Hagerty readers and Hagerty Drivers Club members share their cherished collector and enthusiast vehicles with us via our contact email, firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re showcasing some of our favorite stories among these submissions. To have your car featured, send complete photography and your story of ownership to the above email address.
Today’s vehicle is a 1967 Ford Mustang. One that Rob Johnson wishes he still owned—a fastback model that the then-17-year-old Johnson bought for $300 at the only used car lot in his tiny Minnesota farm town, just north of the Iowa border. Johnson needed a vehicle in which to escape reality, and the cash he saved from washing dishes at a local restaurant just covered the price of the faded red fastback. The 289 two-barrel pony wore small crumples on both bumpers. It was missing the Mustang logo on its grille. The gas gauge didn’t work. But it was a Mustang, and Johnson just had to have it.
The failed gas gauge caused some mild drama for Rob, as it ran out of gas multiple times while he cruised the roads around his small town. “Once,” he writes, “in the dead of winter, at 2 a.m. while driving back from another small farm town, I ran out of gas and had to walk a half mile in -20 temps to wake up a farmer for gas.”
Johnson’s memories surrounding the ’67 fastback hail from a different era—with its own peculiar charm.
“The town had one very large police officer named Rodney, who had mercy on me and would push the Mustang with his big-bumpered cruiser to the small gas station, (and) he would unlock the station, turn on the pump, and help me fill up to get back on the streets.”
Johnson cut into the original two-into-one exhaust and added dual Thrust mufflers. He also swapped the stock floor-mounted shifter for the three-speed manual for a Hurst T handle. The permanently broken motor mount, which caused the engine to lift and bang when he “got on it,” didn’t cause the teenage Johnson much angst.
He also discovered, in an inspired and daring bout of scientific experimentation, that the Mustang could perch atop the railroad tracks that ran through town. He’d let out a little air in the tires, put it on the rails in first gear, let out the clutch, and jump out and sit on the hood while it chugged down the tracks. “In fact, we could have five high schoolers sitting on top of the car going down the tracks drinking Hamm’s beer all the while.”
The Johnsons sold the Mustang to a local farmer in 1975 for the same sum that Rob originally paid for it. A 1967 Camaro took its place, and the Mustang faded from Johnson’s mind for about 45 years. Then, he started to reminisce about the car, wondering if he could find the red fastback after all this time.
“I left my cell phone, email, address and a picture of a red ’67 that was restored on the Facebook page of my former high school. I closed my laptop, said a prayer, and went to work.”
The cell phone rang two minutes later. It was the farmer who had bought the Mustang in ’75.
Unfortunately, Johnson discovered that the car had been totaled—although not by the fellow who called him up—and hauled off to the local salvage yard. He mourned the demise of the rough—but to him, entirely perfect—car that beat a 283 Malibu, 351 Mustang, and a 425 Pontiac that he only remembers as a land yacht.
“There was the answer,” Johnson writes. “I will not get the car back. It is gone forever, which is almost better than knowing its still out there and never to be found.”
One thing remained of his childhood pony car, though: its rear valance—with the very same license plate still attached.
“The valance and license plate are mounted on old barn wood and hanging in my garage. Every time I pull my not-so-1967 Mustang in and out of the garage it is there in full view. The one that got away has been returned, even if only partially.”