Jerry Heasley
October 1, 2004

Classic Mustangs mean different things to different people. Some of us consider them cool cars. To others, they mean the chance to build a hot restomod. But for people like Kevin Olson, Mustangs are windows into the past.

"In 1968, my best friend in high school bought an orange '65 fastback with the 289 Hi-Po and black rims. I usually rode shotgun," Kevin remembers, calling up the slang seldom used today for the passenger seat next to the window.

He got a jolt of nostalgia in January 2001 while driving the interstate from his home in Champaign, Illinois, to St. Louis. Parked on a large classic-car lot was an orange '65 Mustang fastback. "A retired guy was selling it on consignment. It caught my eye because that's the kind of car my best friend had in high school. I went to check it out."

Incredibly, the 2+2 had more than color and model year in common with Kevin's past. Under the hood was the 271hp, solid-lifter, K-code, 289 High Performance engine option. The price of admission was $14,800. "I don't have a huge pocketbook," Kevin admitted. "I'm still in the latter stages with some of my kids, still raising a family and stuff." But Kevin figured he could squeeze that much from the budget by doing all the work himself.

Desire had a lot to do with this restoration. Kevin is a painter-of houses, not cars. He works for the University of Illinois and has been in the painter's union for 33 years. "I'm pretty good with a spray gun," he told us, not in a bragging way but in a can-do way. He also has connections with painters at local body shops. He learned the automotive side a little bit at a time.

First restorations are learning experiences. Kevin was a little embarrassed to learn that '65 Mustangs came with acrylic enamel, not lacquer, his paint of choice. "Well, it's got lacquer on it. And it looks pretty good, I think."

Kevin also admitted he lost a wheel cover in Tennessee during his first car show, the Mustang 40th Anniversary Celebration in Nashville. There, he displayed the Mustang without wheel covers, so the fastback really looked like the good old days, supplying that window into the past.

Kevin says, "We were kind of a small town, not a big city. The musclecar age had hit by 1968. We were in a fairly affluent high school, so there were lots of musclecars around. We had a quarter-mile marked off on a country road, and we'd go out and drag 'em."

In high school, Kevin never got his own muscle Mustang. Today, the tables are turned. His best friend, David Corbetts, who owned the orange Hi-Po, isn't into cars. His time was then. Kevin's time is now.

So now, David can ride shotgun.