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    Ode to the Mustang

From the one time I actually took the car out to take pictures of it....

Keith in when he lived in Cardiff by the Sea (circa 1988 by the looks of those pants).

Kristi with the car in Cardiff.

On October 10th, 1987 I bought the Mustang, a convertible GT.  I would have probably preferred black, but it was the day before my 24th birthday and I think I was bound to stop researching and pull the trigger even if it were yellow.  The color was "Smoke," a light gray that I hadn't seen before and have seen rarely since.  The color really grew on me; it looked particularly good with the black top, although of course that was rarely up. I was driving the inherited family 1971 Plymouth Satelite stationwagon at the time.  Among its many charming eccentricities, the best was that it had a short in the electrical system that would drain the battery when the car was parked.  This necessitated an entertaining process of popping the hood and detaching one battery cable whenever I parked, and reversing the ritual when I wanted to go any place.  

I owe a debt of gratitude to my roommates at the time, Bob Forman and Jerry Seeger, who owned a convertible Rabbit and Alpha Romeo Spyder, respectively.  When I mentioned to them I was in the market for a new car, they insisted I join them in the convertible cult, a pretty easy sell to a 23 year old in Southern California.  I don't know why I settled on the Mustang, but the upgrade to the GT was natural.  I was, I remind you, just shy of 24, single, and flush with the success of just completely my first year of professional programming, my first "real job."  I reasoned it was the only time in my life I would be able to get an "impractical" car.

Keith and Kristi departing for the reception.  There was a convertible convoy leading the procession from the church to the reception.

Keith and Kristi leaving the reception. One of the last pictures taken at the reception (taken just before this one) was a close up of the bride's and groom's hands with their rings. It was taken on the hood, with the gray for the background.

Little known fact: Keith refinanced the Mustang, taking "equity" out of the car, to help finance the honeymoon.

Admittedly, somewhere on 24 year old Keith's list of desirable car traits was "babe magnet." But Keith came by Kristi honestly: Kristi was generally wooed and won without the use of automotive personality enhancers.  At least that's Keith's claim, and Kristi has been kind enough to allow him that conceit.  They knew each other for a couple months before dating, and it may not have been until their second date that Kristi got to ride in the car.

Brad's first picture in the Mustang at Via Abaca.  Note this was before air bags, passenger or otherwise.

Still at Via Abaca residence, Bradley discovers the fun of dribbling water...I mean helping with washing the car.

The Mustang only ever saw three states: California, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Its first road trip was to Los Alamos in December 1987, the first Christmas after I bought it.  The road trip saw U2's two concerts in Sun Devil stadium for the Rattle and Hum album, a couple of feet of snow in Los Alamos on the day I was to start back, and 3 hours stuck in the I-25 median south of Socorro in a foot of snow until a tow truck came and winched it out for $20.  Memorial day 1988 I drove it to Flagstaff, Arizona, attaining the approximate speed of 120 MPH (fastest it ever went)  for 10 or 15 seconds before my nerve failed (it was incredibly loud with the top down).  That was its terminal speed in 5th gear with the top down; I'm sure it could go faster with the top up or in 4th gear.  In 1989 Kristi and I drove it to Las Cruces for Judy Doran's wedding.  Then came marriage and kids, and but for the occasional weekend get away up the coast or to the mountains, all subsequent trips were in the family car, whatever the other vehicle happened to be at the time (1990-1995: Honda Civic; 1996-2001: Ford Windstar; 2002: Camry).

Not enough room for a stroller in the trunk.  Not enough room for any thing in the trunk, really, with only 6 cubic feet.  

Brad in Dad's lap, both attired in sunglasses, in the driveway of Via Abaca.

Brad didn't know how well he had it as an only child in our two bedroom duplex in Mira Mesa on Via Abaca.  Neither did the Mustang.  It lived in the one car garage while the Civic was relegated to the car port.

In the garage of Pipestone, Brad and baby brother Doug.

Douglas the subject of another of Keith's visual puns: Babe on the hood of a hot rod.

When they were first married, my parents had a TR-3.  A two seater.  After I was born, they got rid of it and got a VW bug.  There is one picture of me in my mother's lap in the Triumph.  I don't remember it, although I remember the Bug (we had it well into the 70's).  I always begrudged my parents for getting rid of that car when I came along.  I didn't want to make the same mistake, poisoning my relationship with the boys.  So I kept the Mustang long enough for boys to have plenty of memories.  Mostly I suspect those memories will be arguing who got to sit in the front seat: without airbags, it was always an option, which meant it was always an argument.

Douglas in his car seat in the back. This car seat was the reason this seat belt eventually broke in the back seat, refusing to extend out any more..  

Dougie, Brad, and Nana in the Pipestone driveway.

After 15 years the list of the superficial/cosmetic issues with the car had grown quite long: ripped leather in the driver's seat, an automatic convertible top that had long since become manual, a seat belt in the back that wouldn't extend and driver and passenger seat belts that needed to be coaxed into retracting.  A couple of issues demanded addressing before the comparatively rainy season of winter began: the convertible top really needed replacing, and both front and back driver side windows were broken, and stuck permanently down.  Mechanically it was sound, excepting the intermittent coolant leak that seemed to only occur over night when the engine really cooled down. Then vast amounts (well, pints...) of translucent green anti freeze would pool beneath the car.  Always having to place a catch-pan beneath the car when I parked it at night in the garage was becoming eerily reminiscent of the ritual of detatching the battery cable on the Plymouth....

From yesteryear, to today....

The old and the new.  The young buck has pushed the old man out of the garage and down to the curb.  Despite its agelines, the old muscle car still has gobs more torque and horsepower than the new pony.

More well known fact: Kristi never learned to drive the manual transmission Mustang, which says at least as much about Keith's inability to teach (or unwillingness to share?) as Kristi's inability to learn.  The fact that we were a "one and a half car" family as opposed to two was a never ending source of frustration as Keith could never take the other care for extended periods of time (e.g. camping over night).

Note beach towel thrown over broken-down driver's side window.

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Text and Pictures Copyright © 2002 Keith Sherwood - All Rights Reserved