Perhaps you heard the heartwarming story last year about the Ryan family from Texas, whose adult children managed to find and acquire the 1993 Ford Mustang GT that their father had sold in 2002 to help pay for their mom's successful cancer treatments. It's never fun when you have to part with beloved possessions to deal with life's challenges, but Jake Ryan and his sister Jeni finding the car and gifting it to their parents made a nice ending to what could have been a very sad story.
Only the story didn't end there. Yesterday, in front of Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Wesley Ryan and his wife Laura were presented with the Mustang, now gleaming white, fully restored and resto-modded by Hennessey Performance, courtesy of Ford Motor Company. Wesley got behind the wheel, with Laura in the passenger seat, started up the 5.0-liter V-8, and started to cry.
When Jake and Jeni first recovered the car, it was in poor shape and Jake planned to restore it himself. They figured it would take five years and many thousands of dollars. Jake had budgeted $6000 for just the engine.
He can put that money to even better use now, because some folks named Ford happened to read about their story. After Ford's executive chairman Bill Ford, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, saw coverage last year in the national media about the Ryan kids giving their parents their car back, he had his subordinates contact the family and tell them that the automaker would help them fix up the Mustang.
The company donated the 5.0 V-8 crate motor and a new transmission, and then commissioned Hennessey to do a full restoration down to the bare, sand-blasted body. The interior was a mess, in part because one of the subsequent owners after the Ryan family decided to make it into a rally car.
The restoration took nine months and when it was done, Ford brought the car, the family, and John Hennessey to Michigan from Texas for the presentation. Wesley Ryan was fully aware that Ford was restoring his car, but had no idea what the results would be.
"We heard a lot about you," Henry Ford III, Ford's director of corporate strategy and great-great-grandson of Henry Ford, told the family in front of Ford HQ.
A sudden gust of wind blew the cover off the Mustang. Filled with emotion, Wesley Ryan covered his face with his shaking hands.
"Can I touch it?" Wesley asked.
"Yeah, it's yours," Henry Ford III said. "It's yours."
The family all took turns sitting behind the Mustang's steering wheel and revving the engine. It was a part of their lives. Jake and Jeri have fond memories of riding in it as kids.
As much as humans can attach meaning and value to things, they are still just things. We've heard cars described as “just like” a member of the family, but who among us would not part with their dearest possession to save the life of a loved one? The Ryans’ passion for their Mustang burns strong, but family comes first.
Wesley, who told The Detroit News that he bleeds Ford blue, isn't going to keep the car. He's planning on giving it to Jake. Jeni won't miss out, though. Wesley has an old F-100 truck that he's fixing up for her as well.
"You guys created a family heirloom," Wesley told Henry Ford III, John Hennessey, and the gathered Ford employees who had a hand in the project. "You guys did more than you had to."
After that act of kindness, it’s reasonable to assume Wesley and Laura's great-great-grandchildren will be driving Fords, and not just the Mustang that's now a family heirloom.