Jim Smart
December 10, 2010
Contributers: Donald Farr Photos By: Donald Farr

Talk about tenacity. Imagine driving a classic Mustang daily or thousands of miles annually to car shows, cruises, and even cross-country trips. Thanks to the incredible advances in terms of comfort, fuel economy, and reliability, we're less inclined these days to strap a classic Mustang to our backsides for anything more than a Sunday drive. Why? Because '65-'68 Mustangs are just not as comfortable as what most of us are accustomed to driving today. Those rock-hard bucket seats were exceeded in misery only by the posterior-numbing Camaro and Firebird buckets of the era, which were even harder. Road boom, driveline noise and vibration, and that miserable clunk of a coilover-upper arm front suspension are what ran a lot of us out of classic Mustangs as regular drivers. Now when we get behind the wheel, we are stunned that we ever drove one daily. Automobiles have come a long way in 40 years.

We tip our hats to those who never gave up their faith in classic rides. We're going to recognize a few of these dedicated folks here. Not all of them drive their Mustangs daily. But when it's time to cruise several hundred miles to a car show, they're ready-road atlas, cooler, and toolbox in trunk-to put interstate highway before the fascia.

One Million Miles
Every year for the past quarter century, Victor Anderson has driven 25,000 miles in his Wimbledon White '66 Mustang hardtop. He's on the road a lot, all of it in his classic Mustang. Still powered by its original 289 block and heads, Victor's Mustang has been driven approaching one million miles since new. Current odometer reading, if a vintage Mustang odometer actually went that high, is 913,000 miles. In fact, Victor wore out the original speedometer-his Mustang is now on its second.

Victor's father bought this car 40 years ago and drove it daily until 1985. Victor grabbed the reins and has continued his father's ritual. He has been driving this car daily for 25 years. "I'm 48, and this is only the second car I've ever owned," Victor tells us. "My first car was an American Motors Gremlin X that I drove 275,000 miles. But this Mustang is the car I learned to drive in. Now it continues to run me to work every day-60 miles roundtrip to San Francisco."

Victor tells us that the 289 four-barrel engine has been rebuilt every 250,000 miles for the past 30 years. The first rebuild was in 1980. He and his father did the second rebuild in 1993. The third rebuild, performed in 2003, has 130,000 miles under its belt. Victor assumes he'll need a new block for the next one. The original air conditioning compressor went 800,000 miles before Victor replaced it with a Sanden rotary-type for efficiency. Both the C4 Cruise-O-Matic and 2.79:1 peg leg axle are original to this car.

It may surprise you to know Victor's hardtop was parked daily on the street until 1992, which is when he first treated it to a warm garage. "Each and every morning, the garage door opens and the Mustang drives me 30 miles in San Francisco traffic, then 30 miles back home," Victor adds.

To make the car a better driver, Victor has performed subtle modifications designed to make his Mustang safer and more fun to drive. He has opted for the steel rear seat barrier from Tank Armor, SSBC front disc brakes, Gear Vendors overdrive, TMI Sport seats, Dual Red Line radials from Coker Tire, Pony Carburetors 4100 four-barrel, PerTronix Ignitor ignition, Edelbrock Variable Rate shocks, intermittent wipers, Dynamat and Acousti-Shield for a quiet ride, 289 Hi-Po exhaust manifolds, space saver spare tire, and dozens of other improvements.

Although some might find driving a classic Mustang daily challenging from a maintenance standpoint, Victor enjoys the challenge. Unleaded fuel and synthetic lubricants make longevity a slam-dunk these days, with engines, transmissions, and rear ends lasting longer as a result.

She's The Boss
You've seen Michelle Holstein's '70 Boss 302 in Mustang Monthly before. She did the unthinkable when she tackled this project at the age of 21 by building a hot '70 Boss 302. Not a stocker, but instead a tastefully modified Boss 302 restomod with a race-inspired Trans Am mini-plenum induction system, MSD ignition system, Mini-Lite wheels, and a host of other cool modifications that respect the Boss 302's racing legacy. And it's not a trailer-queen like many of today's coveted Boss 302s. Michelle has chosen to drive the car anywhere a show comes calling. Because Michelle dialed durability into her Boss Mustang, she's ready to drive it anywhere.

