Jerry Heasley
March 2, 2014

"The Mustang was abandoned years ago in the Susquehanna River," said Greg Gerken from Geneseo, New York. "It's a shallow river and very wide just south of Binghamton. When I brought this Mustang home, people looked at me like, ‘Are you crazy?'"

After sitting over two decades in the flood region of the Susquehanna River, this '66 Mustang fastback had major rust. Like most people, I wondered why Gerken didn't start with a better car.

"Was saving this Mustang a challenge for you?" I asked.

Gerken answered, "Yes. I wanted to prove that any Mustang could be restored."

The 57-year-old Gerken has bought at least 15 Mustangs over the past 30 years. He explained, "Most were bought from people who thought they were going to restore them until they got into it and realized they didn't have the knowledge, money, or time. Or they just lost interest."

Gerken's friends know that he restores Mustangs. One of them tipped him off about a fastback for sale on a farm in Pennsylvania. Gerkin drove to the adjoining state to look at the '66. The fastback had already been pulled from the Susquehanna River, as directed by state officials, and parked in a farmer's field for seven years. The price was $2,500 for a Mustang that many people viewed as unrestorable. Gerken had a different attitude.

"If it had been a coupe, I wouldn't have bought it. If it had been a six-cylinder fastback, I wouldn't have bought it. But the car came from the factory as a GT fastback with a four-speed, worth a lot more and not just monetary value."

Gerken valued the Mustang in terms of saving a significant car. "I'm in the Save-A-Mustang Program," he said.

When restoring this '66 fastback, Gerken started with the rear quarter panels. He replaced them, then kept replacing rusted metal until not much of the original body remains. "When people ask me what's original to the car, I say the deck lid, the back glass, and the VIN. Everything else has been replaced."

Gerken recalled a '67 Mustang convertible he bought 15 years ago that needed rust repair. The shop let him watch as they welded in quarter panels, torque boxes, and frame rails. "I said to myself, ‘I can do that.' So after I paid $2,200 for the welding, I bought the same MIG welder they were using and took a shop class at a local school. I've been welding ever since."

One way to fix rust is to cut out and replace the rusted metal. Gerken did just that and now has a Candyapple Red Mustang GT fastback that wins trophies.