For nearly 15 years it was the one thing I took care of the most. I treated it like it was the most valuable thing I had (which it was). I cherished it, I cared for it; I made sure it was the one thing in my life that would last. The next 10 years however, I hardly ever touched it. Today I’m reminded of the terrible things that can happen due to neglect over time.

I’m speaking of my 1971 Mach I Mustang. In 1986 it was pretty much “done” with new bodywork, paint, new engine and transmission, was all cleaned up, and became my every day driver. I would wash it and wax it on weekends. I would enter it in car shows, sometimes taking home a trophy.

No it wasn’t a show car, nearly but not quite. There were still small details I’d never bothered with, like the interior door panels or concourse correct things. It was my baby, specially modified in just the right areas to be -my- ride, personalized to -me- and nobody else. For years upon years I continued to take care of her.

Even when I moved into a new house, the first thing I did was make sure I had a garage to keep her in. The everyday driving habits tapered off after 10 years and found me driving a 1987 Jeep Cherokee Sport. She (the Mach I) lay silently in the garage, waiting for her turn to come again. Eventually it did, as I would still try to make a car show here and there or take her out for just a drive. But then one day the engine started making expensive noises, so she got parked until I could rebuild an engine for her.

In 2001 she got that new engine. A fresh rebuild I had done myself. New everything and even some special go-fast parts to make her purr. Once again she was a live horse in my stable ready to ride anytime I was ready. Sadly, she became an outdoor horse not long after that because I now owned a 1973 DeTomaso Pantera.

Also in 2001, my wife and I moved out of our house and into my parents basement while we built our new home. The Pantera found a spot in my Dad’s shop, but the Mach I sat outside, under two car covers. Eventually we finished our new home and what was supposed to be a two car garage, in reality held three. But again, the Mach I was not one of them.

I have always made it a point to make things easier on my wife Shelley. It’s for this reason -her- everyday driver was one of the three cars in the new garage. My everyday driver was selected as number two. After all, I’m not going to scrape windows in the dead of winter just so I can drive to work. The third, was the Pantera, an original owner car I purchased from an estate, and which had -always- been garaged. It was of course the more valuable. Outside sat the Mach I.

For a few years I continued to try and keep up on her with a wash and wax every now and then, but eventually I fell into total neglect. The clearcoat was the first to crack. Soon she began peeling like a bad sunburn. The paint followed, cracking in areas where there was a small skim of Bondo. Wasps began infesting her mirrors, fenders and door jambs. She just sat there, neglected, every day I could see her out the window, looking sadder every day.

Which brings me to today. I put a new battery in her temporarily so I could move her. It took some cranking to get the gas up but once at the carb she fired right up. She ran great. It’s like she’d been waiting all this time for me to caress her once again; to feel me slip inside her and stroke her mane. She felt good, like familiar friends. She felt so very good, comfortable, familiar, … sad.

After a brief drive to put some gas in and power wash the engine, I brought her home, powered her down and just sat there. I slowly looked at all the neglect, the dust, the cracked dashboard, the peeling paint, the faded seats. I tried to recall some of the good memories, powering up to Mt. Spokane, drag racing at Spokane Raceway Park, car shows, drives, parking on edgecliff drive with a young woman, cruise nights turning heads all the way down the block. I recalled driving in deep snow coming home from work and power drifting through corners on gravel roads.

I took care of her and for the most part she never let me down. But I let her down terribly. She has the privilege of being in the garage right now. Not because I’m about to embark on a multi-year restoration… no, because I plan to pull the engine out of her and install it into the Pantera. And once again she’ll be parked outside, this time, with no engine.

I’m finding it so very difficult to get started. She was my best friend, my confidant, she knows things that only -I- know. I feel like I’m condemning a friend to exile and it doesn’t feel good. She needs attention, some new care. I struggle with the idea of selling the Pantera, paying for everything she needs to be my sweetheart again. And it’s a tempting thought.

I miss her, terribly at times.

Asa Jay

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Copyright 2014, Asa Jay Laughton