This Man Stopped at Nothing to Track Down His Very First Car

Following the trail of his cherished ’65 Mustang coupe became an epic quest.

Murray With His Original Mustang CoupePhoto: Courtesy Murray Holland
Murray and his Mustang way back when.

My interest in cars started around 1975 when I was about 12 years old. There was a guy on our block who had two 1965 Mustang coupes. One had a primer paint job in poppy red that was more orange than red, and the other was black. The orange one was missing front fenders and the other front end pieces, but that’s the one that caught my eye. What I eventually learned is that he found the car damaged at the Hilltop Machine Shop in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, and bought it to blend both cars to make one good car. That’s exactly what he did and the orange/primer car was reborn.

Eventually he took me for a ride in it. I was instantly hooked! Around 1977, my dad bought it for me when I was 14. It sat in my yard until I had my learners’ license. I worked at his service station for money to buy license plates, put insurance on it and gas in it.

I was known to drive the car quite aggressively, especially when practising my gear-shifting! That’s when my love of mechanics really began to kick in. You name it, I blew it up on that car—engines, clutches, transmissions, differentials—but I either repaired or replaced it all myself. I owned it about 15 years, and I’m sure my friends have stories to tell that I don’t even remember (and may not want to). I eventually had it painted all one colour—a bright poppy red.

Around 1991 the economy was very bad. By then I had married, we had bought a house and had a little one. With some pressure, and not without resistance, I sold the Mustang. Sometime later when my son was about 15 years old, doesn’t he say to me that he would like an old vehicle to fix up. I said, what about the old Mustang I had, if we can find it? He said sure and so the quest began.

The Search Begins

I still had the car’s serial number, but you have to remember, there were now privacy laws in place and that limited the resources you could use to help locate people and their vehicles. For the longest time, I could not remember the person I had sold it to, although I remembered the town. About a month went by and then an old customer of mine dropped by at work. I instantly remembered that his son was best friends with the person I had sold my Mustang to; he gave me the name and number of the new owner—the first in what turned out to be a long list.

New Owner #1

I called the first new owner’s house only to find out he had moved away and was unreachable, but his mom was still there and she found out that he had traded the car for a boat to a guy on Cold Lake Air Force Base. Then the mom really came through by finding out the guy’s name and phone number!

New Owner #2

I called the second new owner and he told me that he had the Mustang on a used car lot in Edmonton for six months. Then, he sold it to his wife’s brother-in-law on Vancouver Island. He only had the name for me, so onto Google I went, looking for the third owner under that name. I was about 40 phone calls into the process when I hit pay dirt.

New Owner #3

The third owner had the car in his possession for five years or so, then sold it to someone in Stony Plain, Alberta. That’s all the info he had for me.

Well, I had a friend I went to trade school with who lived in Stony Plain. I called him and he told me he wasn’t really into cars, but gave me the name of a local business that was. I gave the place a call and the guy who answered knew instantly what car I was talking about. He gave me the number of a repair shop, the last place as far as he knew that the Mustang had been sent to. The kid who answered my call there said, yes, he knew the guy who owned the car now and would call me back shortly.

New Owner #4

About half an hour went by and then a lady called, saying the Mustang was her dad’s, but he had recently passed away. The family had put the car up for sale and, after interviewing would-be buyers looking for someone who would really care for the car like her dad had, they settled on a guy in Calgary who had taken ownership about two weeks previously. So close and yet so far! Anyway, she put me in touch with him.

New Owner #5

It so happened I had to go to Calgary anyway and so I took the opportunity to go see the car. It was my old Mustang all right! I verified that, when I spotted some repairs I had done a long time ago, including a pretty unique modification to the throttle linkage, plus it had the same valve covers traction bars, and so on. No need to check the serial number—it was all my handiwork. And he wanted to sell it…but for way too much money. After all my searching, I left the car there and went home empty-handed.

The Consolation Prize

Meanwhile back at the ranch, my son was still itching to get his hands on a vehicle to work on. He opted for an old classic truck and we rebuilt and repaired it together. Two years flew by and then I heard about an international Mustang show taking place in Edmonton. Curious, I called up New Owner #5 to see if he if was taking his Mustang to the show. He said no, because he had sold it at a local auction.

Well, the chase was on again! I looked up the phone number for the auction place that the car had been taken to. They couldn’t tell me who had bought the car, but they agreed to forward my contact info to him.

New Owner #6

A couple of days went by and Owner #6 called me up: the car was now in Cranbrook, B.C. I was going on holidays close to there in a few months time and made arrangements with him to drop by, just to see it, along with my son. Well, what a joy—he even let me take my son out for a drive in it. He had just bought it and obviously loved it so much that I didn’t even bother to make an offer, just thanked him for the experience of driving it again.

Red 1965 Mustang Coupe Blurred PlatePhoto: Murray Holland
Finally reunited with his cherished ’65 Mustang coupe.

Original Happy Owner

I never lost my affection for that ’65 Mustang coupe and kept scanning car sites for a similar one. No such luck, until ten years ago, when New Owner #6 listed my original Mustang for sale. I called him up and a price was agreed on. The money was arranged and then I was off to Cranbrook. When I arrived with a car trailer in tow, he started the Mustang to warm it up. The door was open and while he was keeping it running I reached in and felt around for a switch I had installed under the dash as a teenager. I clicked it a couple times and was asked by Owner #6 what it was for. “Mood lighting,” I said as a familiar red glow came on. He had owned the car for ten years and didn’t know the switch was there!

We loaded the car on to the trailer and I stayed the night at a nearby motel. The next day as I was driving through the mountains, I made a stop to check on the Mustang and realized that I had lost the car keys. I called the motel and they found them, and said they would mail them to my home address. Good enough, as I already had an idea how I might unlock the coupe and get it going.

When I got home, I went right to my jewelry box where I keep my valuables, looked inside and lo and behold there was the original key. It was so worn out I had replaced it decades ago, but kept the original. Out I went and, sure enough, the key did the trick! I off-loaded the coupe and took it for a run on my home turf—what a feeling! Sadly it snowed the next day and I don’t drive that car in winter weather, never did and never will. But come summer, I’m out cruising, going to shows and still just plain enjoying it!

Next, read the incredible story of how one man missed out on his dream car as a teenager, then found it parked in his driveway 25 years later!

68 Mustang Fastback - featured imageStreetside Classics, Atlanta

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Originally Published in Our Canada