I’m a lifelong car guy who has not owned a running enthusiast vehicle in too long. In fact, I’ve been wheeling my late grandfather’s Chrysler Concorde for the past two and a half years. But, when my son comes home from college this spring I’ll be handing down the hand-me-down Chrysler. It’s time to buy a new daily driver.
Those who know me best understand two absolute truths – I’m a die-hard gearhead, and quite possibly the cheapest bastard alive. I love cars and hate spending money, so every vehicle purchase is an agonizing balance of need, desire, and return on investment. That last part is especially tough. It also dictates that I buy smart because my automotive bucket list is long and I’m not wealthy, so I can’t afford to take a beating every time I sell a car.
My lovely wife, painfully aware of these predilections pushed me to spend some money on a car I’d really enjoy this time. I wanted something reasonably fast, fun to drive, and nice to look at. She requested it have air conditioning and a back seat for the kids, and be consistently reliable. All rational and reasonable expectations.
I started out looking at fun to drive late models, primarily used 3 and 5 series BMWs, and C class Mercedes-Benzes. I considered turbo Volvos and Audis, even a few late model Mustangs. All nice cars that fit the criteria and would look right at home in the office parking garage, but at the end of the day I’d always end up on Craigslist looking at classic Fords. With a little push from my other half I ventured out to test drive some classics. I was officially buying a classic car.
I’m not exactly brand loyal, but I am partial to – and have a bit of experience working on old Fords. After checking out a few Falcons that had either too many doors or not enough cylinders, and a couple of ragged 30-footer Mustangs owned by guys who have clearly seen too many Barrett-Jackson auctions I found a super clean 1966 Galaxie 500. I drove a white 1966 Galaxie 500 fifteen years ago when I started dating my wife. We both have fond memories of the Galaxie, and it’s the old car I most regret selling.
The Galaxie for sale was near identical to my old one with the exception of a black interior and a built G-code 428 FE under the hood. It was love at first site. Nostalgia aside, this was everything I wanted my old Galaxie to be in the summer of 2000. It ran strong and sounded nasty with a lopey cam dumping exhaust and raw fuel into three inch pipes. Despite the burning desire, my rational mind couldn’t shake the thought of single digit mpg, and the scent of overly rich exhaust took me back to the sale of my old Fairmont. With a big cam, a Holley, and exhaust dumps I could never tune the stink out of the Fairmont. I smelled like an oil refinery every time I stepped out of it. So although the Galaxie was fast, fun, and nice to look at with a big back seat and enough money left in the budget for air conditioning, it was just far enough over the impractical daily driver line that I had to sadly turn my back and walk away. Maybe we’ll cross paths again someday.
The following weekend, an hour south over the Carolina border I drove a dark red 1968 Mustang coupe. This particular Mustang is an older restoration that’s been garaged and barely driven for the past twenty years. The rebuilt 289 is mostly stock with an electronic ignition, mild cam, intake, and Edelbrock four barrel being the only mods. The small block is backed by a fresh C4 turning 3.55 gears. An uncommon touch are the Shelby ten spoke wheels. They look right on the car, and really set it apart.
Cosmetically the Mustang is beautiful. The paint, now two decades old does have a few scratches and two minor cracks, but it shines beautifully. It’s a factory Ford color, so if I ever need to get those little blemishes repaired it shouldn’t be too difficult. The car is going to be my daily driver though so it’s probably best I resist the urge to make it perfect. Shit happens, as they say. The Mustang’s interior is showroom fresh. An upgraded Pony interior was installed when the car was restored and the low mileage is evident. The view from behind the wood rimmed three spoke wheel will take you back to 1968 with the exception of the updated Pioneer stereo.
The 68 Mustang checks all of the boxes, and felt to me like all the right compromises. Money will change hands shortly and the car will come home to Virginia, just in time for the weather to break for Spring cruising. Stay tuned!