My father passed away at the age of 84 in Jan 2008. He had an interesting life that included the Depression, World War II, raising 4 kids and a 27 year career on the Cleveland Police Force.
I was a young boy in the mid-70’s as he was approaching retirement with the police. He had worked as a patrol officer in traffic enforcement and moved his way up to detective in the auto theft unit. He retired in 1976 and found himself in need of a hobby. He had always tinkered with old cars and 1976 was a time when the 1965-68 Ford Mustang was a popular but used old car. Quickly, he learned that an old used Mustang could be purchased, repaired and fixed up for a fairly tidy profit. 65-66 Mustangs were a plentiful car at the time and he bought as many as he could find! He would purchase Mustangs from classified ads in the newspaper or word of mouth and eventually he became so well known in the Cleveland, OH area that people would call him and give him leads about a Mustang for sale or that old Mustang behind a barn. So many people knew my Dad and called him to buy cars and parts that he earned the nickname “Mustang Mel”.
I would spend time with my father as he bought, sold, parted out and worked on these Mustangs. Soon, I had Mustang fever. I noticed that my Dad had a knack for dealing with people and getting unmotivated people to sell a Mustang to him that they originally had no intention of selling. His persistence was extraordinary. He would keep in touch with the owner of a prized Mustang for years and in some cases, decades until they were ready to sell. One particular Mustang took him 28 years to purchase! Later, the word would get out that Mustang Mel had scored another treasured Mustang.
All of his buying and selling would lead to him having quite a stable of classic Mustangs. At one point, he had 38 Mustangs at the same time. For my Dad there was always a Mustang he was chasing or a Mustang being bought or sold. I joked with him that his yard had the 3-2-2-3 rule in effect….He would buy 3 and sell 2…Sell 2 and buy 3.. For 30 plus years, this went on while my mother watched and shook her head….
As he aged, his physical ability to work on the cars slowed and his energy to chase Mustangs slowed a bit too…(I picked up much of the slack for him by building my own Mustang collection). Still, there was always a fellow Mustang nut ready to call him with a car lead.
In 2006, at the age of 83, My father learned about a particular “sitting under a tree” great find: A unrestored 1968 Mustang GT Fastback.
Many other Mustang nuts had tried to purchase this car with no success. My father and his buddy had gone out to meet with the owner on several occasions and talked, but the owner was simply not ready to sell. I knew my Dad badly wanted to “score” this car but the timing wasn’t right.
In 2007, My Dad’s health started to slip, but he still could muster enthusiasm to talk about the 68 Mustang GT Fastback he would love to have. I would listen to his stories as I had for the last 30 years.
In Jan 2008, My father passed away and my sister and I spent most of the first half of 2008 dealing with his estate. Cars were inherited, parted out or sold. His yard that once was filled with Mustangs dwindled to few…For the first time in decades, his stable was almost empty.
In spring, 2008. I decided to visit the owner of that 1968 Mustang GT Fastback and introduce myself. The owner did not know I was Mustang Mel’s son. I was just another person stopping by to inquire about his car that he wasn’t ready to sell. I did not know that this Mustang was the same GT Fastback I had seen on the streets once and drooled over 18 years ago..! I kept that excitement to myself. Small talk was made and phone numbers were left but the answer was still …No. Several more visits were made over the summer but the answer was still…No. That last owner visit was August, 2008.
The very next day after that last August visit, I found myself alone in my Father’s barn late one night going through his things. It was the kind of hot, silent summer night where the reality of a parent’s death hits very hard. The silence and feeling of loss was chilling. Without knowing what to do, I decided to talk out loud to my Dad. I looked up at the roof of his barn and told him about the 68 Mustang GT he had wanted and how I was trying to buy it for “him” I told him that too many Mustangs had left his yard and none had come in! I suggested that if he wanted to keep his 3-2-2-3 rule in effect then he had better do something up there and help me get that Mustang. I told him I would put it right in his barn in the empty spot where I was sitting. I then closed up his barn and left for the evening.
3 days after that “talk with my Dad” in his barn, on my way home from work, My cell phone rang. The owner of the 68 Mustang was on the phone. “Would I like to buy the car??” “Could I pick it up tomorrow?” “Before I change my mind”??
24 hours later it was sitting in the same spot in his barn.
His car was “home”.
Now, after 5 years of moving his parts and the selling of our childhood home, the Mustang is on it’s way back to the streets!
I hope you enjoyed this.
Bob Z. Hagerty customer/ Honoring his Dad “Mustang” Mel 1923-2008