Jim Smart
August 1, 2013

Carol Marini's Mustang story began when she and her former husband bought a new '68 Mustang hardtop from Al Eames Ford in Antioch, California, for $3,200. Carol never dreamed she'd still be driving it more than four decades later. For Carol, the Mustang has been more than transportation. After divorcing in 1975, she had to learn how to make it on her own. When a Ponzi scheme caused her to lose nearly everything, including her home, her only remaining asset was the Mustang. At times, it provided shelter and even a place to sleep.

Like Carol, the Mustang has been through its share of bumps, including blown engines, transmission problems, worn-out brakes, torn upholstery, faded carpet, blistered tops, and rust. Through it all, Carol managed to find people to help her nurse the hardtop back to health.

When new, Carol's Mustang was your average C-code 289 automatic hardtop clad in Lime Gold Metallic with black standard interior. It was the proverbial school teacher car with optional black vinyl top, air conditioning, power steering, and wheel covers. As a busy educator in the late 1960s, Carol drove her Mustang an average of 30,000 miles a year. In those days, fuel was cheap and all she had to do was fill it up and hit the road.

"The longest trip I've ever taken was to Reno, Nevada," she comments. "I can document the mileage because I've kept every repair receipt. I changed the oil and filter myself until 2007 when I no longer had an appropriate place to work on the car."

In its 817,000 miles, there have been three engine rebuilds and two transmission overhauls. The original 289 expired at 225,000 miles when the radiator and water pump failed simultaneously, causing the engine to overheat. After rebuilding, the 289 went another 113,718 miles before it spun a bearing. Peterson Machine replaced it with fresh 289. At 508,536 miles, Bailey Brothers in Vallejo rebuilt the replacement engine when it lost a cylinder. That engine now has over 300,000 miles on it.

The 8-inch rear axle with 2.79:1 gears has never been touched.

"I've gone from being a woman who knew virtually nothing about cars to being able to diagnose problems with great accuracy," Carol says. "I can't repair my Mustang, but at least I have a good understanding of the problems and can rely on my longtime mechanic, Dennis Davieau of Guaranteed Auto, to keep the car in good working order."

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Carol's voice of experience echoes adversity but also resonates with optimism. "There was an engine fire in 2009 caused by a defective fuel filter, which burned the hood, and a heavy hailstorm a week after the odometer rolled over to 800,000. That finalized my decision to get the car repainted again."

The Mustang has been painted five times, including a color change in the 1970s. "The original color was Lime Gold Metallic," Carol admits, "but I never liked that color and repainted the car in light blue after my divorce."

Most recently, Jim Englebright of American Auto Body Specialists in Fairfield laid down the fresh '57 Thunderbird Starmist Blue. When Carol's Mustang emerged from the paint booth, Jim had one of his employees reupholster the interior and install new carpeting. "The driver seat was so bad I was sitting on coils," Carol laughs. "I couldn't even see over the steering wheel."

Carol adds, "My Mustang played an important role in such a trying time. It has been my salvation, sanctuary, and means of escape. It has been vital to my sanity and survival, and I am certain I would not have prevailed without it. It has meant more to me than just a form of transportation—it has been my best friend."