Brad Bowling
December 1, 2003

Car collections are like barbecue joints-they're scattered all over the country, and the really great ones are never advertised. Case in point is a batch of low- and no-mileage Fox-body Mustangs that inhabit the second floor of Daniel Carpenter's restoration-parts business in Concord, North Carolina.

A few years go, Daniel, whose father Dennis made a name for himself in the vintage Ford reproduction-parts business and built a large collection of his own, began looking for a clean, well-maintained '85-'86 GT to replace a favorite car from his teenage years. What he discovered was an informal network of individuals who, for one reason or another, had bought desirable Fox Mustangs, but never or seldom drove them.

His first find was an immaculate white '86 GT, with T-tops, showing only 37 miles. It had been ordered in New Jersey during nice weather, but delivered in January. Thinking the car was too nice to subject to the Rust Belt winter, the new owner placed the car in storage before the dealer had a chance to prep it or remove the factory stickers. Apparently, he discovered Ford would be introducing a new look for the Mustang in 1987, and felt the '86's final-year model status would make it more valuable with time. The GT did not leave its sheltered existence for 14 years, until its owner put it up for sale-asking only the original sticker price, still stuck to the window.

Massachusetts was the original home of Daniel's next find, another '86 GT T-top car-a red one. The first owner had worked for Ford most of his life and was an active member of the Mustang Club of America. He'd ordered the GT to his specifications, including a deleted hood stripe and manual window controls, but divorce forced him to sell the Mustang and other items in his collection. It sits in Daniel's building today with only 325 miles, the result of several trips to the Ford dealer for warranty and recall work, according to the original owner.

Daniel unearthed his next gem in Wisconsin in the form of a '79 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car replica-a 5.0-liter with a sunroof and a four-speed manual transmission. With only 2,402 built with that power combination, rarity was assured. But the fact that it had never been dealer-prepped or driven made it impossible to pass up. Eleven miles show on its odometer, and the car's front spoiler remains sealed inside its shipping box, not having seen sunlight since the day it left the factory 24 years ago.

No collection of '80s Mustangs would be complete without an '83 convertible, the car that would eventually cause the demise of the T-top and capture a large portion of the drop-top market for Ford. Daniel's late-'83 GLX is powered by a 5.0-liter hooked to the newly introduced T5 five-speed transmission. The GLX, which has been driven only six miles in its lifetime, is one of the most luxury-oriented cars in the collection, as it came standard with plush carpet, all power equipment (except for the manual rear windows), and Premium Sound. It originally belonged to a boat dealer who bought Corvettes and stored them undriven. The '83 was his first Mustang, which Carpenter thinks explains the absence of high-performance TRX wheels.