I Wish I Still Had My 1967 Mustang
By John J. Duncan Jr.
In my column last week, I mentioned what has been frequently described as America’s love affair with cars. I wrote about this in relation to the goal of environmentalists who control President Biden to make gas prices go much higher so people will be forced to drive less.
However, thinking about cars caused me to remember some of the cars I have had. In my younger and middle age years, cars were much cheaper, and I used to trade more often. Now, I hold on to vehicles as long as I can.
During my 30 years in Congress, I had to have one vehicle in Tennessee and one in Washington. Today, I still have a 2006 Chevrolet Impala with 172,000 miles on it and a Ford F-150 pickup truck with 137,000 miles on it.
Shortly after President Biden went into the White House, I assumed his people would send gas prices much higher. So I traded my late wife’s car in for a Toyota Avalon hybrid that was supposed to get 44 miles to the gallon.
It does not get that much, because I usually go faster than 55 when I am on the interstate or other good highways. However, the Avalon does get better gas mileage than any vehicle I have ever had.
Remember the good old days of the Trump Administration when at the end gas in East Tennessee was about $1.85 to $1.95 a gallon? The national average was a little higher then because of California and other high tax states.
Of all the cars I have had, the one I most wish I had kept was my 1967 Mustang. I have thought several times about buying another one, but they have just become too expensive.
Many years ago when my daughter, Whitney, was about to turn 16 and was looking at cars, I think she may have wanted a little sports car and I probably wanted her to have an Army tank.
Not knowing how much car prices had gone up, I called Whitney from Washington one night and asked her how she would like to have a 1967 Mustang (thinking I would enjoy it, too). That went over like a lead balloon, and I quickly realized that when I turned 16 in 1963, that would have been like my Dad asking me if I wanted a 1936 car.
I ended up buying Whitney a 1988 Hyundai Sonata from a young man who worked for the Republicans on what was then the International Relations Committee in the House. He had all the records concerning the car and its maintenance, even details on every oil change.
I drove the car home one Friday night, and Whitney was very pleased. However, my late wife, Lynn, called me when I was back in Washington at the first of the next week and asked me in an angry voice if I had not even looked at the engine.
She knew I didn’t know anything about cars and that I probably would not have looked very closely at the engine. She said, “This car has chicken wire on parts of the engine!” Fortunately, she was playing a joke on me, but I fell for it at first because she sounded so serious.
In 1999, my wife and I were in Nashville for Don Sundquist’s second inauguration as governor. We were given a ride to the ceremony by a nice young Nashville policeman who told us that just the night before he had stopped a large black man on a license tag violation and then found out there was an outstanding first-degree murder warrant for the man.
The policeman said the man was driving a “drug dealer’s car, a 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis.” Right then, much to the policeman’s surprise, my wife busted out laughing, because I was driving a 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis, which she later always called my “drug dealer’s car.”
By then I had taken the Mercury to Washington because it had so many miles on it and I drove less there. I once picked up Jimmy Haslam at the Washington airport, and Lynn thought it was terrible when I told her he had gotten a little stuck on one of the pieces of duct tape on the front seat.
My first car sounds exotic but definitely was not. It was a 1961 DKW Sport, which looked like a miniature Ford from the early 60s. It was a three-speed on the column. The car was in such bad shape some friends of ours didn’t want it anymore. They probably couldn’t have gotten even $100 for it.
Since I had learned to drive on our family Chevrolet automatic, I took my brother-in-law, Pat Gleason, with me to pick it up. He got the car less than two miles when it broke down on Alcoa Highway.
I will never forget Pat getting out and walking up to me saying, “Jimmy, if you want my advice, you will leave that car right where it is, because that car is going to be more trouble than it’s worth.”
The emergency brake was a lever between the two front seats. It had to be pulled up into the on position or the brakes went all the way to the floor. I had to drive with a gallon jug of water in the back floor because the car overheated so much. You could hear the sound of the gears changing in the radio.
I drove that car for a couple of years. Pat was right, of course, but it was my first car.