Michelle wanted a Boss 302 for as long as she could remember. "I have always loved muscle cars," Michelle comments, "and I have always loved Boss 302s." When she was growing up, she informed her father, also a car lover, that she wanted a Boss 302 Mustang when she reached driving age. He introduced her to her first reality check-Boss 302 Mustangs are expensive in any form. So she started saving. She babysat. She worked odd jobs. She waited tables. Her pursuit of a Boss 302 started with the purchase of a Mach 1, which led to this Medium Lime Metallic Boss 302 Mustang.

Michelle bought the car disassembled, the result of two owners who were never able to finish it. With title in hand and keys in pocket, Michelle hauled her Boss to Ranger Performance in Riverside, California, where work began in earnest, with Michelle doing much of the work herself.

What people learn when they chat with Michelle is that she did her homework before buying a Boss 302. She knew what would work and what wouldn't. The result has been one of the nicest Boss 302s we've ever seen in more than three decades of magazine publishing. Best of all, it's a driver.

Anytime, Anywhere
Johnnie and Rachel Garner from Rock Hill, South Carolina, have owned this Bright Red '71 Mach 1 since new and have driven it more than 200,000 miles. For 23 years, the Garners drove their Mach 1 daily. In 1994, the decision was made to take the Mach 1 off the road for a full-scale restoration. Because the Garners always took excellent care of this car, that part was easy. Very little work had to be done. Underhood, Johnnie decided to completely rebuild the original 351C-4V engine, updating it with steel exhaust valve seats, stainless steel valves, high-tech gaskets, and anything else that would make it more reliable. Because the Top Loader four-speed and 3.25:1 9-inch axle were in excellent condition, they never had to be touched.

We first caught up with the Garners in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2008. And we've seen them just about everywhere since because they drive their Mach 1 to all significant Mustang Club of America shows across the continent. Earlier this year, we saw them in Pensacola, Florida, then Oklahoma in June. And in July, darned if they didn't show up on the other side of the country at Bellevue, Washington, for the 30th Annual Northwest Round-Up and MCA Grand National show. Amazingly, they had driven to these places from their home in South Carolina.

When we met them, the Mach 1 had reproduction bias-belted tires, which the Garners concluded don't perform very well for long distance driving when one failed them on the highway. The Garners have since learned the value of radial tires in terms of wear, tear, and safety.

If ever you have the good fortune of meeting Rachel and Johnnie, you will never forget them. When you've driven from South Carolina to Seattle, there's a lot to be said for a good automobile and fine companionship.

Fun in the Sun
Six years ago, Wayne Farnham sold his truck and started driving his '66 Mustang convertible to work every day. Today, it's his only car. Other drivers around Clearwater, Florida, are accustomed to seeing Wayne in his top-down convertible as he makes his daily five-mile round trip to and from his business, Restomods Plus, where vintage Mustangs are his primary jobs.

"Everybody says I'm nuts," remarks Wayne. "The top stays down all the time. When it's hot, I'm hot. When it's cold, I'm cold. When it rains, I get wet, although I will put the top up during heavy downpours." He says the Mustang let him down only once when the 289's oil pump seized a couple of years ago and left him stranded on the side of the highway. Otherwise, it has been smooth sailing.

In addition to everyday transportation, the Mustang is used as a test-bed for Wayne's ideas that usually revolve around finding Ford solutions to typical Mustang problems. For example, to deal with the Florida heat, his Mustang is equipped with a larger radiator from a '68 Mustang, a clutch fan, and an overflow tank tucked behind the driver-side fender. The springs are still the originals, but he has enhanced the handling with KYB gas shocks, larger sway bar, polyurethane bushings, and Shelby-style dropped A-arms using Wayne's own relocation specs. The steering gear is also original, but Wayne utilizes Shelby pitman and idler arms to speed up the steering action. The power brake booster is from a late-model Mustang.

With meticulous maintenance and no worries about dinging the 30-year-old paint, Wayne happily drives his convertible everywhere-to and from work, lunch breaks, and local Mustang events and cruises. He does have one thing to tend to for those heavy Florida downpours-"It does need a new top."

