54 years later, two daughters replace the ’66 Mustang their dad gave up for them

Delaney Johnson

As family stories go, Mel Heppe’s daughters have heard this one a thousand times before, give or take a few. This time around, the ol’ story has more than a happy beginning. It has a happy ending.

On April 28, 1967, less than two years after Mel and Christine Heppe got married and purchased their first new car—a Springtime Yellow 1966 Ford Mustang convertible—they welcomed their first child, Amy, and brought her home in the iconic pony car. Shortly thereafter, the two decided to part with the Mustang.

“Dad was very proud of that car,” Amy Endresen says. “But my mom said, ‘We can’t have a convertible with a baby,’ so he gave it up and they bought a station wagon. That story gets told several times a year, especially when Dad gets out the home movies. He always reminds me that I’m the reason he had to give up his Mustang.”

Amy and her younger sister, Melissa Berris, are also the reason that Mel now has a replacement, an early ’65 Mustang—often referred to as a ’64 1/2—with a 260-cubic-inch V-8 under the hood. The sisters, along with Melissa’s husband and other family members and friends, surprised their dad with the car at a recent Hagerty Cars and Caffeine event in Traverse City, Michigan.

Mel Heppe Mustang cars coffee walk
Delaney Johnson

“I’ve been planning this—seriously planning this—with my sister and brother-in-law since this spring,” Amy said prior to the big reveal. “I never knew how popular these cars were … We missed out on a few. Then a couple of months ago, I saw this one on Facebook Marketplace. The gentleman who was selling it told me he’d owned it for about 25 years. I told him my story, and he agreed to sell it to us.

“We thought about giving it to my dad for his [upcoming 83rd] birthday, but that’s in November, and he needs to drive it. And you can’t really do that in Michigan in the winter. So, we decided to surprise him now.”

The family hid the car in Amy’s garage, and even though it was covered, they feared Mel might discover it. “We had to keep him from sniffing around,” Melissa says. “And then we made up a story to get him down here to look at these cars.”

Amy arrived early and parked the Mustang at the far end of the lot, then met up with the family, which arrived at the other end. A video crew, pretending to be working on a story about fathers, daughters, and cars, asked if they could mic up Mel, Amy, and Melissa. Mel seemed hesitant at first, but his daughters talked him into it.

As they walked and talked, Mel spotted a red Ford Galaxy 500 and revealed that he had once owned a similar convertible in 1962, years before the Mustang. They slowly checked out other cars, and then Mel spotted the one that was about to become his. “Oh, there’s a Mustang,” he said, pointing. He circled the red car, guessing it might be a ’66, and he commented about its features, comparing it to the one he once owned. Mel noted that this one seemed to have a different steering wheel and had air conditioning, an option his Mustang didn’t have.

“This is, you know … immaculate is a good word,” he said, admiring the car.

“I wonder if the owner is around here somewhere,” Amy said.

“Why?” Mel asked. “Think he’s going to sell it?”

“No, maybe he’ll give you a ride,” she said. Then Amy handed him the keys. “Or, Dad, you can give yourself a ride … because this one is yours.”

“Are you serious?” Mel uttered as his eyes teared up. “Oh, my God.”

As the crowd that had gathered applauded, Mel hugged his daughters. Amy mentioned that perhaps this car might finally be a suitable replacement for the one that Mel and her mom gave up 54 years ago. Mel responded, “But it’s not yellow,” which brought laughter all around.

Later, Amy joked that she and her sister expected nothing less from their dad, “and he did not disappoint.”

“I’m thrilled with the way this all turned out,” she said. “He walked right into it.”

Melissa added, “It couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Mel couldn’t find words to describe his gratefulness. “I didn’t expect anything like this today,” he said, pausing for a moment to take it all in. “I’m feeling emotional, I guess.”

So are the rest of us.

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