operated Fisher Price Jeep that I drove endlessly around the backyard, navigating between the orange cones that my parents had cheerfully put out for me.

As I got older, my tastes matured, but my passion remained. I started watching the British TV show “Top Gear,” going to the Auto Show at the Javits center every year, playing driving simulators on my Playstation, and challenging myself to identify any car on the road, type and model, at a single glance.

During my freshman year of high school, I spent three weeks interning at Joe’s Garage in Southampton, under the mentorship of Joe Frizell, the owner. I took my passion one step further by getting to learn about the insides of a car, as well as the outsides. That was the first time it occurred to me that I might, one day, restore a classic car… perhaps even for my Senior Project. I started saving up birthday gifts, and later paychecks from various jobs, and over the course of the past four years, finally accumulated the funds to purchase a fixer-upper.

So here I am, on the brink of my ultimate year of high school, and on the threshold of fulfilling a long-held dream. Now to find the car.

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