May 6, 2011

Kenneth and Lucille Denson were fond of Lime Gold when they bought this Mustang hardtop from Cort Cox Ford in Hollywood, California, in May of 1967. Kenneth and Lucille were also thrifty. They typically purchased base sticker-priced economy rides void of radios, carpeting, power options, automatic transmissions, and anything else to save a few bucks. So it can be considered ironic that the Densons broke with tradition when they opted for this nicely appointed Mustang hardtop with V-8, Selectaire air conditioning, wide-oval tires with wheel covers, and the Sport Sprint package.

If the Denson’s story seems out of the ordinary, it isn’t. Mustang had quite an effect on new car buyers when it was introduced. When people walked into Ford showrooms, they lost their minds and plunked down cash like never before. Perhaps it was Mustang’s razor sharp styling, low sticker price, and the opportunity to get into something sporty with a V-8 for not much money is what continued to draw buyers into showrooms. And perhaps the Densons felt like it was time to buy a sporty car with bucket seats.

When the Densons lived in Los Angeles, the Mustang was protected inside a dry garage and meticulously maintained. The oil was changed every 2,000 miles. Tune-ups happened with great regularity as did brake jobs and chassis care. Kenneth turned the windshield washer reservoir into a coolant recovery tank to prevent coolant loss. He also configured the Mustang so Lucille, who was not a tall woman, could drive the car. One example is the headlight dimmer switch where Kenneth installed a 2x4 wood block so she could reach the switch. In the 1970s, the Densons retired to rural Lake Isabella outside of Los Angeles where the Mustang was treated to a carport and an even dryer climate.

When Kenneth and Lucille’s grandson, Craig, was a young man, he loved spending time with his grandparents. Because he lived in Oregon, Craig didn’t get to see Kenneth and Lucille very often. But when the Mustang reached 116,000 miles, the Densons decided it was time for a new car and Craig was asked if he’d like to buy the Mustang for $2,000. The decision was easy but getting to Southern California wasn’t. Craig was 14 at the time and busy at school and working on a dairy farm.

Craig’s father headed to Los Angeles to get the Mustang. During the trip home, he almost returned the Mustang to the Densons because the car was so unstable on the old bias-ply tires and poor front-end alignment. When the Mustang arrived in Oregon, Craig was amazed at its pristine condition. Aside from a few scratches, dings, and a dirty engine compartment, the car was in better condition than Craig imagined.

The Mustang needed updates that would make it safer. Craig installed a set of Michelin radial tires to improve handling, then had the front-end aligned. Because Craig worked on a farm with a lot of dirt roads, he knew the Mustang needed a better driving environment if it was going to survive. He decided to park the Mustang and buy another Lime Gold ’67 hardtop to use for both driving and learning how to work on cars. Craig’s mother drove the Sport Sprint Mustang regularly for six years and 8,000 miles while Craig finished high school and college. During that time, Craig worked on the Mustang as much as he could to make it safer and more reliable.

Another area of concern for Craig was the cosmetics. Although the upholstery was still showroom original, it suffered from nicotine stains. He carefully cleaned the interior, managing to salvage most of it but replacing what he could not save. Craig’s parents allowed him to store the Sport Sprint at their shop to protect its unrestored status.

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When Craig graduated from college in 1988, the Mustang had 129,700 unrestored miles. Although Craig wanted to drive the Mustang, he knew doing so on a regular basis would adversely affect the car’s original condition. He decided to keep driving to a minimum. In the years to follow, Craig worked on refining his family heirloom. There were all kinds of pesky details to sweat out, especially if he was going to show the car in Mustang Club of America judged competition. In 2009, after a long period of storage and just 200 miles in 17 years, Craig rolled the Mustang out with plans to debut it at a show. That’s when we caught up with him in Bellevue, Washington.

When Craig rolled the Mustang out for the first time at the MCA Grand National, it was clear he’d spent a lot of time getting it ready. He’d unearthed a new-old-stock exhaust system date coded just one month prior to the car’s assembly at Milpitas, California (San Jose). He also found a set of N.O.S. Firestone Wide Oval F70x14 white sidewall tires. Because he couldn’t find a tire store willing to mount the old tires, Craig had to buy a tire-changing tool and mount them himself. He then located a set of N.O.S. shock absorbers.

As Bellevue neared, Craig crawled underneath to detail the chassis. As he wiped away years of crud and filth, he was amazed at the fresh red oxide primer and Lime Gold overspray originally applied by Ford.

Craig’s Mustang is a garden-variety ’67 hardtop, a school teacher’s ride with a C-code 289-2V, C4 Select-Shift, 2.79:1 gears, and white sidewall tires. What makes the car unique to some degree is the Sport Sprint package, a sales promotion launched in the spring of 1967 to spur showroom traffic. With a 1968 ideas at 1967 prices approach, the ’67 Sport Sprint was a bread-and-butter hardtop with either the 200ci six or 289-2V. It came with special equipment at no extra cost--GT hood with recessed turn signal indicators, white sidewall tires, full wheel covers, bright rocker moldings, chrome air cleaner lid with Sport Sprint decal, and vinyl-covered shift lever with the automatic.

The Sport Sprint was a nice dress-up package that didn’t cost Ford much but sold Mustangs. It certainly sold a thrifty Los Angeles couple who wanted a little something more from life.