A cheap set of wheels is a must have for any college student -- something easy on the wallet but big on fun.
Pat Mondy found both in his 1967 Ford Mustang. He purchased it in the fall of 1978 while a student at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
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That wintry November wasn't his first exposure to Ford's iconic pony car. Growing up, an older boy in his neighborhood bought a green '65 coupe. Yet the Mustang influences didn't stop there.
"A high school bud had a red '69 Mach 1," the Inverness resident said. "Just before I bought mine, a college friend bought a green '67 convertible."
With all those 'stangs galloping around Mondy, it's little wonder his heart was set on corralling one himself. He located a worthy steed in Sycamore.
"The seller was a young, married guy with a new baby on the way," Mondy said. That new family had drawn the seller's attention away from his 11-year-old convertible and, as such, it was far from showroom fresh.
Rust had set in the rear wheel wells and asphalt peeked through holes in the floorboards. The split back glass window was broken and taped and a hefty 95,000 miles showed on the odometer. Yet all these mechanical and cosmetic blemishes couldn't tarnish Mondy's excitement. His cash was plunked down and Mondy happily drove off in his low-buck beauty.
It wasn't long before the Mustang's tired, 200-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine started to show it's age. Lavern "Fudd" Taylor came to the rescue. He was a friend from high school and also a budding mechanic.
"Fudd talked me into doing an overhaul. He was living with some other guys in a farmhouse in DeKalb," Mondy said. "He tore the engine out and, right in the middle of the property's barn, he laid out all the pieces."
Mondy's auto-savvy pal sure knew his stuff and had the engine back together and running right. Other fond cruising experiences with the daily driver include following a buddy in his '77 Firebird as the two went on a camping trip near the northern Illinois town of Oregon, and meeting his future wife, Jenny, after local softball games.
"She had a 'Blue Jean' AMC Gremlin but always got a kick out of riding in (my) convertible," he said.
The Mustang memories screeched to a halt, quite literally, in 1980. "Heading into Chicago on an on-ramp to I-88, the left front end just dropped," Mondy said. A roadside inspection revealed the shock tower had rusted through.
"I wasn't quite ready to junk the car but couldn't afford to fix it right." The vehicle was towed to Mondy's dad's garage. A family friend welded the steed back together with simple angle iron. In the meantime, Mondy had already acquired another cheap beater and the Mustang was left in dad's garage.
"I'd go down and visit it every once in a while. I'd tap on the fenders and hear and see rust 'rain' down underneath."
Revival arrived in 1986 when Mondy moved to a house with a garage of his own. Several small issues were addressed such as replacing the brake and fuel lines. A full and proper overhaul followed in 1991.
All of the sheet metal was replaced along with the interior carpeting and exhaust system. The engine had cosmetic issues addressed but hasn't been apart since the barn floor teardown decades ago. The one-year build has resulted in one predominate thought.
"I want to get back to driving it more and enjoy it like I used to," he said. Mondy has however altered his motoring habits.
"In college I used to beat on it quite a bit. Now, it's driving the best it ever has and I do a much better job preserving it!"