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A WWII Vet and his Mustang
Unfinished Business: Military Veterans and the muscle car community join forces to give 95-year-old World War II veteran Harry Donovan’s 1967 Mustang “Darlan” a total makeover after it had gone AWOL for nearly seven years
In 1969, Harry Donovan purchased a used low-mileage 1967 Mustang for his wife Marie, from longtime friend and army veteran Budd Carson, owner of Carson Ford in Plainfield, Indiana. Marie Donovan loved her Mustang and drove it regularly until her passing in 2000.
As a tribute to his late wife, Harry decided to have it restored in 2009. One of the family members put it best; “During the summer months, Marie Donovan used to load up the Mustang with her grandchildren Harry IV, Cara, Danielle, and Melissa then off they’d go to the neighborhood swimming pool. To this day it’s a fond memory for each of the four grandchildren and the little red Mustang has turned into a family heirloom.”
This past Friday September 2, 2016 Harry Donovan and his grandson Harry IV were given an opportunity to join the Mustang Club of America (MCA) 40th anniversary event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the 1967 Mustang coupe. Through the efforts of George Magro on the MCA Board of Director and Rick Fowler, Traffic Supervisor Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the grandfather and grandson made memories with their beloved Candy Apple Red ’67 Mustang at the historical event.
It was the first Mustang car show the two have attended with the car since it was recovered from an automobile restorer who had disappeared with it and thousands of dollars in 2009 after promising to give the pony car a complete restoration. Initially Harry Donovan and the restorer stayed in contact. According to Donovan; “the restorer kept saying the restoration was coming along fine.” A few years ago the restorer had gone AWOL with the Mustang, and he’d also fleeced the 95 year-old Donovan for over $7,000 during the process.
Nearly a year ago Harry went on a mission to find the restorer and his missing ’67 Mustang. He encountered obstacles along the way but stayed the course even though the restorer and Mustang were a moving target with the exact whereabouts unknown.
In late spring of 2016, Indiana law officials located the car and it was back in the Donovan garage having been recovered nearly seven years after the restoration process had supposedly started. When the restorer initially took delivery of the Mustang it was complete and in running condition. It was found and recovered as a mere shell of itself near Lafayette, Indiana at a private residence minus the engine, radiator, hood, bumpers, and other parts.
The ’67 Mustang was displayed at the MCA 40th anniversary event as found. Had it been restored as promised the car would have joined the field as a finished Mustang coupe, but after some thought, it was decided to show the car just as it looked. Nontheless Harry Donovan and his grandson Harry IV embraced the moment and shared a special once in a lifetime memory.
Harry is a 95-year-old WWII veteran that piloted a B-17 bomber and flew 23 missions. He also flew numerous missions to bring POWs home after the war. Donovan and his late wife Marie had two children; daughter Patti and son Harry. Patti passed away in 2006 and Harry in 2010.
Hats off to the Indy Star and Call for Action reporter Tim Evans. They caught wind of the story and got involved and the newspaper carried the story on the front page.
It’s how Ken Mosier, the owner of the Finer Details, found out about the story. A friend walked into his shop and presented a copy of the Indy Star for Mosier to read. After seeing the cover and reading the story Mosier stated: “You know I’m going to do what it takes to be the one who restores this Mustang for Harry Donovan”.
Soon, word started getting out about the ’67 Mustang and the 94-year-old World War II Veteran (He turned 95 in August) and the American Legion Post 118 joined the effort to get the process moving for the restoration of Harry’s car. In the next six months the Mustang will undergo a legitimate restoration at the hands of Finer Details’ world-class restoration team. Jay Webb, Justin Bliss, Scott Dowdy, and Dave Engle will donate their time working after hours and weekends to get the job done. The parts, labor, and materials to perform the restoration are being donated from companies and the private sector.
We’re going to be on hand to follow the process and write about it as the restoration progresses. A formal unveiling will take place in the spring of next year (2017). Stay tuned!