Jerry Heasley
October 9, 2018

Most of us sold our Mustangs back in the day for whatever reasons, and then went on the hunt for them later. Ken Spera is different. Instead of selling, the retired New Jersey firefighter stored his 1965 Mustang in a garage—in 1977! Only recently did he get the car out for a restoration, retrieving a barn find he planted (and replanted) for himself 40 years ago. So technically, this isn’t a rare “find,” since it’s been in the same family for decades, but it’s still a cool story of a car that the owner refused to let go.

“I bought it, believe it or not, for $50 in 1973. My wife’s friend got in a little accident. She smashed the front end below the hood, between the fenders.”

Classic Mustangs were not classics in 1973, and a wrecked ’65 hardtop wasn’t worth much, but Ken was in high school and needed a set of wheels. He replaced the upper and lower valance, radiator support, water pump, and front bumper. For a grand total of $200 the teenager had a ’65 Mustang with a 289 two-barrel, automatic transmission, and bench seat.

This 1965 Mustang is the car they couldn’t sell. Ken and his wife kept it all these years, and now they have decided to get it out and do a restoration.

He and his wife dated in that car and got married in August of the same year they graduated from high school. Ken rolled the odometer from somewhere around 30,000 to 93,000; then he stored the car in a garage he built next to his house in Belleville, New Jersey, and that was it. He never drove the Mustang again. So, why did he keep it all this time? “I’m a big Ford guy. I didn’t want to give it up. I couldn’t see sending it to a junkyard. I love the car.”

Everywhere that Ken went the car was sure to be hauled and given its own room. In 1998, Ken and his wife built a new house in Bayville, New Jersey, where he stored the ’65 Mustang in their two-car garage. He retired as a firefighter in 2002 and moved to Kentucky in 2008. While his new house was being built, Ken rented a storage unit in the Bluegrass State for a year to house his Mustang.

“It’s still in my basement to this day. Since I moved out here I’ve had a couple offers for the car as a survivor, before I took it apart. But, I couldn’t come up with a number and I just couldn’t do it. My two older boys won’t let me sell it and my wife will definitely not let me sell it because it came basically with us before we were married.”

This Mustang is not high performance or super rare, but emotions and memories mean nothing can replace it. This ’65 Mustang is a family heirloom with a 45-year family membership that comes with room and board, and now full health care.

Now retired, Ken has finally decided to start a restoration. Obviously, he is a Mustang enthusiast, but not a collector. He came by his Mustang as a used car, a direct link to those Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey Glory Days in a young girl’s eyes, something Ken didn’t articulate in those exact words.

Instead, he is trying to recapture the magic, as so many of us do, with technical questions. He is curious about the color Arcadian Blue, which he does not find in source books for 1965 Mustangs. His ’65 hardtop was built, according to the data plate tag, on May 10, 1965. Our guess is by this late date in the model year Ford had added Arcadian Blue, which source books do list for 1966 Mustangs. Also, this paint was available in 1965 in the Thunderbird line. Just ascribing relevance to those 20th century digits rekindles flames of desire.

Ken’s curiosity about the rarity of the bench seat option in his hardtop was another one of his questions that gives meaning to the Mustang. The exact number (for 1964½ and 1965) is 14,905 in the hardtop, compared to 372,123 with bucket seats.

Ken and his wife dated in this car in high school and got married that summer.
How many 289s are left with the original Autolite two-barrel carburetor?
The original purchase price was $50 in 1973. The caveat was that it was a slightly wrecked Mustang.
This Mustang came with the rare bench seat option.