Jerry Heasley
July 1, 2009
Photos By: The "Treasure Finders"

Hidden Treasures are hidden for a reason. There's a saying, "If it was easy, everybody would do it." Successful treasure hunting requires a certain amount of bravado mixed with a modicum of knowledge. Victorious seekers must be able to separate the trash from the treasure, which could be as simple as knowing the difference between a "T" in the VIN of a '65 Mustang versus the coveted "K" code. Or, as we'll illustrate, the challenge could be as difficult as uncovering a rare Pace Car or Millionth Anniversary heritage under a repainted body.

Follow along with us as we go treasure hunting for old cars, Mustang-style.

Crocodile Jones
"There's stuff everywhere," Dick Jones, aka D.J., started. To hear him talk, one might say Jones, who migrated from New Zealand to Texas 15 years ago, is a vintage car version of Crocodile Dundee. He even has a distinctive Kiwi hat to go along with his thick accent.

Hunting old cars and taking chances is a place where Jones is content to spend most of his time these days. Semi-retired, he tells us, "I tell everyone I meet that I'm looking for old cars." There is a romantic side to this equation and one of danger, as well. Trespassing, even when no signs are present, is not a pursuit for the weak of heart. D.J. has used his New Zealand accent to beg a pardon more than once.

Sometimes begging forgiveness is easier than embarking on a wild goose chase to ask permission when there is no one to ask. D.J. found this '65 Mustang hardtop resting in a field. Although the chassis was devoid of a motor, the Mustang was restorable. Best of all, the price was right.

"Everywhere" also includes places like the field where Jones located his R-code Mach 1. "It was just sitting," he says. "I was looking for that Mach 1 shape. I get a lot of requests from New Zealand for that body style. I saw the code, checked it out, and that's what it was. The owner had the Shaker, hood, and engine in the garage, but I thought it was too far gone."

The car might have been too far-gone for D.J. to restore himself, but he knew a collector looking for a 428 CJ Mach 1. Sometimes, turning up a lost Mustang can translate into money.

That's why they're called Hidden Treasures. To the uninformed, that old Mustang looked worthless. Of course, many old cars, rusted to the ground, are worth as little as their scrap value. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is discerning trash from treasure.

"I bought it for X, sold it for Y," D.J. said (like many hunters, he didn't want to divulge his purchase and selling price). I didn't have to ask if he meant to put units of hundreds or thousands on the car, but I went ahead for clarity sake. One can never be sure of the prices in the field for cars that owners have forsaken. The sale price indeed was "Y thousand."

Of course, a Shaker air-cleaner and scoop assembly can bring several thousand by itself.

Out To Pasture
Some Hidden Treasure seekers seem more suited to slipping through the cracks in the system. Bob Becker of Amarillo, Texas, feels more incognito to approach an old car in a remote setting when he drives up in an old beater car. The fact that his beater is a '66 Mustang doesn't hurt, in his estimation. By contrast, a man in fancy duds and a new suit might look more like a "revenuer," a term coined from the moonshine days of the 1930s and 1940s.

Bob found this '65 Mustang coupe in a field. The previous two owners, Bob learned, had trouble starting it and couldn't keep the rebuilt engine running. The 289 had no oil pressure, so they felt the engine was worthless. The last owner sent the Mustang to pasture, where it blended in with the other discarded iron of the past century.

Bob took a chance and bought the coupe for $2,000, not dirt cheap but cheap for what he ended up getting. He pulled the distributor to learn that the rod to the oil pump was missing, explaining the oil pressure problem. He got the Mustang running and now has a drivable '65 hardtop with a factory bench seat and power steering. The stock engine was a C-code 289-2V, although the current 289 is a four-barrel version. Trashy looks don't necessarily mean trash. This one proved a Hidden Treasure.