Michele Jewett
February 11, 2003

When you're spending more than half a day tied up with managing your business and working your way through the rigors of college, you'd think this would be the wrong time for a project car. Actually, it's probably the best time, because all those worries of the world seem to disappear once you get into your garage.

It's the experience Eric Eberhardt has lived. The Seminole, Florida, resident was spending 10-15-hour days with obligations like this. He had a job at St. Petersburg College, a side gig going with a computer company, and he had some classes working toward a degree. You get the idea. They say all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I don't know about Jack, but Eric realized that and knew he had to have a hobby.

"Being brought up in a Ford family and hearing about Mustangs for most of my 23 years, it's easy to figure out what I needed to do. My dad had a '69 Mach 1 when he and Mom met, so of course it was my first choice," Eric told us.

As we all know, these cars don't exactly grow on trees. To get away from the desk, Eric started his research into finding the right car. There was the Internet. There were car shows in Florida. There were newspapers and magazines. After looking at hundreds of cars that just didn't fit the bill, Eric found one. It was over a thousand miles away, so plans were started for a potential family vacation. The owner was called, and the world came crashing down.

"He told us it was sold," Eric remembers. "My heart sank. This was the case with every car we'd called on. I left my name and number anyway. He said he would call if anything went bad with the deal."

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Discouraged, but not beaten, it was back to the hunt. "Lo and behold, a few days later, I received an exciting call that the car was available. The first buyer had put a down payment on another car and couldn't get that back, so he had to go through with the other deal."

Then there was the challenge of getting the car home. Eric asked the owner if it would endure an 1,100-mile trip. Stunned, the owner said something like "You'd drive this car 1,100 miles?" Since the car was his pride and joy, the owner in Blue Ash, Ohio, didn't want to envision the stone chips, dirt, and debris his car would endure. Eric and his family decided to get a trailer to put behind the family van to fetch the car, so the Mach 1 got a free ride down I-75.

With the '69 Mach 1 in his possession, Eric has been spending wonderful hours dressing and detailing an already classy car.

"We've replaced weatherstripping, rear exterior chrome, interior trim panels, and just a whole lot of tinkering with this and that," says Eric. "We have entered it in shows and have 9 trophies, but best of all, we've met so many wonderful people, both owners and spectators."

The powerful 351 sends a rumble through the showgrounds that gets plenty of attention. "I know that I truly am the proud owner of a classic musclecar that makes cruising the experience of my life," he adds.

Eric goes cruising with his friends, but doesn't get behind the wheel to feel the power. Confined to a wheelchair, he doesn't let the situation stop him from maximum enjoyment. His friends, Chris Dimmitt and Carlos Beltran, are among his best Mustang buddies and the nice weather of the Florida Gulf Coast makes this car a candidate for many miles. It's an eye opener with the horsepower to back it up. It makes a great getaway car.