II For The Show
If you've ever attended the Mustangs Northwest Annual Round-Up near Seattle, Washington, you've probably run into Bob McLaughlin. Every July, Bob drives his Mustang II from Aloha, Oregon, to the show in Bellevue. In addition to this '76 Mach 1 with V-6 power and a four-speed, Bob also owns a number of other Mustang IIs, including a concours restored '76 Cobra. Suffice it to say that few people know more about the '74-'78 Mustang II than Bob. Although the Mach 1 looks trailered, it's anything but. Bob drives his Mach 1-and Cobra-just about everywhere, including the annual Round-Up.

The Mustang II's 2.8-liter engine has mechanical tappets, which clatter like a typewriter at idle. As Bob drives off, his German Ford V-6 exudes a European sound that reminds us of the mid-1970s Mercury Capri, which had the same optional engine as the Mustang II. What challenges Bob most with his V-6 Mustang IIs is parts. Engine parts aren't as easy to come by as they once were. Anyone with a Mustang II knows body and interior parts are as scarce as hen's teeth. In most cases, all you have to choose from is new-old-stock parts-when you can find them.

Inside, Bob's Mach 1 makes us feel young again because the rich button and tuck interior was a significant improvement during the 1970s. Refinements included standard full instrumentation along with a digital clock that thrusts us right back to an era of bellbottoms, disco music, and partying all night long.

Top-Down Cruising
For Mike and Priscilla Johnson, who live just outside of Kansas City, their Grabber Blue '71 convertible becomes their second home when show season arrives. The Mustang is driven everywhere.

Mike and Priscilla spied their convertible parked in the weeds, made a cash offer, and hauled it home for a shot at Mike's automotive expertise. It needed a tremendous amount of sheetmetal replacement and repair, which Mike performed before laying down the Grabber Blue urethane. Under the ram-air hood is a two-barrel 351 Cleveland that Mike has completely rebuilt and upgraded with parts designed to improve reliability, like hardened exhaust valve seats and PerTronix Ignitor electronic ignition.

Priscilla tells us that the toughest aspect of driving the Mach is taking it out of the relative safety and security of their garage and introducing it to the hazards of a public highway. They do a walk-around before and after every drive to inspect for damage. On their way to Atlanta a few years ago for a Mustang show, they hit a huge piece of truck retread tire, which took out the chin spoiler, valance, and hood trim. Thankfully, that has been the only mishap in their many years with the Mustang. The up-side is how people respond to the car. They pop out their cell phones and take pictures of Mike and Priscilla's convertible on the interstate.

Priscilla adds that it has become easier to find some '71-'73 parts and harder to find others. The white interior trim panels, not available as reproductions, have to be treated with special care. However, Mike and Priscilla understand stone chips and nicks are all a part of driving a classic Mustang.

Murphy's Law
When we think "Murphy," we think of that pessimistic guy who was always convinced something was bound to go wrong. But that Murphy has never met John Murphy, our friend from Illinois corn country. No matter the challenges, John will find a way to greet them with determination and know-how.

A case in point is this '68 California Special hardtop. When John and his wife, Janice, hit the road for the first time in their GT/CS for a trip down south to the Mustang's 45th Anniversary Celebration in Alabama, they didn't anticipate that it would test John's natural bend for optimism. On the return trip, the California Special's 302-4V engine lunched a timing set, bending valves and leaving the Murphys stranded. With only a few resources and a flashlight, John worked to replace the timing set to get his 302 running again. With bent valves, John and Janice headed for Illinois. It was a long drive with a very unhappy 302.

When John and Janice arrived home, John made sure they would never be stuck on the road again. He rebuilt the 302 and fit his GT/CS with an AOD transmission to improve efficiency and also reduce wear and tear. "The stock Autolite 4300 is still with us," John comments, "but it was a long struggle to get it to work satisfactorily because it is a very temperamental carburetor." And this is where John has earned the bacon as a restoration technician.

"A C6OE-G fan was put into service along with a new Hayden thermostatic fan clutch to preclude the possibility of any overheat," John adds. "Again, this was a deviation from the stock Ford flex fan used on '68 cars, but an important concession that pays dividends in the real world." John also found a way to continue running R-12 refrigerant to keep a sweltering interior cool on the hottest days.

