Thursday, 22 August 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Perseverance finally pays off

Perseverance finally pays off

Local travel agent Julie Weeden’s relationship with her 1967 V8 Ford Mustang convertible has certainly been stretched to the limit on more than one occasion during her seven years of ownership in New Zealand. In fact it’s only been over the last few months that she has had the opportunity to showcase the car around the local streets of Whitianga or enjoy a cruise around the Coromandel with the soft top convertible folded down.

After an external restoration project which took far longer than she or husband Dave originally intended, this iconic piece of American motoring history gives nothing away in terms of its past life. Like granddad’s old and original axe that has had five new handles and three new heads, this shiny rich-red Mustang (Ford 65 is the official and original colour name) is far from in original condition. In fact, from the outside, its build and paint quality is arguably better than what rolled off the assembly line almost half a century ago. Apart from retaining one original panel behind the rear seat,
the car has undergone a total strip down and rebuild, using brand new or manufactured body panels and chassis rails.

Like a lot of similar vehicle restoration projects, the amount of time and money that has been poured into this project was very much underestimated and at times there seemed to be little light at the end of what had become a very long tunnel for both Julie and Dave.

It all started when Julie first laid eyes on the traditional long nose and short boot 289 cu inch (4.7 litre) muscle car when she met up with its owner in Australia - an old friend who had used the car on a regular basis for several years and was thinking about selling. As Julie was living and working in Australia at the time, she took the plunge, purchased the Mustang and continued to drive it trouble free for a further three years.

On planning their shift to New Zealand and assuming moving the car across the ditch would be hassle free, Julie and Dave shipped the Mustang off to New Zealand in 2007. On arrival and contrary to what they believed they had been told prior to shipping, the car was required by law to undergo an invasive and very detailed roadworthiness inspection before being registered and allowed to be driven on New Zealand roads. Unfortunately, under close examination, it was discovered some of the last 47 years had not been overly kind to the Mustang and it failed the compliance inspection in some of the major structural areas of its main frame and chassis.

Enter Bruce Haye from Ace Panel & Paint, the local restoration expert, who in 2008 was given the job of stripping the Mustang completely and rebuilding it to the demanding standards set by the authorities in New Zealand. "After every structural repair was carried out, or before in some cases, we were required to get sign off from government approved certification inspectors before moving to the next piece of the puzzle," says Bruce.

"And because the car had undergone a right hand drive conversion in Australia, we even had to change the existing left hand drive windscreen wiper sweep before compliance was finally signed off and that required new firewall panel fabrication."

Bruce has a photo album of before, during and after shots which details the amount of work that has gone into the project and underlines his true expertise in this line of work.

So what’s next on the to-do list for the owner? "There’s still the interior to tidy up, but that can wait just a little longer," says Julie. "With summer on the way it’s time to stop, take a breath and simply enjoy Mustang ownership and that means getting it out of the garage and on the open road a lot more."

And are there any words of wisdom and advice she can pass onto others looking to get into a similar vehicle restoration project? "You need to keep your sense of humour, the original budget you set will never be enough and before you purchase what you think may be a suitable vehicle, go and see somebody like Bruce at Ace Panel & Paint," answers Julie.

"He will take all the emotion away and tell you the true reality of what lies ahead of you. It can be extremely frustrating at times, but at the end of the day it’s a pretty awesome feeling when it’s all finished and the completed product exceeds your expectations."

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.