“Honey, I found one!” my husband Bryan exclaimed. “It’s a ‘67 Mustang Fastback, just like I’ve always wanted. It’s 850 miles away and needs a little work, but it’s only $7,000.”
“Well, how much would it take to restore it?” I asked.
“Not much. I’ll do most of the work myself.” (I should’ve laughed at that!)
Bryan had dreamed for years of owning a beautiful, restored Mustang with a souped-up engine, and now that he was retired, he had time to work on the car in our garage instead of paying a professional. What could it cost for a little paint and upholstery? I would soon learn. And learn. And learn some more.
First, we drove to St. Louis to buy the car. Expenses included gas, meals, and hotels. Then, the owner insisted that the price was higher than the agreed-upon amount. The only option Bryan had was to walk away, which he wasn’t willing to do. So a trip to an ATM covered the extra. And after we stopped at a gas station to fill up, the Mustang wouldn’t start. We had to have it shipped to Denver.
So far, the project cost several hundred dollars more than we anticipated, and we didn’t even have the car home yet!
Over the next six and a half years, Bryan bought, restored, cleaned, painted, fitted, and replaced just about every square inch of that car. It was his passion, and he worked on it faithfully every afternoon.
I wish all it cost was time, effort, and money, but there was much more involved. In addition to the usual mashed fingers and scraped arms, Bryan’s back screamed at him every once in a while, keeping him from everything, not just the Mustang.
And Bryan’s estimate of the financial cost was low. He knew I would never agree to that purchase if I realized it would cost several years and thousands of dollars.
But was it worth it? You bet.
Not only did the Mustang provide Bryan with something of value to work on, but it became a connection to get him out of his shell. When neighbors or the UPS delivery guy would drive by and see the open garage door and that gorgeous bright yellow car, they’d stop and chat. Bryan became the local “car guy,” which he loved.
He lost a lot of sleep, thinking about what needed to be done and what parts to order. But he was wide awake when it came time to actually do the work. He seemed enlivened by assembling, painting, and sanding.
When the car was completed enough to drive, he enjoyed taking it for a spin and watching heads turn as he passed other drivers. He finally had the car he wanted.
Bryan had found a larger engine, then reconditioned and installed it. The purr under the hood and the “rumpety” in the rear were music to his ears. Unfortunately, that engine proved too much for the standard radiator, so he ordered a larger one.
Then, Bryan was diagnosed with cancer. He was in severe pain and unable to work on his beloved Mustang. He would sit by the garage door and just stare at the car, but there was nothing he or anyone else could do.
Our son-in-law and a friend installed the new radiator so Bryan could hear his engine one last time. When they turned the key and the “rumpety” echoed through the garage, he smiled larger than I had ever seen. Pure joy radiated from his face.
A month later, Bryan was gone.
But he had the chance to realize a dream. It was worth all that it cost: all the time, effort, frustration, and money, not to mention blood, sweat, and tears.
This summer, our daughter took the car to the Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup show in Steamboat Springs, where it won several awards.
Bryan would be so proud. I know I am.
Yes, it was worth all that it cost.