22 September 2016

Dave Kunz only wanted a job on TV. And a Mustang.

When Dave Kunz was a kid he longed for two things. First was a job that allowed him to merge his love of cars and film production. Second, was the 1965 Ford Mustang belonging to his aunt and uncle.

He now has both.

I met Kunz on a recent Saturday morning near Universal Studios, not far from his home. I was waiting for him to arrive, just snooping through his Instagram feed, when I heard a Ford 289-cid V-8’s unmistakable rumble approaching. It was Kunz, arriving in that Mustang.

Kunz’s Uncle Richard and Aunt Doris special-ordered the car in 1964, ticking off a list of options on the order form that included disc brakes, a four-barrel 289, a handling package, and a 1965-only Honey Gold paint job – essentially building themselves a GT model before that trim package officially existed. Only later did Kunz think to ask his uncle why he hadn’t opted for the fastback? Why not a convertible? Why not the high-performance K-code 289?

Didn’t like the looks, hated convertibles and not worth the extra $400, came the reply.

Kunz was nevertheless smitten with the car. His love was cemented by back-seat rides when Richard and Doris would visit the Kunz family in Northridge, at that time a rural Los Angeles suburb, and from watching his uncle lay rubber in front of his home when those weekend visits ended. When Kunz turned fifteen, his Uncle Richard took him over to a parking lot at San Diego State University and taught him how to drive a stick shift.

Through the years, Kunz was not subtle in letting Uncle Richard and Aunt Doris know that he wanted first crack at buying the Mustang if they ever opted to sell it.

In 1994, Uncle Richard rang up Kunz and told him to bring his checkbook down to San Diego and pick up the Mustang. Kunz had his shoes on and was halfway out the door before he even hung up.

With this purchase, Kunz added a permanent automotive member to his family. Kunz has several cars in his garage – including a first-generation Bronco, a 1968 Mustang fastback, and a Datsun 280Z – but this 1965 Mustang is the one he’ll never sell.

“On paper, it isn’t worth much,” says Kunz. “It doesn’t have the K-code engine, it’s not a GT and it’s a coupe [not a fastback]. But to me, it’s priceless.”

Southern California residents now know Kunz as the automotive specialist for the Los Angeles ABC station where, since 2001, Kunz has carved out an on-air niche for himself after more than a decade behind the camera. Prior to Kunz, the station did not have anyone dedicated full-time to the automotive beat.

“I just figured there was a position open and that I should apply for it,” jokes Kunz, “but first I had to convince my news director that there was a position and that it was, in fact, open.”

With his gregarious personality and insatiable appetite for life and cars, Kunz seems to have surprised even himself at how his childhood dreams have true.

“If I had gone to my high school guidance counselor and said, “‘Hey, is there a job that will pay me to drive all kinds of cars and shoot videos about the experience?’, I’d have been laughed out of his office,” says Kunz with a grin. “He would have just handed me an application for McDonald’s and told me to get lost.”

Not surprisingly, Kunz’s job has given him entrée to people and places that, as a kid growing up in the San Fernando Valley, were merely the stuff of dreams.

Kunz recalls accompanying his mother on periodic shopping trips to a friend’s dress shop in North Hollywood, located just down the street from George Barris’s legendary shop on Riverside Drive. While his mother shopped for dresses, a nine year-old Kunz did his best to sneak a look through the Barris shop’s windows, fascinated by the weird and wild creations inside.

Years later, Kunz found himself visiting Barris’s shop, only this time he had come to interview the man himself. As often happens when one finally meets a childhood idol, Kunz admits to being a bit starstruck.

Despite achieving so much in life and around cars, Kunz has hardly run out of ambition or ideas. His next goal? Ship that Bronco to Europe and take a tour of the continent’s mountains and cobblestones.

Given Kunz’s knack for achieving his dreams, don’t be surprised if his Instagram feed is soon bursting with pictures of the man and his Bronco crossing the Swiss Alps.

3 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Jeff Smedlund Omaha September 28, 2016 at 15:43
    Thanks for sharing a great story. My uncle got out of the Air Force in 1967 and returned to Appleton, WI and bought a 1967 Corvette in Lynndale blue. I remember great rides in that car. Wasn't old enough to think about making the same request Dave did, but sure wish I had!
  • 2
    Jeff Roessler San Clemente, CA September 28, 2016 at 16:00
    I met Dave at a Hagerty learn-to-drive-a-stick event at The Big A parking lot in Anaheim a few years back. It was teaching todays kids how to drive a stick shift. He had brought his Mustang and I brought my '64 Corvette coupe. I had a terrific time with the kids and later, Dave interviewed me for a TV spot on the news. He asked if I was uncomfortable letting beginners drive the Vette. I told him that I was fine with it. When he asked why I had voluteered my time and car, I responded that most car guys today can look back at someone who trusted them to drive their hot rod...and the hook was set. I like to think that we set a few hooks that day.
  • 3
    Lee wodhams Uk October 13, 2016 at 11:23
    Great article. Just got my first mustang, a 68 coupe. Needs a lot of work but will be a great car when done. Feel free to do an article on my journey from start to finish. There is a huge muscle car fan base in the U.K.

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