I've had a longtime affinity for old things. I'm not sure when or how it happened, but I've always valued old cars, trucks and motorcycles over newer ones. And through the years I've almost always had some heap sitting around that I wrench, spend and love on. It seems like everyone loves a cleaned up old classic. Vintage mobiles seem to have a way of grabbing attention and garnering smiles. But behind whatever glamor there may be to owning a project vehicle, there is a struggle. Old things are breaking down. Be it from rust, corrosion or brittle materials, the parts just want to be left alone to die. The men and women that overcome these mental and physical barriers are rewarded with admiration, occasional moments of pride and feelings of accomplishment. The rest is simply a fight--man vs. machine.
My first car I owned and drove was a 1966 Ford Mustang. It was a project car from day 1. It didn't run, the transmission was missing reverse and the wheels didn't even roll. but I loved the car, named it "Sally" and was bent on driving it. With determination, a little money, and most importantly, a selfless mentor with endless kindness, I got the old thing on the road. I drove the car several years until I went away to college. For many reasons, the car was parked and largely forgotten. Eventually I had to give it up entirely.
I gifted the project to a friend who was capable of giving the car what it needed. I emotionally detached myself forever. My dream of cruising the back roads in a shiny classic Mustang would unfortunately not happen. Life, i.e., my young family and career, won out this time.
Fast forward 18 years and the Mustang--the VERY same Mustang is in my garage once again. Many twists and turns took place to bring this about. Some of these make it a great story, but not without some heartbreak. My friend who accepted the gift years ago is too sick to deal with this car now. Like way too many people before him, he's fighting a losing battle with Cancer. He never got around to fixing "Sally" up. But he did store her in a dry safe place for nearly 2 decades.
I didn't want another project. I just got my sweet old 4x4 Jeep running and driving somewhat reliably and the thought of starting over sounded depressing. Wisdom would say let the car go again and take things easy for a while. But I've never been real good at taking it easy.
My two young sons are finally caving to my constant hotrod brainwashing and starting to take an interest in cars/mechanics. And I've always believed that the only respectable way to learn something is to dive in, make mistakes, break things and learn through infuriatingly frustrating experiences. So, we shipped the car to Minnesota, shoe-horned it in the already packed garage and are going to get this car back on the road!
Don't think for a minute that this is going to be some shiny Sunday-driver that we bring out for car shows and the occasional feather-dusting. We have no interest in a trailer queen restoration either. If we don't go through a set of tires a year, we'll have failed our mission.
We're going to lower this car, add performance parts, disc brakes, a tachometer and whatever else we think will make it go faster. Sally will more than ride again--she's going to wake up neighbors and scare grannies. We'll make our passengers "feel the G's" and grasp for something to keep them from flinging onto the floorboards.
And all this isn't going to happen without a fierce fight. Every rusty bolt-head that breaks or strips, every bleeding knuckle and every ill-fitting aftermarket part will be a test of our will. Our goal of 2 years will not come easy. We'll have a list of heartbreaks and challenges as long as our arms. But when we are done, we will have more than a cool project car--we'll have a shared dream that will outlast sheet metal.