It was 1966 and my cousin was in the Army, stationed at Ft Riley in Manhattan Kansas, about 120 miles from where we lived in Kansas City. I was 11 years old when he was ordered to Vietnam. My dad was a Korean War vet and he and my cousin had bonded over the years based on the common experience of being in the armed forces.
My cousin asked my dad to take care of the his new Mustang convertible while he was overseas. I remember the car having a 289-V8 and a 4 speed. It was a great looking car too, a gold or bronze color with the pony interior and a white convertible roof.
It was then I learned my father was into cars as he loved driving the Mustang, top down, often. Of course he had to dress the part, windbreaker with a classic white scarf and a tweed tam. He would be ready to head out on Saturday mornings first to his golf game then when he was home later in the day to the hardware store or on some other errand. He would ask me to come along to hold his coffee....
No cup holders or covered mugs back then, just a steady hand on my part while dad ran through the gears. And did he run through the gears! It was an exercise in Newton's Third law of reaction-reaction to keep the coffee in the mug and not on myself as he shifted. And I found out later we never took the short route either! Obviously he loved driving that car and I remember the smile on his face as he drove. It was many years later that I understood about that smile.
In reflection on my growing my love enjoy cars and working on them it was because of my dad. It was through the years dad taught me many things about cars and mechanical things, mostly by having me fix or repair something with a little instruction on what to try then mostly leaving me alone to figure it out. As I started to buy my own vehicles he took an interest in the junkers and 'deals' I found and fixed up. This interest was based on his own history, a history I never heard until he passed away. It was after dad died the family found a letter among his belongings that gave me a clue to his love of vehicles. It was a letter to his folks, my grandparents, from Marine boot camp in 1949. Instead of describing the rigors of boot camp, most of the letter was occupied with how great a 'new' old car was that he purchased and what a swell radio it had in it. With that letter I understood and loved my father a little more than I already did.
Well, now I am driving my seventh Mustang and third convertible. A 1968 Acapulco Blue beauty. And now like my dad I put the top down just about every time I drive the car. I have my windbreaker and my tam, haven't found a scarf I like yet, but I look in the rear view mirror and see that same smile I saw almost 50 years ago.