Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Eleanor, our 1973 Mustang Mach 1

This is the story of how we came to own our '73 Mustang and why her name is Eleanor. Back in 2002, we were looking for a classic Mustang. We had a Ford Falcon Futura station wagon, but although it was a cool classic car, it just wasn't us. We really wanted an early Mustang. We searched and scoured the ads and leads. We just weren't finding the "one". One day an ad appeared for a 1973 Mach 1, and it just so happened that we actually had to drive past the owner's house on the way home from work! The owner said the car ran, but it needed some work and she didn't have the time or money to do it. We decided we'd take a look, since it was within our budget.

The car was sitting behind the house when we went to look, so we couldn't see her from the road. We walked to the backyard and saw a faded yellow Mustang with a HUGE dent in the passenger rear quarter. Although we could tell the car was clearly beyond our ability, we still decided to have a look. In addition to the faded paint and dent (which we would later learn happened when the barn she was stored in fell down in a windstorm), there was rust everywhere and the bottom 3-4" of the passenger door skin was cut off. The yellow color looked more like Marhyde primer than actual paint, and she was covered in a patchwork of primer spots. We had discussed doing some body work, but it was clear this car was going to need a lot more than "some" work! We took the vin and door codes and told the owner we would let her know.

The vin and door codes confirmed she really was a Mach (the lack of the NASA hood and base interior had us wondering if she was really a Mach 1 or a Sportsroof), and her DSO explained her rough shape-she was an original New York car. While we were fascinated, we decided she was too much for us and called the owner to let her know we wouldn't be buying the car.

A few weeks later, she moved the car. Now everyday, twice a day, we drove past the car on our way to and from work. After a few weeks, we decided that maybe we over reacted and took a second look. Nope, we even missed some things, like the fact that the radiator support had been welded in the middle. We passed on the car again, and continued to look for the "one".

Then came the fateful night in November. We were on our way home from somewhere at about 10pm when we saw the car up on a trailer. Uh-oh, someone BOUGHT OUR MUSTANG! We had to know. Even though it was late, we stopped and knocked on the door. The owner's boyfriend answered and told us that no, the car wasn't sold, the city gave them a summons for an unlicensed vehicle and since the trailer was licensed, he put it up on the trailer so they couldn't bother them. That did it. We knew we were buying that faded yellow Mustang that night. We made the deal, which included the boyfriend trailering the car to our house. A few days later, right around Thanksgiving, we had a 1973 Mustang parked in our driveway.

When we bought her, we had never heard of the original Gone in 60 Seconds movie, the one that starred a 1973 Mustang named Eleanor. But as we researched the car, we found the movie. Our original plan of painting her Ivy Green Metallic or Grabber Green was replaced. We would repaint her in her original color of yellow, and build her into a clone of that infamous Eleanor. Because the more we learned about that car, the more respect we had for her and Toby Halicki, the writer, producer, director and other star of Gone In 60 Seconds. The fact that ONE car could do all that Eleanor did and still run and drive afterwords was impressive to say the least.

That's just the very beginning of our Eleanor's long and twisting saga. She was in much worse shape than we had anticipated, and at this point, the only major components that remain from the original body are: roof, a-pillers, frame rails, driver's side shock tower, driver's side inner wheelhouse, transmission hump, rear seat platforms, some interior bracing and firewall. Nearly every other piece of sheetmetal has been replaced, and many pieces came from donor cars. We lost count around 45 (some were minor, like headlight bezels, some were major, like the entire passenger side quarter panel). We have some photos here http://www.gear4gearheads.biz/about.html on our website and a slideshow of photos on our you tube channel here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFU-MaoaLkU so everyone can see what we got ourselves into!

Even now, she's not done (not that any classic car, muscle car or hot rod build is ever really done). But she's come a long way and is clearly recognizable as looking an awful lot like the "before" version of Eleanor in the 1974 version of Gone In 60 Seconds!