In a prior entry I mentioned I have never purchased a new car. In 2005 I nearly did; such was the effect of the S197 Mustang on me. I could have succumbed to temptation and joined the millions of Americans who live in deep financial debt, the price paid for instant gratification. I am too practical (some may suggest 'too cheap') and was able to resist the pull. This did not stop me from fantasizing about entering a dealership and ordering the exact car I wanted. For the first time I would not have had to settle for what someone else had chosen. I would have selected the color, interior upholstery, drivetrain and other options. The car would have been mine, chosen by me to be exactly what I envisioned as perfection.
In 2015 as a used car shopper I struggled to find the car that would have been 'mine', or at least my current perception of what it should be. Sonic Blue exterior, gray cloth interior, spoiler delete, five speed manual transmission...and an undecided engine choice. I shopped...and shopped...and can count on my one hand a year later how many actually ticked most (but never all) of the boxes. The ones that came closest were always too expensive or too far away. The one color I absolutely, positively did not want was black--and I found dozens of them, cheap and always close by.
After a year of looking online, on car lots and in trade papers I was fatigued. My color obsession was taking the fun out of Mustang shopping. When I came across a Tungsten Gray six cylinder with a manual transmission still owned by the original purchaser, I blinked.
Jeff's car was everything a used car buyer should wish for: full service history, fastidiously maintained (the original carpet mats were in the trunk, unused) and with a recent clutch replacement it was offered at a price too good to ignore. I saw, I drove and I bought. Jeff's Mustang became my Mustang.
Well, on paper it was mine. I'm not so sure 'owner' is the proper term; I feel as if I'm more of a caretaker. This was an unusual purchase for me in the respect that I did not buy it from some faceless car lot or from the last in a string of prior owners. My Tungsten Gray Mustang came from the guy who bought it from the lot; the guy who decided this exact example was the car for him. He drove it for ten years, paid for its care, lavished it with above-average attention and only saw fit to part with it when life circumstances suggested it was time for something more family friendly. This was a reluctant sale; Jeff appeared to take no real pleasure in exchanging his car for a check. He told me its entire history and pointed out the few flaws that it had. He gave me the owners manual, all of his receipts and even a copy of the original window sticker (he admitted he had kept the genuine one as a keepsake). I caught him watching me drive it away after we had done the title work.
The car is not perfect after traveling 86,000 plus miles. There are a few broken interior pieces, a gouge on one wheel and a couple door dings. One item in particular I notice every time I drive it: the shift knob is starting to come apart from use. Tens of thousands of shifts, almost exclusively performed by Jeff.
I know this wouldn't bother most people as few are as introspective about cars as I am. That shift knob is frayed not from my efforts. The quirks of this particular car come from one individual, not several. These small things are not a blurry combination of multiple owners. The character traits are singularly a result of Jeff's use. All of this makes the car Jeff's Mustang.
I look at the tatty knob and plan on replacing it mostly because I prefer a different kind. There is a small twinge of guilt at the thought that I will be taking that piece of Jeff out of his car and making it less his and more mine. This is admittedly silly because unless he reads my blog he will not know I have altered his car. I do wonder if he might not appreciate the change--or would instead be happy that someone cares enough about his car to make it better by giving it something new and fresh. Other questions come to mind as I contemplate swapping the trunk lid spoiler I dislike so much or change the grille to a GT style. Regardless of the potential alterations I'm not sure it will ever truly be 'my' Mustang. Maybe that's not a bad thing.
A year ago I sold a 1965 Ford pickup I had owned for ten years. It was my intent to restore the thing back to respectable condition but I came to realize time, money and ambition were all lacking. I chose to send it on to another owner who would hopefully provide what I did not. One thing that I had decided I would not restore was the steering wheel. The red paint had been worn away on portions of the rim from use by the previous three owners. The wheel told a story; not one that was clear but spoke of the physical connection between the machine and the people who piloted it. None of the other worn parts on the truck affected me the same way as that steering wheel. It is the one part of the truck I miss the most.
I may remove the shift knob from Jeff's Mustang but I will keep it stashed away. It has a story to tell to the next caretaker--or maybe Jeff will want his car back when I'm done enjoying it. I think it would be a rare treat to be able to pick up where things had been left.