In 1996 I bought my first Mustang, it was a silver 1990 25th anniversary 5.0. Little did I know at the time where that single $7500 purchase would take me. Fast forward 23 years and this is where I am at.
Growing up I was never the kid that spent a lot of time in the garage. I didn’t have a dad that took me to the drag races, and I certainly didn’t grow up in a hot rod family. My stepdad took me to my first monster truck show at a young age and I absolutely loved it. My uncle had a Porsche 911 that he took me for a ride in when I was 9 years old and that was my first real taste of speed.
Now I can’t say that my family didn’t enjoy racing, as my mother spent plenty of weekends at the dragstrip in her early years since she lived so close to the famous Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, WI. My father of the other hand was more into the European cars and had an appreciation for Formula 1 racing. We never went to the drag races as a kid though, but I was lucky enough to meet a lifelong friend in 1982 that would eventually take me to the dragstrip for the first time.
Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s I was certainly exposed to my generation’s heyday of street cars. This was when a 12 second Mustang was a beast, but the unicorn was a big block 460 transplanted Foxbody that Don had, or the one that Craig did, or a big block Torino that my friend Dave had, or this crazy fast white Nova that Pharo had. So, in the early 90’s I had the opportunity to go to GLD for the first time with my friend Jeremy. I don’t think I had my license yet, and he was a couple of years older than me and always into muscle cars. I can remember riding around in his Grand Prix, or the Pontiac LeMans with Cherrybombs on it so loud you could hear it coming form what seemed like miles away. He would take me to go cruising on Friday and Saturday nights. So, he takes me to GLD one weekend, and Tony Christian, yeah that one, was there with I think the ’57. Anyways, I was walking by and was just in awe, when all of a sudden, he fired that son of a bitch up, my pants blew back against my legs and from that moment on I was hooked.
That singular moment will always live in my memory as what snagged me and kept me coming back for more. It was a pass on the track, a giant wheelstand, or some great promoter, it was a Pro Street car firing up that hooked me. Within a few years, I found myself cruising around in my favorite hot rod, and it was that 1990 LX 5.0 AOD car. It was slower than a sloth (low 15’s with a 1-3-1 shift) but I thought I was cool and damn I loved to cruise in that car. After a few years though, life got in the way and the car went away in 1999. I went back to school and tried to adulting thing, well we can all see how well that shit worked out. In 2002 I had had just about enough, and I randomly went out to look at cars. Living in Wisconsin, and this was in February, there weren’t a lot of muscle cars on the lots, but I found it. I remember the day, it was February 28th, 2002 at Kayser Ford in Madison. It was a 1998 Ford Mustang GT. Of course, it was silver, and it had a 5 spd in it, the car was calling me. All it took was one test run on the beltline to determine that I had to have the car. It wasn’t the fastest thing in the world, but it would do the trick.
In 2002, World Ford Challenge was in St. Louis and really ramping up the height of its popularity. A group of us locals went down and put our cars in the car show (it included great parking) and walked around all weekend looking at cars and watching some of the most exciting racing. That weekend I took 2nd place in the car show and picked up some parts for the car. I purchased some D&D upper and lower control arms and a set of 4.10 Motorsport gears. This car was about to get more love than my 1990 did. Not long after that did I realize how terrible online forums could be, because by the next year I would be swapping out that very low mileage 2V for a PI head swapped 2V. My buddy Eric, who also happens to own a ’98 GT was one of the first to have a PI swapped 2V and since he was going to swap a 4V in his, he was nice enough to give me a deal on the 2V. I beat the living tar out of that combo until 2008, when life got in the way and I sold the drivetrain (Which is still running fine today) to a friend of mine and put my car in the garage.
2008, my car has been collecting dust since the end of 2008. A full decade of sitting there and cry for attention. As I sit here writing this and staring off into the yard as a squirrel passes by, I think about that car in our garage and wonder what will become of it. For 17 years that car has been a part of my life, no matter what role it played, or what role the 1990 played, those Mustangs have been or were part of almost 50% of my life. A 225hp Mustang may not seem like much to most anyone now a days, but for me, whether it was in 1996 or 2002 it was a big deal. Now you can go buy 425hp off the lot, but I don’t feel the excitement I did when I was younger, and I see the new ones. There isn’t an effort put forth to make it go fast, as it already does. Absolutely a GT500, a Hellcat, a CobraJet, a Copo, are all amazing machines. Shit, a 2018 Mustang 5.0 is pretty damn amazing, but nothing like the old school 5.0 with a broken ashtry door, a driver seat with a gangster lean, and a bag in the hatch for the glass from your removable sunroof.
We in the industry take for granted how well we had it and how well we have it now. When 400hp is the norm, it makes you look back at a B303 cammed 5.0 and shake your head. Yeah, I miss those days. The days of cruising around until 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights. The days when you didn’t just go to a showroom and buy 400hp. The days where you read about the 15-minute tune up for a Mustang. With that said, I don’t necessarily long to go back to those days, as I do love the fact that cars have progressed, unfortunately the price tag has as well. There was something much simpler about those days though as well. The good days aren’t in the rearview though. In the rearview are the memories that we hold dear that got us to this point. The good days are straight through the windshield and coming towards ya at 150mph. 22 years since my first hot rod, and all I can think about right now is bangin’ some gears and tearing up some tires. When was the first time you fell in love with the speed, the power, the torque, that undeniable heart stopping, and earth shaking experience that is hot rods? Share with us in the comments!!