Jim Smart
July 1, 2003
Photos By: Randy Lorentzen

Despite all the clichs about Southern California-sipping designer water, yakking on a cell phone in traffic, consuming chips and guacamole over margaritas, and signing on the freeway using a single digit-the Southland isn't all that bad once you get used to it. You just have to keep a sense of humor through it all.

Craig Cunningham, president of the Mustang Owners Club of California, has called the Los Angeles area home all his life. For 30 years, he taught future teachers how to teach at UCLA. In the years since, he has traveled the country, teaching recreational authorities how to teach safely. And when he's not doing that, he's interacting with other motorists in his travels around SoCal.

At 65, Craig hasn't even considered retirement, much less hanging up his spurs. He places himself behind the wheel of this Candyapple Red '66 Mustang convertible, lowers the top, and lets the sun shine in as much as possible. Craig will tell you this is an ego trip and a rush, motoring down the 101 freeway and getting the horn toots and thumbs-up, an indication that he's making the commute joyful for others-teaching them how to drive with a smile. Around these parts, that's a full time job.

Craig is the second owner of his Mustang, which, when found was in average condition and in need of a full-scale restoration-bodywork and paint, engine and driveline rebuilding, chassis work, and a fresh interior. Because it was a Southern California native, it didn't need serious work to make it right. Leo Walsh, a retired Ford service technician, handled the engine rebuild. Bo Chung at the Mustang Service Center in North Hollywood handled the rest of the restoration work. Craig is enjoying their efforts today.

For Craig, this Mustang is about the driving experience. It's red inside and out. It's not loaded, sporting a 289-2V, C4 Cruise-O-Matic and 3.00:1 rearend gears-all good for freeway acceleration and cruising across the Valley. Those are wire-style wheel covers and whitewall radial tires. Look inside for a close-up of the Mustang's standard red interior for 1966.

Craig tells us he drives the car a few times a month. When he bought the car in 1990, he drove it daily. But, when it became a concours-driven occasional driver, he knew he had to preserve what others had worked hard to restore. He occasionally drives his '66 up to Santa Barbara and also participates in parades and shows whenever the opportunity arises.

Craig is living in the unbeatable world of driving a restored classic Mustang-and driving it as much as possible.