How one man bought back his long-lost 1966 Ford Mustang, accidentally

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1966 Ford Mustang profile courtesy of Tab Lagow

It was meant to be. Oh, sure, lots of people say stuff like that, but when it comes to Tab Lagow and his 1966 Ford Mustang convertible, it’s difficult to argue otherwise.

Lagow spent a lot of time in auto body shops while growing up in California, and he eventually turned his car knowledge into a money-making side job by flipping Mustangs. One of those pony cars was a ’66 convertible that he purchased on eBay for $1000.

“It was a total rust bucket,” he says. “I bought all new sheet metal and I was half-way—or maybe three-quarters of the way—through the sheet metal welding when I went through a divorce, and I had to sell it.”

Off the car went, mostly in pieces, to an older man, who bought it as a father-son project. Lagow didn’t think much about the ’66 after that.

1966 Ford Mustang fully restored with Tab Lagow
courtesy of Tab Lagow

Years later, after Tab remarried, he and his wife, Dana, owned an early 1965 (1964.5) Mustang that he restored and painted. The coupe didn’t have air-conditioning, and as the couple drove the car in 110-degree heat near their current home in Lake Havasu, Arizona, they agreed that a convertible might be a better option. So Tab sold the ’64.5 and began looking for another project car about three years ago.

He found a red ’66 in southern California on eBay that had a clean body but no interior or top. It also carried a 5.0-liter engine installed (but not hooked up) by the previous owner. The rest of the car was mostly in boxes. He went for it.

As Lagow, now 58, began searching each box “like a kid at Christmas,” he pulled out a Ziploc baggie that contained nuts and bolts and a note that read, “Bolts for driver’s door.” He laughed and showed the piece of paper to Dana, saying it looked a lot like his handwriting. Then he opened another baggie, inspected another note, and decided, “That IS my handwriting.” Lagow turned the paper over, and on the other side were the words, “Good morning, my Rooskie. Hope you have a great day.” He couldn’t believe his eyes. Rooskie was his nickname for his daughter, Sumner. Tab had written that note years earlier and placed it in his daughter’s lunch, and had reused the paper while labeling the parts for the ’66 Mustang before he sold it.

1966 Ford Mustang restoration
courtesy of Tab Lagow

Three years have passed since then, and the ’66 convertible has been beautifully restored and is powered by a 302-cubic-inch V-8 with automatic transmission and front disc brakes. Tab did the work himself and has no intention of letting the car go again. “No, it’s kind of a member of the family now,” he says, adding that Rooskie just turned 31.

Was it meant to be? Lagow certainly thinks so. And the car’s customized license plate confirms as much: 66MNT2B.

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Editor’s note: Hagerty’s Classic of the Month begins with a simple conversation. A member calls Hagerty and shares their story with a licensed agent. Those stories are collected, and a committee chooses a weekly winner. The four weekly winners are shared with the entire company, and employees vote to determine the best of the month. At the end of the year, there is another vote to decide Hagerty’s Classic of the Year. Congratulations to Licensed Sales Agent Jake Probst, who originally shared the story of this month’s winner.

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