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The Mustang Date Night Project
Adam and Tabetha Hammer’s 1966 Mustang is a family heirloom that brought them together
In the run-up to high school graduation, kids are often asked “what do you want to do with your life?” and consider whether to go to college, trade school, or just go be a ski bum or lifeguard for a few years until something comes to them. But for Adam and Tabetha Hammer, the choice was pretty clear.
Both were self-described “car guys” with a history of working on cars (in Tabetha’s case, she and her father liked to restore old tractors), and after some searching each learned that McPherson College in Kansas was available as an outlet to turn their passion into a career. Tabetha said, “It’s the only university that has a four-year degree in automotive restoration.” McPherson’s website adds, “We stand alone as the only school to provide a bachelor’s degree in Restoration Technology. Our program provides students with many advantages including internships with national museums and restoration shops, in-depth learning and dedicated instructors who will personalize your experience.”
It was at McPherson that Adam and Tabetha met each other, and this 1966 Mustang is one of the things that brought them closer together. Adam said, “My grandfather Herman Hammer bought this Mustang new off of the dealer’s lot. Somebody else had ordered it so he got a deal on it.”
The Mustang served as Herman’s daily driver for several years and then his son Chris (Adam’s father) and his daughters used it on and off for high school and college transportation until Chris finally stuck it in the garage and forgot about it. Adam didn’t even know the car was there, until he was ready to head off to McPherson and his dad thought, “The Mustang might make a good project to restore.”
So off Adam went to school with the Mustang, and the rest is history. Tabetha said, “There were a lot of Friday night date nights in college restoring the car.” The pair restored almost everything, including the original 289 engine, automatic transmission, suspension, and especially the body. Adam said, “The car was pretty clean to start with for a well-used car. There were the typical rust areas that we fixed but we didn’t want to go overboard—we restored the car so we could drive it.” They stayed with the unique original color, Sahara Beige, and the black vinyl top is original and unrestored, as is the interior. Tabetha said, “We didn’t really want to restore it if it didn’t have to be restored, just to keep that originality and little features from the family.
The restoration of the Mustang not only brought them closer together but it also cemented Adam’s passion for automotive restoration, so upon graduation the couple opened Hammer & Dolly Automotive Restoration in Traverse City, Michigan (HammerAndDolly.com). Tabetha also works for Hagerty Insurance, the collector car insurance giant also based in Traverse City, which is how Mustang Monthly met her, while in town to shoot company owner McKeel Hagerty’s 1967 G.T. 500.
The final piece to the puzzle was when the Mustang played a key role in Adam and Tabetha’s wedding. The original plan was to get married next to the water in Grand Traverse Bay (part of Lake Michigan) in 2013, but Northern Michigan’s finicky weather dashed those plans when it snowed on the wedding day in mid-May, so they moved it into the restoration shop. Tabetha was driven down the aisle in a 1925 Packard and the Mustang was used as the “getaway car” for the newlyweds. Tabetha said, “It worked out quite well to be inside the shop with cars surrounding us for two car nuts. It wasn’t exactly what a woman dreams her wedding to be, but it worked out really well.”
The Hammers are a story of young adults with a passion for cars, then each other, that led them down the road to running their own restoration business working with cars. In a world filled with un-employable college degrees and mountains of student loan debt, this is one example of education and enthusiasm put to good use.