Through highs and lows, Cobra still the car of his dreams
In the fall of 1979, Kevin Fangman was over the moon. The 17-year-old had just bought his dream: a 1977 Ford Mustang Cobra II.
Head over heels in love with the car, he eagerly blurted to his dad he was "going to keep it forever."
"He said, 'Son, there's going to be so many things that come along in cars that we can't even imagine, that will have you wanting something else,' '' laughs Kevin, who now lives in Lake in the Hills. "I replied, 'We'll see.' Here we are 40 years later and I still have it."
Kevin's youthful pony passion was simply inevitable. In 1974, his older brother bought a new Mustang, as did a friend in 1976 and a sister in 1978.
The family was living in Waterloo, Iowa, at the time and in September of 1979, Kevin tracked down the car he'd soon buy, locating it at Dick Witham Chevrolet.
"It was 18 days before my 18th birthday. Dad had to come along to co-sign the loan," Kevin recalls. After the purchase, Kevin put the vehicle right to use, commuting to his job at the Waterloo Courier newspaper.
His driving wasn't all work and no play. One of the longer jaunts in the Cobra was a run to New Mexico, visiting a girlfriend's sister. "We made the nearly 1,200-mile run in 21 hours," Kevin chuckles.
Other highlights include weekend nights cruising Waterloo's University Avenue, the place to show off hot wheels.
"My brother and I modified the car's original 302 (cubic inch) V-8 engine," Kevin says. "We changed the intake manifold and added a mild cam, exhaust and carb. She was kind of a terror in the area."
Other enhancements included a paint swap, changing the factory gold highlights and stripes to a blood red.
His extreme care for the beloved Cobra was all for naught one fateful night in 1989. Kevin had moved to the Chicago suburbs and while the Mustang was parked at a local dealer for maintenance, thieves broke in, stole it and stripped the car.
"They took pieces from the body, engine and interior," he says. "It was a mess."
The Ford was recovered but it took months to piece it all back together and even then it wasn't the same.
With his focus on raising his family, the vehicle sat for 17 years until a three-year restoration commenced in 2006. Throughout the process, Kevin made modifications, installing a 347-cubic-inch stroker V-8, a Tremec five-speed transmission and an elaborate sound system.
During the car's repaint, Kevin hearkened to his later '80s color scheme, but with a twist. Instead of blood red, the enthusiast went with Ford's Laser Red, a color from the 2001 Mustang palette.
Just as his pops predicted, automotive technology has continued to evolve. But no matter what whiz-bang tech comes down the pipe, Kevin remains resolved and faithful.
"The Cobra II has been around so long it's become like an old friend," he gushes. "I'm never getting rid of it."
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