21 March 2016

A First-Generation Mustang, Destined for a Family’s Third

The Ivy Green 1965 Mustang convertible, a beloved family member today, wasn’t always treated gently, Randy Kramer now admits. “Oh, man, we beat that thing up,” he confessed.

“Me, my older brother and my younger sister learned to drive a manual on that car,” Kramer said, recalling the abuse suffered by the Mustang’s stick-shift transmission. “So did my cousins and our neighbors. But we weren’t as hard on it as the Iowa winters were. Snow, salt – over time, that thing was just falling apart.”

To be fair, the five decades that have passed since the Mustang was purchased from a used car lot were not all so damaging.

Kramer grew up across the street from a car dealership in Manson, Iowa, and he remembers watching the new models being delivered. When he was 5 years old, his mother started talking about getting a blue Mustang convertible. “I was just a little kid, but I knew a lot of cars,” he said. “I knew exactly what a Mustang was.”

And he soon proved it. One day in 1968, as the Kramers drove past a car dealership, it was young Randy who called out, “There’s one!” His father made a U-turn so the family could take a closer look at the sporty Ford that had kicked off the “pony car” craze. It wasn’t blue, but the Kramers bought it anyway.

The Mustang, powered by a 289-cid V-8, actually became dad’s commuting car. For years he drove it back and forth to his factory job, a 20-mile round trip. At some point it was painted red, but it got little attention beyond regular maintenance. And while other cars came and went, the Mustang remained.

As the Kramer kids grew older, they got their own cars – well, at least two of three did. Randy jokes that he somehow got skipped. “My brother got a car. My sister got a car. I never got a car – until the Mustang kind of fell to me. So I ended up with one that needed a crap-load of work done,” he said with a laugh. “That was pretty awesome.”

Several years ago, after his mother died and his father learned he had cancer, Kramer made it his mission to get the family Mustang back on the road. He took it to Telstar Motors in Mitchell, S.D., where a two-year restoration began.

“They did a fantastic job,” he said. “It was in such bad shape. There were other Mustangs I could have gotten for half the money I spent to restore it, but I look at it as a legacy thing. It was as much for my dad as it was for me.”

In addition to adding dual exhausts and Mustang mag wheels, the car was returned to its original Ivy Green color. Kramer said his father was “overwhelmed” upon seeing it. “He wasn’t really emotional because it wasn’t a surprise, but he couldn’t believe he was looking at the same car. He entered it in a car show, which was fun. That car became kind of iconic in our town.”

The elder Mr. Kramer died in 2015.

Randy, who turned 52 on Valentine’s Day, is single and childless, so he isn’t exactly sure who he’ll pass the car to someday. He’s gauging his nieces’ and nephews’ interest, but in the meantime, he’ll continue enjoying summer drives with the top down and think of all of the good times his family shared.

“The Mustang isn’t the nicest car I own,” he said, “but it definitely means the most.”

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