Bought: June 1987
Well, this doesn't really belong here, being only 2-wheel drive and all, but here's where it all started for me, and this was the only car I'd owned prior to becoming a lifelong believer in 4-wheel drive.
I was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico. "90 miles from El Paso, TX, 60 miles from Las Cruces, NM, 860 miles from Home, and 12 miles from Hell." Or so I thought while I was there. But in actuality, I really had a lot of fun while I was there.
About 4 months after I arrived, I decided it was time for me to think about buying some wheels. Anything to get around and have some independence. My sponsor sold me his Honda CBM450 motorcycle, which was cool having to ride, but it was so not cool as motorcycles go. So, after I learned how to ride on the Honda while going through the Air Force Motorcycle Training Course, I had aspirations of trading up to a Kawasaki GPz-550 - predecessor to the Ninja. Very cool bike. But there were some things I hadn't taken into a consideration - like saddle-time on long trips. I was planning some trips to Phoenix and Salt Lake City, and didn't even think about how long those trips would be. And as luck would have it, while riding the Kaw back to the base one day after a recent rain storm, I realized that having a motorcycle for my only mode of transportation simply would not do. I hit a slick patch on the road while slowing on the off-ramp to the main gate, the back end tried walking out on me, and just about lost it - but somehow managed to hang onto it and not dump the bike. When it's really dusty, and it rains (even just a little bit), the roads get slick as snot, and riding a bike in it is just crazy. Of course, I freaked - and after a clean change of underwear, took the Kaw back to the owner and we agreed to terminate the deal. I also unloaded the Honda and turned my attention and limited funds towards getting a car.
My friend Fred Langdon took me downtown one day and we stopped at The Car Store, on the corner of 1st St. and White Sands Blvd. They had the coolest Red 1985 Nissan King Cab 4x4 for sale - completely decked out with 33s on 15x10s and everything - for only $6500. I was in love. But the dealer wouldn't work the deal. He needed more than my measly $550 down to do anything. I asked him what else they had on the lot that I could get for $550 down, and he pointed out an 85 Toyota Camry going for $9800. WTF?! He'd make a deal with my down for a weiner Camry that cost $3300 more, but not the cool 4x4 I wanted? What the Hell? I should've walked out right then and there... but I didn't. I wanted a car.
So I asked what else he had, and he showed me a 1982 Ford Fairmont for $2900 (yeah - right... yuck). And then he showed me a 1982 Ford Mustang GL for $2300. The Mustang had weiner little white-wall tires with wire-wheel hubcaps, an AM/FM radio, and woodgrain dash panels... and pretty much nothing else... but it was WAY better than the Fairmont even though it was a 'Grandma' Mustang.
I don't recall if Fred tried to talk me out of it or not... I wish he would have because I might've found something a little more my speed. But I seem to remember driving around later and seeing a 1984 Dodge Ram D-50 4x4, but it was a private seller, and the Credit Union had already denied me a loan for a new motorcycle (Kawasaki EX-500) because my debt-ratio was too high (stupid G.I. Bill deductions anyway).
So, at some point I went back and bought the Mustang - I don't even remember how it all went down. Some major stuff had happened a few days before, and I was in a major funk over what I thought was 'girlfriend trouble' (turns out I was wrong about the 'girlfriend' part). But now I needed some focus - and getting the car apparently snapped me into it. My note was only 18 months, and the payments were something like $168 a month. I was pretty happy - even if it was 'your Grandma's Mustang'... that would change. I had my own wheels!
I had to park it at the main gate for 2 weeks because I hadn't thought things through to the point of setting aside some money for car insurance. I was kind of a financial dumb-ass for many years... not that I'm much better now. Anyway, 2 weeks later, I was able to get my insurance card and get the car registered on base - I could now come and go as I please. SWEET!!
My roommate Earl Finn had bought a POS '74 Pontiac Grand Prix, and decided to unload it for a newer Camaro. I had bought a cheesy Sparkomatic AM/FM/Cassette stereo and asked him if he'd be willing to swap me stereos. He agreed and I got the JVC Digifine Cassette deck I was after. Sweet!
