Bradley’s first Mustang! (the pedal car in front of mine!!! :) )
The day before Bradley was born, I purchased his Mustang Pedal Car!
I have had my 1969 Mustang Convertible for 27 years now. So Bradley has grown up with the car around!
I wanted him to have his own mustang, so I purchased this one the day before he was born and would take it to car shows with the license plate that said Bradley’s Mustang.
When Bradley was 14 he asked me the very serious question, “what is my Mustang going to be Dad?”
At first I laughed, then went to get my Mustang book, I told him to “stay out of the Shelby section because you aren’t going to get a Shelby before I do!”, and pick out a year and body style.
I knew enough that no matter what car we went to look at, that would be the one! So I wanted him to pick the year and body style before we looked at anything.
I made a deal with him. He had to agree to pay half of the money (I would partner with him and pay the other half) and he had to do as much of the work as possible. I wanted him to have more than just a financial investment into the car. I told him he needed to have his Blood, Sweat, and Tears in the car as well.
He agreed! He chose a 65 Fastback! That made me smile because I had a 65 fastback in college and loved the car!
He took a job at a local ice cream store, mainly cleaning and helping. With school and other activities and labor laws, he couldn’t work a lot, but he did all he could. He also did odd jobs for people in church and raked leaves to make the money to pay half of the car purchase.
We started looking for cars.
Based on the investment he could make to start, on October 26th 2012 we were only able to buy a shell.
As costs continued, Bradley was hired at a local golf course to be in the bag room. Cleaning clubs, washing golf carts helping with clubs. He still works there today.
We were very fortunate to be able to find a few locals who were excited about a kid wanting to build a car! And were excited to help!
Jack, retired from General Motors, agreed to help Bradley rebuild the engine.
Jack became a Grandpa figure to Bradley and the each earned mutual respect for the other!
As a dad, it was an amazing experience to see Jack teach Bradley and Bradley soak it all up! And enjoy and look forward to the time spent in “Jack’s shop”!
Bradley learned so much from Jack! He wanted to know why the car goes faster when you push the accelerator, not that it does, but what occurs to make that happen!
What an amazing experience for a 14 year old kid to tear the engine down to the bare block, have it bored (and learn what that is and why and what it does), and then rebuild it!
After the engine was rebuilt he had earned more money and was ready to start the body work.
Another lesson Bradley learned……. Decide what you want before you start! And that there are differences in the focus of “car guys”!!! Jack is all about Horsepower! And how can we get another 5-7 HP out of that engine! As Dad, I had to say stop!!! And Jack loves to say “Chrome don’t get you home”. So the first build was about power! Later Bradley decided the engine should look as nice as the rest of the car, so he got to spend more time in his favorite place!!!! Jack’s Shop!!!!! And Jack relented and helped Bradley put the chrome parts on the engine. And as much as Jack “grumbled” “Chrome Don’t Get you home son!!!” he loved working with Bradley again as much as Bradley loved being there!!!!!
We were fortunate to find Mike, also retired from General Motors, who agreed to paint the car with Bradley. The “paint job” turned into a full body restoration. Mike and his son Matt worked with Bradley for 2 years, teaching body work , welding, sanding, sanding, sanding, more sanding, then sanding, primer then sanding! And primer and sanding, (yes, Bradley learned sanding but mostly why. He learned that sanding made the difference in the final product.)
Bradley learned how to fill lows and pound highs. How to find the lows and highs. He learned how to use the paint gun and what creating a run does to sanding!
As Mike taught Bradley, “he who put it on wrong, gets to sand it off”. So filling or painting, he knew he had to do it right or it would cause more work for him later!
Finally the car went from gray primer to Black! That was a magical time in the car build. It was starting to look like “his car”.
Interior! Marcus and Justin did an outstanding job!
They too were excited to have Bradley come design the interior. Bradley wanted the interior to appear stock but be custom created and have embroidered ponies!
Marcus and Bradley sat down and discussed and showed options and Bradley “stuck to his guns” with what he wanted. They had him assist in tearing apart the old interior and with the headliner.
Marcus had 4 different renditions of the embroidered ponies before they nailed Bradley’s vision.
Bradley learned what it took to make a world class interior that was exactly what he wanted!
At shows, one of Bradley's favorite parts is to tell people to really look at the interior and feel the seats! He loves the custom designed interior!
We found another great "Car Guy" to help with all the wiring. Mike R. agreed to do the “weekend project” of wiring the car. Back to the tears part of Bradley’s investment. Bradley learned some more patience and frustration with the wiring.
Mike was great and patient and did an amazing job.
In Mike’s Garage was the first time Bradley could sit in the driver’s seat and turn the key to fire the engine!
What an amazing night that was!
In this “short” story, I can’t possibly touch on all of the learning and emotions.
I told him at 14 I wanted his blood sweat and tears in this car! And he has all of them!
He loved when he would hit his knuckles at Jack’s and talking about having his blood in the car!
He had plenty of sweat throughout the process!
And the emotions. Tears. Frustrations that happen in the build, when things don’t go as planned. When hinges don’t work right so you can’t put the deck lid on. When the build goes slow, when the car is gray forever! To a 14,15,16,17 year old, this was an eternity. (20% of his life!) to me the time just flew by.
During the process I continually said, this was/is about the journey for me. For me to have the opportunity to have a son who wants to learn and wants to build and wants to invest his hard earned money into a car, instead of video games or other. A son who was willing to work hard for what he wanted, and the life lessons he has learned. As a dad, this was/is/continues to be, an amazing journey. For Bradley, it started out with an end goal. His focus and many tears were shed on the end product. His car!!! He wanted “his car” done, to show and enjoy. It was taking forever!!!!!
It became the journey for him. As the car was taking shape and becoming the work of art he saw in his head, as we were getting close to that first car show (The Kunkel Cruise In in Wabash Indiana) he started reminiscing and thinking about the journey and how much that meant to him. How much he learned. How much the guys who made this possible for him mean to him.
The highlight of the build was the Saturday night after the Kunkel show when emotions and tears of joy and accomplishment flowed freely between a Dad and Son.