Mustang Member Story: Gene’s Prairie Bronze Survivor

Rick Brough

April 17 marks 60 years since the Ford Mustang’s public debut at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The original pony car immediately became a pop-culture and automotive phenom, and it remains one of the most impactful cars in history. We’re celebrating with stories of the events surrounding the Mustang’s launch, the history of the early cars, and tales from owners. Click here to follow along with our multi-week 60 Years of Mustang coverage. -Ed.

This is the story of a “survivor” Mustang that was purchased twice by the same man, my father-in-law, Gene Herring of Belle Plaine, Iowa, almost 40 years apart.

In the late spring of 1964, Gene was in bed recovering from the mumps when he saw a two-page ad in Look magazine for the new Ford Mustang. The car pictured was Prairie Bronze, and in an instant he knew he would have one.

On June 20, he walked into Winders Motor Co. in Bell Plaine and placed his order. “I got to pick out the colors I wanted, the engine, everything,” he told me. And what he wanted was a Prairie Bronze hardtop. The 260-cubic-inch V-8 was only available for order from March 5 to July 31, and that’s what he chose, paired with a three-speed manual, plus the following options: center console, power steering, air conditioning, AM radio, tinted glass, padded visors, and backup lights. He didn’t order the driver’s side mirror, due to its placement, so instead he had the dealership mount a mirror from a 1963 Galaxie farther down the hood.

Gene had a number of other cars in addition to the Mustang, but this one was his pride and joy. Both his daughters came home in it from the hospital when they were born. He loved to take it on trips, and he always drove it in the local 4th of July parades.

By 1978, the family had outgrown the car. “We had two little girls and we figured we needed a station wagon,” he said. After 14 years and 62,000 miles, Gene traded in the car to a friend at Bevins Ford who was also a Mustang admirer. Instead of selling the car, he decided clean up some rust around the rockers (Iowa gravel roads) and keep it in his showroom for 25 years. He took it out on occasion for parades with a “Not for Sale” sign in the window.

This is the part of the story where I come in. I’m the current owner, married to Gene’s eldest daughter. I’m a lover of original cars. Always have been. My wife and I started dating in 1996, and when I first met my future father-in-law that year, he told me the story of his Mustang. I told him if Bevins was to ever offer him his car back to just say yes! We’d come up with the money somehow. I wanted him to have that car back probably as much as he did.

Well, in October 2003, the “Not for Sale” sign finally came off the car, and Bevins asked Gene, “Do you want it?”

Rick Brough's 1964.5 Ford Mustang coupe newspaper story
Stefan Lombard

Gene was barely able to hold back the tears. “I’d love it!” he told Bevins. “You know, if I was getting delivery of a brand-new Lincoln, I wouldn’t be a bit happier than I am with this car.” The Mustang barely had 500 additional miles on it since he had traded it in 25 years prior.

After that, whenever my wife and I headed out to Iowa, I’d find any excuse to go out to the garage, because all I wanted to do was go through the car. How are the fluids? Are the brakes pulling? What needs attention?

Then, one day in September 2012, Gene and his wife Joan were out visiting us in Colorado. “When is the last time you drove it?” I asked him. “You have to drive it or things will dry out.”

“Oh, whenever the last time you were out. I suppose” Gene said. Which meant it had been more than a year. After giving him an earful, he said, “Why don’t you just take it?”

I am no fool, so of course I took him up on the offer. Two months later I towed it back from Iowa, and over time I paid him what I could, when I could, until finally he said “Stop paying me for that car. I’m sure you’ve paid enough.”

For the last 12 years I have taken care of this original early Mustang. It lives at 8000 feet in the north central Colorado Rockies and runs great. To my knowledge, it is completely original, barring a dual-reservoir brake cylinder (though the original one still works great!) and typical things like tires, belts, and such. The odometer reads 65,543 miles.

Sadly, Gene passed away this past December at 90 years old. I will always be grateful for the time he let me drive his Prairie Bronze Mustang in the 4th of July parade in Belle Plaine while he sat in the passenger seat and waved. And I will never forget when we placed third overall at the esteemed Sauerkraut Days Car Show in Blairstown, Iowa. That’s right. If you’ve never had classic cars with your sauerkraut, you’re missing out, my friend.


Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Read next Up next: Mustang Member Story: A Showroom-Fresh GT


    This is one of the best stories I have ever seen posted here. What a bizarre story really.

    I have a 69, and for years have been threatening to put fender-mount mirrors on it like a 70s Japanese sports car (my brothers are opposed). Not sure if this example sways me for or against, but I love that Gene had that done by the dealership.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *