My first car was a red MGB convertible. I owned it for one month and drove it to the end of our driveway exactly one time before my father was struck with a terrible case of buyer’s remorse.

Although he knew it would break my heart, my father sold my first car and replaced its foreign beauty with its prudent but homely cousin: a 1977 Mustang II. (Imagine being engaged to Keith Urban but finding Lyle Lovett waiting for you at the altar.) For the next two years, my golden lemon would teach me many lessons: humility, patience, and auto maintenance.

If you know the Mustang II, then you can stop reading this article because you already know what such a car would do to an already semi-depressed 16-year-old in 1987. For those of you who don’t know the Mustang II, let me give you a few enlightening words: Carter Era, Plaid Seats, Gas Crisis, Pinto-Inspired.

The car was a custom job, made for the sole purpose of knocking a cocky teenager into humble reality. Take, for example, the interior: creamy vinyl with gold and brown plaid inserts for seats and a mustard yellow dash. Someone had customized these seats, adding gaping rips that gave me an excuse for buying seat covers. It was the late ’80s after all, and I could not be seen with plaid car seats. Unfortunately, it was the late ’80s and the only car seats that I could afford were fake fur. Still, they were an improvement.

A custom paint job made my life easier. I never had to wash my car’s matte gold paint job because it seemed to camouflage all dirt and bird droppings. (The same does not apply to my current maroon mini-van, which hasn’t been washed in weeks.) I noticed that the only other gold Mustang II in Monroe County had the same camo-advantage. The owner was equally proud of his paint job, expressing his joy by attaching a ’coon tail to the antenna.

Each Saturday I got to take my grandmother to the store, sometimes in Gamaliel and sometimes in Tompkinsville. My car was prone to overheating, so we had to travel with the heater on – even in the middle of summer. Lucky for me, my car had yet another bonus feature: a pop-up sunroof that provided ventilation and ample room for my ’80s hairdo. Now, Grandma was always nervous riding with me because I was a new driver in a family of speed demons.

This is where the beauty of my Mustang II really shines. At precisely 57 mph, my car would begin to shake all over, a shake that no amount of tire balancing could correct. If I ignored this warning sign and persisted with pushing the speed limit, the shaking feature would initiate the “pop-up sunroof slam-down” feature.

Sometimes, even with Grandma screaming, the car shaking and the sunroof slamming, I would still try to push the limits of the car. At that point, a third ingeniously engineered feature would activate: I like to think of this one as the anti-AC component.

Remember, my dear Mustang II would overheat if I did not run the heater year round. So, once the sun-roof fell, I was faced with suffocation if I did not slow down. Controlled by this miracle of engineering, I always slowed down before I pegged it at 62.

All in all, my Mustang II wasn’t such a bad car. It fit my personality, and fit in just as well with my friends’ cars. Andrea’s Pink Camaro, Valerie’s Betty the Buick, Stacia’s Blue Beretta and my Mustang shared countless memories. Sure, school buses passed me on the way to school.

Yeah, people asked me where my ’coon tail was. So what if I secretly pulled out the picture of me sitting in my MGB, pressing my face into my furry slip-covered seats to hide the sound of my crying? It was my Mustang II, and its radio could blast Def Leppard louder than any adult could stand. And in the ’80s, isn’t that what really mattered?


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