The Make-A-Wish Mustang
A Potential Tragedy Turns Positive With A Boy and His Mustang Mach 1
“While I was going through treatment I would go up and look at the car every now and then and see the progress , and I’d kind of forget what was going on and I’d just kind of focus on the car and what it’s going to look like in the future and I’d just completely forget about all the cancer treatment and be in my own zone when I was with the car.”—Kodi Jones
The Bad News
A day that started out what was to be an exciting father and son trip for Springfield, Missouri natives Kodi Jones and his father Alan ended as a day that no one will ever forget. While snowboarding during spring break in March 2013, Alan noticed a lump on Kodi’s throat. Thinking he had an infection, Kodi and his father returned home early to deal with it because at the time they didn’t want him to miss any school. Much to their surprise, they received a preliminary diagnosis of Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma within a couple days and were referred to St. Louis Children’s hospital.
After a week of intense testing to determine the exact type and the severity of his condition, his official diagnosis was T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, which according to Leukaemia.org is “an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is relatively rare, accounting for approximately two percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Lymphoblastic lymphoma usually develops from T-lymphocytes but occasionally develops from B-lymphocytes.”
Fortunately, they were told that since it was caught so early that the prognosis was very good and with the treatment program there was a 96 percent cure rate. Kodi started a 27 month-long chemotherapy treatment protocol on his 17th birthday. For the next year they traveled four hours each way to receive treatment, sometimes making the drive twice a week. Also during this period, Kodi had to be transported via air ambulance twice because his condition was very poor. While Alan had great medical coverage through his employer, not all of the major medical expenses were covered and some of the transportation costs totaled near $50,000 for each trip up to St. Louis. After the first year, they were able to transfer his care to a St. Jude’s Affiliate clinic located in Springfield, where he completed the treatment program in July 2015.
Make a Wish Steps In
Soon after Kodi’s treatment started, the family was contacted by a Make-A-Wish representative who said Kodi would qualify to have a wish granted—they grant wishes to eligible children under the age of 18. During initial conversations, Alan was asked what Kodi was interested in and he responded, “girls and cars.” They said they couldn’t help with the first and as for the second they could not purchase a car for him but they did do car restorations. A few weeks later the family met with Kodi’s Make-A-Wish granters. They sat down with Kodi and discussed options and asked what his wish would be, and he responded that he would like to have an old Mustang restored. Alan and his wife Shellie told him if that was what he wanted they would help locate and purchase the vehicle. His wish-granters informed them that to be able to proceed they would need to provide a vehicle capable of passing a state safety inspection and it would also have to be licensed. After several weeks of searching, they located his Mach 1 on Craigslist in Northwest Arkansas. The owner had passed away some years ago and his widow had the car sitting in their barn. It had been stored for many years but she mentioned that the engine had been rebuilt previously. She had several offers but was willing to hold on to it for Kodi.
Alan, Kodi’s father, was not familiar with these cars or the restoration of something in that condition. They did not want to make a mistake and purchase a car that was beyond repair but took a leap of faith that it would all work out and got the car. It took several months to get it running; mice had filled the mufflers with dog food so the first time it started they had quite a mess in the shop! The car needed new wiring harnesses and lots of small items to get it road worthy, but with the help of several friends, family, and local businesses, everything came together. At that point, the family provided the registration, title, and license in Kodi’s name to Make-A-Wish, then they began the search for sponsors and a shop to restore the Mach 1. This was a very big undertaking for Make a Wish since the local chapter had never granted a wish of this magnitude.
The Invaluable Volunteers
It took several months but they did find a person willing to take on the challenge; Steve and Pam Borgman, owners of PS Restorations in Camdenton, Missouri, offered to restore the Mustang. They heard the request and immediately became interested because Steve once owned a 1969 Mach 1. They met with them for several weeks and after all the details were worked out, off the car went. Kodi did request that he be allowed to help in the restoration process and Steve and Pam were able to get him in the shop several times, but he would not be allowed to see the car once they started putting final paint on it.
