SILER CITY — In the late summer of 1967, a maroon-colored Mustang — one of 413,000 brand-new Mustangs the Ford Motor Company produced for the 1968 model year — arrived by train in …
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SILER CITY — In the late summer of 1967, a maroon-colored Mustang — one of 413,000 brand-new Mustangs the Ford Motor Company produced for the 1968 model year — arrived by train in Siler City, destined for the sales lot at Welford Harris’s automobile dealership.
At the time, the dealership was in downtown Siler City, nestled behind the U.S. Post Office. Two years later, Harris would move his business to its present location on U.S. Hwy. 64, but it was on that now long-gone downtown sales lot where the striking new car would sit — a window sticker displaying an asking price of $3,100 —for a few weeks in the autumn of 1967 before it was sold and driven off the lot.
Most vehicles are purchased, driven, perhaps re-sold and driven some more and then, likely, eventually scrapped, with the particulars lost to time.
But no this 1968 Mustang. The car’s destiny, it turned out, would be a bit different than that of most — fated, instead, to become a beloved and cherished member of a local family.
“It’s just a legend in our family,” said Andrea Auman, whose husband, Jonathan, is the car’s current owner and caretaker. “It’s got so much history and I think that’s really interesting. It’s almost like the car is a person.”
“This car has been very important to me,” acknowledged Jonathan, who acquired it from his grandparents, Roy and Allene Coltrane of Siler City, who had owned it for the previous 39 years. Roy, a World War II veteran, died in 2018. Allene just celebrated her 94th birthday.
“What’s most special about this car for me is its legacy,” Jonathan said.
A lifetime of memories
When Jonathan obtained his driver’s license at 16, for instance, his grandfather made a point of allowing the newly-licensed driver to take the car for a spin.
He drove his date to the senior prom in that car.
He and his grandfather enjoyed countless hours working on the Mustang, keeping it in top running condition. And when his grandfather died, Jonathan drove it to the funeral in his grandfather’s honor.
The four-seater holds a lifetime of memories.
“It’s very sentimental,” said Jonathan’s mother, Valerie Dorsett.
“He just had a real special connection with his grandpa,” she said. “They worked on that car a lot and spent a lot of time together with it, just talking about Mustangs.”
“That car was one of the major things we shared,” Jonathan agreed.
For most of the 39 years the Coltranes owned the Mustang, Jonathan recalled, it served as his grandmother’s primary vehicle. Allene drove it back and forth to her job at Shoe Show, relying on the sports car for transportation until she bought another car to replace it in 1989.
The Coltranes, however, weren’t the Mustang’s original owners. They bought it — paying $850 for the used car in September of 1974 — from their friend and neighbor, Charles Robert Crotts Sr., who bought it on Oct. 7, 1967.
“It hasn’t left Siler City since,” Jonathan said.
Still in excellent condition with all of its original parts — and appearing no worse for wear than it must have looked in 1967 aboard that cargo train bound for Siler City — the Mustang has always been well cared for, never wrecked, always carefully serviced.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do with any car,” Allene said. “I took good care of it.”
For special occasions
And in the process of driving it and caring for it, the family made a lot of happy memories.
“I remember when my grandmother was still driving it,” Jonathan said. “She’d come pick me and my sister up and I’d ride in the back seat with the little window down. She’d sing songs to us while she drove. ‘Over the Rainbow,’ or ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ She’d take us to Rose’s and buy us little toy cars.”
Like his grandparents did before him, Jonathan treats the vehicle with great care and respect, driving it mostly only on special occasions. He’ll bring it out for the Siler City Christmas and Veterans Day parades, for example, or maybe take it to a classic car show.
“Once in a blue moon,” he said, “I’ll start it up and drive it to the store. But that’s very rare.”
He did, however, take it for a spin last week, which was also sort of a special occasion.
Last Wednesday — exactly 53 years, nearly to the minute, after Crotts originally bought the Mustang — Auman drove it back to the Welford Harris dealership. Auman said it seemed like a proper way to honor his family’s beloved ride.
Joining him last week were his mother and grandmother and his wife and son, representing four generations of his family who had over the years been touched by the single car.
The original receipt
Jonathan, who knows just about everything about the car’s history, brought with him all of the automobile’s original paperwork, which he keeps safe in a framed glass display. Among those documents, which are as carefully preserved as the car itself, were a certificate of origin from the Ford Motor Company and the original sales receipt, which had been signed 53 years earlier by Pat Harris, Welford’s wife.
Welford and Pat, now both retired, were also on hand last Wednesday to see once again the special car they sold more than five decades ago.
Welford said seeing the vehicle was a treat.
“It’s pretty rare to see something like this,” the veteran car salesman said, a broad smile across his face. “To see a car so well cared for. There are few and far between that will care for them like that.”
And Pat, 84, also enjoying the nostalgia, said she got a kick out of seeing the sales receipt she’d signed when she was 32.
“I was shocked when I saw it,” she said. “But I recognized my handwriting immediately.”
The car’s odometer reads 43,000 miles. Since there’s no space on the odometer for a sixth digit, Jonathan suspects the more accurate mileage is 143,000. Regardless, he knows exactly who will put future mileage on the family car. Though his son Bryce is many years from driving age, the Mustang will someday belong to him, Jonathan said.
And continuing the family/Ford tradition, Jonathan has another legacy project in the works. He recently tracked down his grandfather’s 1979 Ford pick-up truck, which had been traded in and sold in 2000.
“I found it,” he said, “so I’m going to re-do his truck — that’ll be a project for me and Bryce — and keep that in the family, too.”
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