The 45th anniversary of the introduction of the Ford Mustang reminded me of a very personal Mustang story.
Back before everyone had a computer on their desk, people had adding machines. Big mechanical or electronic machines that would do the math for you. My father fixed those machines. He spent all day driving around Hartford, Conn., doing repairs in various offices, banks and insurance companies.
Across the street from his office was an Atlantic Richfield gas station where he got gas every week -- this predates when they were called Arco.
In the summer of 1966, Atlantic Richfield was having a contest. Customers got a slip of paper half the size of a dollar bill and if both halves matched with a prize item, you would win that prize.
One sunny June day, my father pulled in, filled his tank and got the envelope with the slip. He was hoping to win the camping lantern, the least of the prizes, for our annual camping trip to the Adirondack Mountains in New York State the following month.
He opened the envelope. Another half ticket for the grand prize, a new Ford Mustang. He was about to get rid of it, but realized this one was different. It was the left half and every other slip he had was the right half. He wasn't sure at first, but soon he found out he'd won a brand new car.
He told the station owner, they took pictures. We still have the clipping from the newspaper, my father, looking young, smiling as they pretend to hand him the keys to car.
My mother had taken my brother and I to the doctor's a few blocks away for a regular appointment. It was customary if my dad had time that he would stop by. I remember him walking in, with a goofy grin on his face. He said to my mother, "I just won a car!"
She looked and him incredulously, "You're kidding."
The Mustang arrived six months later. They were so popular, they had run out of 1966 models and had to give us a 1967 model. It was burgundy with a tan interior. The only option was an AM radio. It didn't even have full wheel covers, but it was free, and it was the first brand new car we ever had.
We had the car until 1975. Dad drove it almost everyday for work. The six of us piled in for camping trips, a canoe on the top and a utility trailer behind. He made a special seat for my little sister. It was the 60s, and safety wasn't on the top of anyone's list. The car and its vinyl seats were crowded and hot in the summer, but we thought it was very special. The car had it's share of dents and dings when my Dad was ready for a new car. He offered it to me, as my first car. In addition to lots of rust and a small plant growing in the rear foot well, it needed a new clutch and brakes. I was only 15 at the time and didn't have a job to pay for those things. So I regretfully declined.
He took the Mustang badge out of the grill and kept it on his workbench for years, as a reminder of that special summer day when the two halves matched.
-- Doug Stewart
Photos: Ford, Ronald Stewart