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Inheriting Grandpa's 1969 Mustang

1969 Mustang
1969 Mustang

Updated June 29th, 2020

Since I was 8, my grandfather's 1969 Mustang had been sitting in our garage. As a child, I wondered if this were really the Batmobile or if the car had some secret power. It was, after all, a Ford Mustang, the type of car that everyone I know dreamed of having one day. Every few days, Grandpa would come to our house, open the garage and stare at the car for about 10 minutes before saying, "Fastback Mustang." My brother and I thought he was a little crazy.

Our First 1969 Mustang Conversation

I remember one evening after dinner while our grandparents were visiting and we were all gathering in the living room. Normally, this is where we came to watch television, but this particular evening, we were all just talking. Grandpa, who rarely uttered a word, came to life when my brother pulled out his Tonka Ford Mustang toy car.

The car, a Fastback Mustang, was bright green, and I had almost slipped and fallen on it several times. My brother like to leave it anywhere in the house, oblivious to the accidents he might have caused. My mother did not believe in telling us to put our toys away. It disrupted our imaginations, she said.

When Grandpa saw my brother's car, he said, "You don't know anything about a 1969 mustang, young man. You've got to treat it with some respect." I stared at him, half waiting for his next words and half stunned that he was speaking more than a phrase at a time. He rarely spoke in our family unless it was to say a word or two to settle an argument.

Before we knew it, he had lifted my brother, sat him on his lap and started telling him every single technical detail about the Ford Mustang. He even knew who designed them. My dad seemed afraid that he was talking. Later he told me it was like catching a glimpse of the man who had reared him, even in only for a short while.

Denny Decker's First Car

The first time I had been introduced to the Fastback Mustang was when Denny Decker, a boy who was three years older than I was, got his first car. He had been bragging for months that his father, who was an auto mechanic, was going to buy him a Mustang for his 16th birthday. We thought it was the usual hot air he was blowing at us, until we saw Mr. Decker driving the car down our street.

The car was a loud purple, and the muffler made a sound that was just as loud as the color. Denny was so proud of having this car that he proclaimed himself the neighborhood Fastback Mustang expert, teaching all of us the collector's item virtues of his ride. I did not want to admit it, but I was more than a little envious. I wanted a 1969 Mustang, too.

This was unheard of for girls who grew up with me. Everyone expected us to be learning how to manage a home, bake cakes, be Sunday school teachers or rehearse to be somebody's wife. If I had been brave enough to say aloud that I loved cars and wanted a Ford Mustang, I know people would have gawked at me as if I had three heads. It was easy to just keep it to myself.

Finally, We Take a Ride

Intrigue got the best of me one day, and I decided to fantasize about having a car from the driver's seat of Grandpa's Fastback Mustang. I made sure my father was at work one Saturday and sneaked out to the garage where the car was kept. I had looked for the keys and had not found them, so I settled for just taking an imaginary ride.

Once I was in the front seat, pretend shifting the gears and making loud muffler sounds with my mouth, I imagined the windows all rolled down and the wind on my face. I checked the rear view mirror several times to change lanes and to see any cars in my rear view mirror. I did not care that the car was still parked in our garage. In my mind, I had taken a trip around the world.

Just as I was about to bring my imaginary trip to an end, I heard the garage door lifting. I was afraid my father had caught me. I ran through a million excuses in my head about why I would be sitting inside the 1969 Mustang and finally settled on just telling the truth: I was curious.

To my surprise, I found Grandpa standing there after the garage door was lifted. This, I thought, would be worse than my father finding me here. I took a deep breath expecting Grandpa to start yelling, or worse, dragging me out of the driver's seat. He did something else completely wonderful: He held up the keys to the car.

"I've been waiting for one you children to show some interest in this old thing, but I didn't think it would be you," he said.

At first, I didn't know whether to try to run or to cry at being caught. Something kept me glued to the seat, though. Grandpa was animated and excited in a way I had never seen him before. He made me move to the passenger's side of the car, cranked up the car and took me for a long ride in the Ford Mustang.

That day, he told me all about his young adult years he'd spent driving that car. Apparently, Grandpa was a regional legend on informal race strips. No one could beat him in this car. He had become quiet about it when my father had children. He was patiently waiting to see who would inherit the Fastback Mustang and his obsession with driving it.

Grandpa and I were inseparable after that day. He gave me tons of tricks for taking care of the 1969 Mustang and I gave him new stories that kept him laughing. Although I have had quite a few cars since I inherited Grandpa's Ford Mustang, I have never considered getting rid of that car. Now, it sits in my own garage until weekends, when I get to feel the wind on my face.


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