OLD GOLD / MUSTANG MAGIC GOLDEN #1966 #Ford-Mustang-Convertible
Mom’s 1966 #Ford-Mustang
has brought top-down pleasure to four generations.
By Mark j. Mccourt /// Photography by Richard Lentinello
The original Mustang was famously all things to all people. For the Eiselben family of St. Louis, Missouri, a 1966 model got rave reviews playing the dual roles of Mom’s grocery-getting, kid-shuttling daily driver and Dad’s fun-in-the-sun weekend convertible. It had a place of honour in the family garage 49 years ago, and it still does, in son Karl Eiselben’s garage, today. This Mustang convertible may have transitioned from all-weather transportation to concurs-winning trailer queen through the decades, but “Old Gold” remains in the family’s expert care, and will continue to make memories for its purchasers’ great-grandchildren.
A 1962 Rambler American convertible was the first occupant of the second bay of Roland and Alice’s garage, and that homely cute AMC — purchased new with white paint and top over a gold interior—was the originator of the dual-role family car. It remained in service until Karl’s older brother Kurt bought it from them. Karl — who currently lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida — was a nine-year-old auto enthusiast, building scale models of Mustangs and Shelbys, when his father settled on a real Mustang convertible as the Rambler’s replacement. “I went with him to look at several of them,” he recalls. “Dad wanted the 289 V8 so it would have some ‘go,’ but he also wanted an automatic and power steering, so Mom could comfortably drive it. When my mom saw this car sitting in the corner of Cavalier Ford in St. Louis, she was sold — she knew it was the one.”
The sporty #Ford
’s striking Antique Bronze paint and complementary two-tone Parchment-Saddle interior were set off with a black vinyl top and accessory 14 x 5-inch Styled Steel wheels. It had the desired powertrain, and much more; also included were a power top ($52.95), Rally-Pac gauges ($69.30), the Visibility Group of mirrors and two-speed electric wipers ($29.81), and individual accessories like a centre console and passenger mirror. “Dad negotiated with the dealer to add the trunk-lid luggage rack, the engine chrome dress-up kit and the undercoating that would protect it during those Missouri winters,” he explains.
The 289-cu.in. V8 was a nice upgrade over the base straight-six engine, this car’s being the C-code version sporting an Autolite 2100 two-barrel carburettor. With its 9.3:1 compression ratio, this V8 made 200hp at 4,400 RPM and 282-lb.ft. of torque at 2,400 RPM, which was plenty for the circa-2,800- pound convertible, even considering that optional three-speed C-4 Dual-Range Cruise-O-Matic automatic. As Karl would later learn, this powertrain provided more “go” than the standard, unassisted 10-inch drum brakes could comfortably handle; “You’d be better off using a rock and chain to slow the car down than using the brakes it has!
“I was with my parents when they took delivery of the car. It was an exciting time for us — back then, when you bought a new car, it was really something special. We started calling it ‘Old Gold’, right away, a play on the paint colour name,” he remembers. Their special soft-top was one of 72,119 convertibles built for 1966, out of an incredible 607,568 Mustangs — 1966 represented the best-ever model year of Mustang production. “It was an everyday driver that was also the fun car for the family. Mom would have the top down most of the summer. And because Dad enjoyed convertibles, we always took good care of it. It certainly got used, but it was never abused.”
Karl had an after-school job during his high school years, and as his parents had done for his brother seven years earlier, they consented to sell him the Mustang. “Growing up with my dad, I’d helped him take care of the car in hopes that I could someday buy it. When that came to pass in 1973, I drove it every day to school and work, and all weekend,” he says. “I had a lot of fun with it. But I still remember the day when it sat in the school parking lot, and kids from a rival school drove through and threw orange paint around, hitting my car and a Chevelle 396 convertible I always parked next to. As I was walking out of school, I wondered why there was a big crowd standing around our cars. I found orange paint all over our tops and back windows, and dripping down the sides. We filed police reports, but I don’t know if anyone was ever caught.”