PS Restorations put in well over 1,000 hours of labor during the several months they had the car, replacing floorpans, quarter panels, and sanding through all the layers of paint. Part of the agreement with Make a Wish was that they would only do body, paint, interior, stereo, and wheels/tires. If Kodi wanted any improvements to the drivetrain or suspension, the Jones family would need to take care of that on their own. With the help of several friend,s every suspension component was replaced, the 351 Cleveland engine and three-speed automatic transmission were rebuilt. Once the car was together again, the Jones were referred by friends to a shop in Ozark, MO—Jon King of JK’s Automotive volunteered to complete the mechanical end of the restoration and got the car running. In the end, the goal was to unveil the car at Kodi’s 19th birthday party, but the car took a little longer than expected to finish, so the unveiling was done a week later at the local firehouse in front of family, friends, and donors.
Kodi ultimately just wanted to restore an old Mustang, preferably a Boss 302. However, when Alan found the Mach One in an Arkansas Craigslist ad, they both knew that was going to be their car. Nearly 41,000 Mach 1s were produced in 1970 but you can technically say that Kodi’s car is a one of one. As depicted by the Marti Report, it was the only Mach One Mustang that year ordered with this combination of factory options. Some of the original equipment could not be spared but Kodi has himself a nice little hot rod that can tear up the pavement.
The 351 Cleveland was gone through completely and bored .040-inch over. A Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam, roller rockers, and Speed Pro pistons were also added to the internals. Edelbrock supplied a Performer aluminum intake and Performer RPM heads to compliment the Quick Fuel QFI fuel injection system. Exhaust flows through Sanderson ceramic-coated shorty headers to Flowmaster mufflers. Suspension modifications include a Mustangs Plus Grab-A-Trak one-inch drop kit with bigger SSBC disc brakes installed up front for stopping power. Inside the car also saw a few updated modifications to include TMI sport seats, Custom Auto Sound radio, Dakota Digital VHX gauges, and a Vintage Air system was added to replace the missing factory air conditioning. Kodi’s Mustang is a true street machine and you will regularly find him cruising Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri.
Kodi Goes Above and Beyond while seeking treatment
Kodi was able to graduate on time even though he was not able to attend school most of his senior year. Also during this time, he managed a, “Pennies for Patients” fund for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at his school. He raised over $9,000, which set a record for schools in the region. He also organized a Bone Marrow drive that enabled 157 people to get signed up for the national registry. Just recently, a close friend was found to be a match and traveled to Atlanta to donate for a very young child. Kodi continues to be a role model for young children today while living life to the fullest hot rodding down the famed Route 66.
The Family Gives Thanks in Their Words
Alan Jones said, “Shellie and I are so thankful for many reasons and too many people. We are grateful we caught this disease early and found great medical care right away. The car restoration took a long time but it was a blessing, since most of the time he spent in the hospital was focused on researching the car and deciding what he wanted it to look like. We spent countless hours talking about colors, modifications, searching the internet for other Mach 1s, and most importantly what he would do with it after this was all behind him. It was a fantastic distraction from the situation he was in. We wouldn’t be here today without the support of our friends, family, Make a Wish, and the many sponsors below, including:
-All the doctors and nurses at St. Louis Children’s hospital and the Jane Pitt Pediatric Cancer Center at the St Jude affiliate clinic in Springfield, MO
-Make-A-Wish and all the volunteers that make this organization work
-Steve and Pam Borgman at PS Restorations, Camdenton, MO
-Jon King at JK’s Auto Repair, Ozark MO
-CJ Pony Parts
-Eagle Machine Incorporated
-Car-Fi Car Audio and mobile electronics
-Marti Auto Works
Want to support the Make-A-Wish program with a donation or just learn more about the program? Go to their website at Wish.org.