By Matt Avery
Special to the Daily Herald
It can be hard to see that perfect diamond in the rough. Yet, with a lot of hard work, most rolling relics can be turned into treasures.
That's Dave Zietlow's experience after he purchased a 1966 Ford Mustang that had definitely seen its better days.
A friend of a friend had purchased it in a combo-deal packaged with a classic truck, but he only wanted the hauler. The 'Stang was offered to Dave in 2007 and he headed down to Delton, Florida, after purchasing it sight-unseen, willing to take a gamble, believing the pony could be polished. This wasn't his first rodeo; he's owned numerous classic cars, including a couple other Mustangs.
However, this new project was going to be the first one he'd restore himself. He had the time after celebrating his recent retirement. The first time he laid eyes on the Ford, he felt optimistic.
"It's like seeing a house," Dave says. "You have to look past what the outside is and to what the bones are."
He brought the car back to his Wauconda garage and set to work. "Once the paint was stripped, it all looked pretty good."
The main body component that needed replacement was the cowl, which Dave did himself. This part of the frame supports the dashboard and windshield. From there, he was all set to craft his custom creation.
"It's the type of car you can do anything you want to," Dave says. "They made a lot of them so I didn't mind making alterations."
The enthusiast bolted on such things as frame connectors, four-wheel disc brakes and Magnaflow exhaust. Underhood he installed a stroked 354-cubic-inch, 450-horsepower V-8. "I've gotten into drag racing (with another car) and have gotten used to lots of power," Dave says.
It wasn't all about performance for the lead foot. He wanted attractive looks, too. So the car was painted in Highland Green, a 2008 Ford color that was applied to the special edition "Bullitt" Mustangs. Dave found it the perfect complement to match the two-tone black and brown interior.
All in all, it took a little visualization but Dave feels more than satisfied in the fruits of his labors.
"It's so much fun to drive," he says, "and exactly how I saw it in my head."
• Share your car's story with Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.