Virtually all of the vandals’ paint was removed — “To this day there are still a few small spots on the car. I’ve left them there purposely because I know where they are,” he laughs. Old Gold got a new coat of Antique Bronze when Karl was still in high school; he worked with his body shop-owning friend to sand and respray the body. The Ford then brought its youthful owner to college, and was his sole transportation there for a time, as well; “I left it at school one weekend when I went to visit my sister, and when I got back, I found it had a cracked windshield. I wanted to protect it and keep it garaged, so I drove it back home to my parents’ home and bought a 1966 Mustang coupe as a replacement daily driver. I used that coupe for the duration of college.”
Roland and Alice didn’t mind this car returning, as they hadn’t replaced it with another convertible, that body style largely having fallen out of favour in the mid-1970s; they enjoyed using it sparingly in the summer months. As a third car, it mostly sat, but it did come out with the top down on sunny days, for trips to the local ice cream shops. Karl got married, and life’s distractions meant the Mustang wasn’t a top priority until 1990, when he attended a show put on by St. Louis’s Show-Me Mustang Club. This was where he met kindred spirits who convinced him to treat Old Gold to a concurs-quality restoration.
“When I decided on the restoration, it was a pretty easy job, because we’d taken care of the car. It may be the only Missouri Mustang that still has its original floors!” he laughs. “It had about 90,000 miles on it. There was very little rust, a little bit in the front fenders. Rather than cut that out, it was easier to replace the fenders with rust-free original fenders. The driver’s door tags have never been removed.”
Karl turned to another old friend from high school, Bruce Zbaron, who owns Smitty’s Auto Body in nearby Valley Park, Missouri, for help with this restoration. “Just like I did in 1973, I did the sanding work for Bruce,” he recalls. “He would prime it and give the car back to me for the sanding. I would sand it and think I had it perfect, but he’d put circles and arrows all over it, giving it back and telling me to do it again! I eventually got it straight. I also replaced the interior. I have sweat equity in this car, absolutely.”
A major upside to restoring an early Mustang is that so many parts are available. But rather than buy new reproduction parts, Karl made a conscious choice to reuse as many of his car’s original parts as possible. As for the brightwork, the factory bumpers were rechromed, and the original stainless trim was polished and put back on. He also resisted the temptation to alter the car with readily available upgrades like air conditioning, the GT trim or a Pony interior, reasoning, “That’s not the way my parents bought it, so the car will have to stay the way it is.” And well after the body’s restoration was completed, the car’s 100,000-mile milestone prompted its owner to give the 289 V8 a preventative refurbishment.
In the years since it was finally finished, the Eiselbens’ Mustang has earned many trophies and much admiration, the car having won Mustang Club of America and AACA Senior Grand National awards. But more than that, it’s brought them together. “My dad passed away in 1994, but before that, the Mustang Club of America’s publication, Mustang Times, did a cover shoot on Old Gold with my dad, myself and my son on it, and called it, ‘Like Father, Like Son, Like Son.’ That’s the only picture I have of Dad, Eric and myself with the car.”
He continues, “I’ve done father-son and father-daughter weekends with it at car shows. My children were with me every time we’d go to local, regional and national shows with Old Gold. They would help polish and clean, and it was always great fun for the family. It really has been something all of us, as a family, could work together on, and they have as much attachment to the car as I do.” Today, the Mustang’s odometer reads roughly 106,000 miles, and although it’s now a pampered show car that only comes out on nice days, it still transports Karl like a time machine. “It’s been a lot of fun for a lot of years. I can’t believe how many years… 49! I keep looking at it and saying, ‘One of us is getting really old,’” he laughs. “Now that my kids are having kids, it will be a real thrill to ultimately have the fourth generation riding in it. That’s pretty amazing.”
Now that my kids are having kids, it will be a real thrill to ultimately have the fourth generation riding in it. That’s pretty amazing.
This example was heavily optioned from the factory, and it came with the #Ford-C4
automatic transmission, power steering, Rally-Pac steering column gauges and the centre console. Its owner resisted the temptation to upgrade it with more accessories.
Karl’s father negotiated the two-barrel 289 V8 engine’s appealing chrome dress-up kit as part of the car’s initial purchase. The engine was pre-emptively rebuilt at 100,000-miles — after the restoration was finished — but the original pistons were reused.