Because John respects the importance of this car's originality, he carefully placed all original parts, including the C4 transmission, on the shelf for safekeeping. Everything John took off the car has been properly stored in case he decides to show the car in concours judged competition. Meanwhile, he and Janice will set their sights on a busy show schedule for 2011 with their good-looking GT/CS that's loaded with stealthy mods few will ever know are there except John.

Ivy Green Envy
Chad Haskell purchased this Dark Ivy Green '66 289 hardtop from the original owner in 1974 as a commuter car with just 63,000 miles on the odometer. It was in pristine condition and ready for thousands more. For years, Chad drove his Mustang to work, on vacations, and for untold thousands of errands. Chad and his wife, Jeri, would go on their honeymoon to Sonora in the Mustang in 1982.

Chad drove his Mustang daily for the better part of two decades without much thought to buying a new car, leaning on the side of conservatism in a world without car payments. By 1993, the original, undisturbed 289 was beginning to show signs of fatigue. At 135,000 miles, Chad treated his Mustang to a complete engine rebuild before moving into a restoration. His project would take years, with the car continuing to be driven daily. It was through due diligence that the concours driver restoration was completed. Chad looks at his Mustang and reflects on its faithful service: "I am proud to have driven the Mustang as much as I have. Now, it is used occasionally for work and throughout the year for car shows."

When Chad compares the Mustang to his modern SUV, he understands that braking distances are far greater with the Mustang with its manual four-wheel drum brakes. That's one reason why Chad doesn't drive the Mustang every day as he once did, mainly to protect the ride he has enjoyed for 36 years. Finding parts for his Mustang is far easier now than it was 20 years ago because reproduction parts are plentiful. One goal is to have the suspension rebuilt to improve ride and handling. He admits his Mustang's suspension is one of the car's biggest shortcomings.

It was 2007 when Chad decided to retire his Mustang from daily service, a decision not easily made because it's hard to keep Chad out from behind the wheel.

Longtime Driver
When Linda Gillette reached driving age, she managed to score her sister-in-law's '66 Mustang for just $250 because classic Mustangs were plentiful and cheap in those days. In the years to follow, Linda fought the battle of driving a classic Mustang at a time when reproduction parts didn't exist. Because she had to park her Mustang on the street, thefts were attempted several times. One time, the car was struck by a hit and run driver and nearly totaled. Linda never allowed misfortune to steer her around her dreams. She kept the car regardless and it is still with her today, now painted in Medium Blue Metallic instead of the original Antique Bronze.

Probably the toughest time for Linda was the 1980s when she somehow kept her Mustang running while living on a tight budget. She took auto repair classes to learn how to do much of the work herself. When Linda met Chuck Wiltens, it was their mutual interest in Mustangs that led to a wedding date. Thanks to Chuck's abilities and support from the Bay Area Mustang Association, Linda's '66 hardtop not only looks sharp, it's as reliable as it has ever been. The Thermactor air pump is still there after all these years.

Linda and Chuck have had to learn to live with 45-year-old technology. During our photo shoot in Danville, California, a new power steering hose let go all over the pavement. However, Linda has never wavered from her faith in classic Mustangs. She continues to drive her '66 regardless of what happens.

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On the Road Again
When we touched base with David Turnbull about his '64-1/2 Mustang, we weren't surprised to learn that he was on the road again in his convertible. As the organizer for the Great American Pony Drive (www.ponydrive.us), David has used his Mustang as the pace car for six of his seven Pony Drives, racking up 60,000 miles in the process. When we talked to him, he had added 9,000 miles during this year's 18-day cruise through the Western U.S.-and he had 1,300 more to go for his trip back home to Florida.

Since purchasing the car in 1989, David has driven nearly 350,000 miles in the black convertible, which is equipped with Bob McClurg roadster cover and aircraft landing lights in a front valance based on Ford's gold 007 concept car. "The engine has been replaced several times," David says, "and the transmission is a Granada overdrive, so I get around 20 mpg at 70 mph."

David leaves the top down even when it rains-"at 55-60 mph, it blows over"-and problems have been minor. "The worst issue occurred in 2007 when a rear bearing let loose and the axle slid out on the Florida Turnpike!"

Never restored, David describes his '64-1/2 convertible as a well-kept, rust-free car, explaining, "I just replace whatever wears out."