The Mecum muscle car auction in Dallas last weekend offered perhaps the best parade of Ford Mustangs in recent memory; certainly the finest I've seen at an auction in the last two years.
There were several special treats, including a seldom seen 390-powered Mustang from 1968. I consider the 390 Mustang a rare gem because so few of them survived.
Customers who were not concerned with outrageous, Camaro-beating performance usually opted for the more tame small block engine package. Performance-minded Mustang buyers generally opted for the Police Interceptor 428 big block, provided their wallet could withstand the additional $900 hit.
That left the 390 out in the cold. Some opted for it as a low-budget version of 428 performance, but not many. To me, that makes the 1968 390-powered Mustang something special.
We also saw a slew of Mach 1's. A wonderful red 1973 Mach 1 crossed the block this weekend, powered by a 351 engine. For years this was known as the last of the “real” Mustangs. On the next commercial break I walked behind the Mecum set, put my microphone down for a moment and remembered my first Mach 1 encounter.
It was the summer of 1980 and a smoking hot yellow Mach 1 was on sale for $1,500 just down the road from our home. I'd saved up a few dollars and was determined to buy a car that would convince Teresa Ames to go out with me. I had met her at teen camp that summer. With this yellow and black Mach 1, she wouldn't stand a chance.
Dad test drove the Mach 1 and said it was a little too fast. Actually, it was a lot too fast. I hadn't started racing yet and didn't know beans about driving. But I knew that there was something special about a Cleveland engine, and this car had one of them.
Mom sat in the driver's seat and immediately complained that the backward view out the heavily slanted rear window was dangerously limited for an inexperienced driver.
“Of course you can't see out the back, mom. You're five feet tall.”
My protests fell on deaf ears. I didn't get the car. However, we found a 1974 Mustang II Ghia available a few days later. It had fewer miles, it was dead slow and mom could see out the back window.
You can see this coming, can't you?
Instead of getting a 351-powered 1973 Mach 1 – the last “real” Mustang – and a date with Teresa Ames, I bought a Mustang II Ghia and went to work at a fast food restaurant to pay for it. Insert hysterical laughter here.
Hey… it was 1980. We didn't realize just how bad this car was. Everything else on the road was equally miserable in both quality and performance, so who knew? It was all my mom's fault anyway so cut me some slack.
I still remember driving along Indiana Street in my red and white Mustang II, listening to ABBA's “Voulez-vous” on cassette (insert more laughter here) while driving to work at Long John Silver's.
Honesty compels me to admit that the Mustang II – piece of mechanical excrement that it was – fit me like a glove. It was the handiest car I ever drove. My right hand naturally fell on the shifter. The side view mirror was perfectly positioned for my left hand. Ford sold a lot of those miserable cars and that's why. They fit people.
It was no Cleveland-powered Mach 1, but it certainly was fun to drive. Especially when it ran.
I hated working at Long John's. Losing the Mach 1 was bad enough, but the retarded red bandana and striped shirt I had to wear at Long John's was more than any young man should have to bear. I looked like an escaped prisoner turned pirate. My Mustang II broke down. Repeatedly. And I didn't get to date Teresa Ames.
But I learned many things that summer. I learned that my parents probably saved my life by persuading me to pass up that Mach 1. I learned that you could deep fry a concrete block in Long John's batter and it would taste good. I learned that Agnetha Faltskog was the best thing that ever happened to a mini-skirt.
It was tough watching that 1973 Mach 1 roll off the Mecum auction block on Friday afternoon. Brought back a lot of memories. It sold for $21,000 to a proud new owner who clearly appreciates the last “real” Mustang.
Good thing he didn't let his mom sit in it first.
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