I took the Mustang home to Utah on leave and brought back some of my stuff, including my drawing table and stereo system I had in school, along with some interesting 6x9 speakers that sounded like crap once installed in the Mustang. After returning to Holloman, I discovered I needed new tires. My pal Larry Stirling took me down to the Goodyear dealer and co-signed a Goodyear card for me when he got one for new tires on his '78 Z-28. Mine was approved and I ordered some 14x6 Black Modular wheels and 225/60-R14 Goodyear Eagle ST's. The Goodyear store told me they didn't have those but suggested some 14x6 Chrome Modulars and 225/60-R14 Eagle GT's instead. My and my lack of patience had those installed that day. If I would've waited for them to order the stuff I really wanted, the car would've looked a little different and been less expensive on the card. Oh well. Patience is something I was going to learn a lot later in life.
So now I have these cool wheels on my Mustang and a nice stereo. But it still sounded like crap - so when my Mom came down to visit around Christmas time, she bought me the Majestic 100-watt Equalizer/booster for my combined Christmas/Birthday present. Then a few months later around income tax return time, my other pal Howard Spencer bought some Clarion goodies from a place downtown famous for providing credit to starters, but with a super-high interest rate (Devon's or something like that). His package came with a set of Clarion 990 6x9's that he already had a set installed in his car... so he made me a deal - I gave him what they would've cost had I bought them outright... that was fair. So, $250 later, I had some killer tunes in the Mustang. But the speakers were firing into each other since they were located on either side of the hatchback fenderwells. So I cut a piece of plywood to cover the entire hatch area and covered it with the same tan carpet that matched the interior. It was sweet! Looked really good, hid the crap in my hatchback, and acted almost like a trunk enclosure, so the speakers could really sound good.
That was also about the time I had the windows tinted, bought the hatchback louvers and nose-bra. Now I also had a reference point on the windshield thanks to the tinted 'eyebrow', so I laid down some white pinstripe and cut out the 'Mustang' logo similar to what you see in the top picture - which was the same logo that came on the nose-bra. The pin stripes logo didn't last long - the edges kept peeling up. So I scored some silver fade trim tape and redid the logo to what you see in the top picture. Hey, it was the '80s.
So now my Mustang's looking sharp, running well, and sounding good. Over the next few months, I'd buy all sorts of stuff for it - the steering wheel, the Jensen 5" door speakers, sheepskin seat covers, the headlight covers. I loved putting accessories on the car that made it nicer... but I didn't want it to look like I drove by AutoZone with the crap-magnet turned on.
Which brings us up to August '89 when I have to PCS to Izmir, Turkey for a 15 month short tour. I took my Mustang home to Utah and rented a storage unit. I heard horror stories of having nice cars in Turkey, so I chose to leave mine at home. I followed all the steps outlined in Mustang Magazine to prep the car for storage and put it away for a long sleep.
Fast Forward to November 1990 when I return from Turkey on leave between assignments. I wanted my car back so badly, that I took off on Thanksgiving Day for the storage unit to retrieve my Mustang. I got there, and put her back on her wheels and fired it up for the first time in 15 months and she ran like crap. Well, I kind of expected that so I was patient while the engine blew out all the crud that had been sitting the whole time. I should've had someone go down and start it up every month, but I didn't think about that at the time. The next week was spent getting the car running right again - with some success... but something just wasn't right. After I threw about $200 into a major tune-up, it still didn't run quite right. Some of the engine seals had dried out while sitting, causing vacuum leaks and whatnot. But I was determined that I was going to get her running right - I was supposed to go to Italy and take the Mustang with me, after all... or so I thought.
A few weeks into my leave, the Air Force Military Personnel Center called me and gave me the bad news about my assignment to Italy being cancelled. They also gave me more bad news about being diverted to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas. Crap! Oh well... what could I do.
I did my best to get her running right, but one night I was on my way home from a friend's house when she died on me at the signal light - right in front of a car lot with an awesome blue 1985 Nissan 4x4 on the front row. After I got the Mustang fired up, I decided that I was going to come down and check out the truck the next day.
So I did, and the rest was history. I traded my 'real' first car in for my first 4x4. This story is continued on 'The First Nissan' page.
I'm happy I made the switch, because I'd wanted a 4x4 truck all along. But I still miss my Mustang and have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Fox-body Mustangs. Maybe someday if/when I'm rich enough to afford such things, I'll have a chance to put one together with the plans I had for mine.