Tom Ross: Original Mustang is a part of the family
June 18, 2011
Steamboat Springs — If Carolyn Rule had gotten along a little better with her high school Spanish teacher in Jennings, Kan., she might never have acquired her original 1964-and-a-half Rangoon red Ford Mustang.
Given her choice, she'd probably endure another miserable freshman year in Spanish class in exchange for the classic pony car. The fully restored car will be on display at 10:30 a.m. Saturday during the Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup Show 'n' Shine on Lincoln Avenue.
"It's the only thing I have left from my dad," Rule said. "I wouldn't sell it for anything. My oldest daughter, Michelle, expects to inherit it, but she also realizes that won't be for a very long time."
Rule and her husband, John, operate Mount Werner Veterinary Hospital. In 1963, Carolyn Bennett and her family moved to Jennings, where her parents, Laura and Ed Bennett, published a small weekly newspaper. It became Carolyn's job to run the clunky linotype machine that turned newspaper stories into bars of lead type for the sheet-fed press.
Rule recalls that when she became a Jennings Coyote at Jennings High School, the principal, recognizing that she had studied Spanish as an eighth-grader, placed her in sophomore Spanish class as a freshman. The teacher resented that fact and wouldn't cut Carolyn a break.
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"We didn't hit if off," Rule said, and as a consequence her grades suffered.
"My dad told me if I got my grades up, he'd buy a Mustang," she said.
It wasn't an entirely selfish offer.
"My dad liked cars. Cars changed a lot in the '60s, and he was one of these guys who, every two years, bought the newest model. He was very particular about his cars. He'd spit on a handkerchief and wipe dust off his car, and he always had a whisk broom."
Ed Bennett made certain he got the first Mustang sold by the local Ford dealership. The cars first came out in June 1964, hence the 1964-and-a-half model year. Her family's car came off the Ford Assembly Plant in Dearborn, Mich., on May 21.
The base price on the window sticker was $2,345, and the car came with the standard six-cylinder engine. But the addition of a Cruise O Matic transmission ($179.80), an AM radio ($58.50) and a few smaller options, the total price came to $2,750.
Although as a youngster growing up in rural Kansas in the '60s she could legally drive at age 14, Rule didn't get many chances to drive the Mustang.
"I got to take my brother and sister to swimming lessons in the next town over," she recalled. "I really didn't get to drive it much until I was a senior."
When Rule graduated from high school, her father presented her the keys to the car, and her parents told her this was what they could afford to give her to start life on her own. So it was her choice whether she sold the car to finance college tuition or kept it.
Carolyn's decision was to marry John, four years her senior and already in college, keep the car and help put her new husband through veterinary school.
They used the little Mustang hard during their early married life — it has always been economical, getting 26 miles per gallon of gas.
They decided to restore the Mustang about a dozen years ago. Bob Logan, of Bob's Conoco in Steamboat, removed the engine from the car and took it home with him. He sent the block to Denver, and upon its return rebuilt the engine. Later, Ken Meyer, of Ken Meyer Auto Body, in Craig re-did the body and interior, which is immaculate, with its two-tone red and creamy white dashboard. The fact that no one ever has cut a bigger hole in the dash to accommodate a modern stereo system makes the car all the more collectible.
The Rules entered their car in the 2007 Show 'n' Shine, and it placed among 32 cars in the class for 1964-and-a-half to 1966 coupes.
"Everything on the car is original except for the horn and the steering wheel," John Rule said.
Here's to the great American pony car.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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