Mustang Alley: A '66 fastback shines again after 4 decades of neglect

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ferndale — For 42 years, a 1966 Ford Mustang two-door fastback sat in a barn, neglected except for the raccoon that found its way inside and chewed up the passenger sun visor.

John Cordier of Mogadore, Ohio, in his 1966 Mustang fastback, which sat in a barn for more than 40 years before he restored it, along Woodward on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.

Now, under the care of John Cordier of Mogadore, Ohio, the gold metallic vehicle has found new life, which he showed off Saturday at Mustang Alley during the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Cordier acquired the vintage car in 2018 from the estate sale of a friend who collected Fords: "You couldn't see through the windows," he said. "It was pretty bad."

A book with photos from before its restoration sits on the hood of John Cordier's 1966 Mustang.

Since then, Cordier has polished up the exterior, cleaned the interior and fixed minor issues under the hood. He had to soak the motor for three days to get it unlocked.

He's also researched the car's origins and gotten documentation that shows it was built in San Jose, Calif., in late 1965, was with one owner from 1970 to 1976, made its way across the country and eventually was parked in Springfield, Ohio, not to be touched for more than four decades starting in 1976.

John Cordier cleaned up the interior of this 1966 Mustang fastback, which sat neglected in an Ohio barn for more than four decades.

Documents from Ford researchers indicate that of the 607,568 1966 Mustangs that were built, nearly 36,000 were two-door fastbacks, but only 7,889 were the luxury model that Cordier now owns.

Cordier is "dumbfounded," he said, by all the attention the car gets. He's now driven it some 2,200 miles with no issue, and said it took just a tank of gas to drive it 200 miles from the Akron, Ohio, area to Ferndale.

Ford Mustangs line Nine Mile in Ferndale during the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.

Cordier's lifelong love for Mustangs started with his father, who always owned Ford vehicles, and was cemented when he purchased his first Mustang — a 1970 Mach 1 — when he was 17 years old.

"I'm just a Ford guy."

There are plenty of onlookers in the snake pit of Mustang Alley along Nine Mile for the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.

An heirloom on wheels

In May 1965, Joe Errante brought home a two-door Ford Mustang GT.

Fifty-six years later, the vehicle with a V-8 engine and matching "rangoon red" interior and exterior looks brand-new thanks to decades of careful maintenance spanning two generations of family ownership.

Klaus and Angel Raddatz's 1965 Mustang draws onlookers in Mustang Alley during the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.

It now belongs to Errante's daughter, Angel Raddatz, and her husband, Klaus Raddatz, who live in Milford. Errante passed down the family heirloom several years ago, before his death in 2019.

"He gave it to my wife because she had such a love for the car, he knew she would take care of it," said Klaus Raddatz, who sat near the car Saturday while it was on display in Mustang Alley for the Woodward Dream Cruise.

His father-in-law — one of the founding members of the Mustang Owners Club of Southeastern Michigan — initially used the car as a daily driver before retiring it to drive to rallies and cruises. 

The Mustang has been lovingly and meticulously maintained over decades with every effort made to keep it in the condition in which it was purchased for some $2,900 in 1965. The family avoids driving it in the rain or snow, keeps it covered and does regular maintenance on it.

The interior of Angel and Klaus Raddatz's 1965 Mustang shows how the family has cared for the classic her father bought new.

"The paint is original. The vinyl top is original. The interior is original," said Klaus. "So all those things that usually deteriorate over time are pretty fresh."

Someday, the car will be passed down to a third generation of family owners. Already, Raddatz has taught his children how to work on parts of it.

"It's something that will stay in the family."

Members of the Yellow Mustang Registry gathered at Memorial Park in Royal Oak for the Woodward Dream Cruise, Saturday.