Barn Find
More Than Just Horses

by Wayne Heikkila
Once upon a time, I was working on a 1970 2‐door Torino (more on that later) and walked next door to the parts store and made a comment to its owner that I hoped the engine is savable. An elderly gentleman said that he had an older Ford that might need an engine. He was thinking of selling it but didn’t think anyone would purchase it with a bad engine. He also said that there was a catch to getting the car out of the barn, which really sparked my interest so we exchanged numbers.

A couple of days later, I called the number and talked to James – who started laughing but said to come take a look. After talking for a little while in his driveway, we started walking toward the barn with James telling me about the car. It was a Mustang he enjoyed driving and normally parked the car in the barn but, due to a problem with the door, he left the car outside for a couple of days. After the couple of days to repair the door, the car would not start. He opened the hood and found that someone had stripped the engine. So he covered the engine and pushed the car into the barn.

Over the years, James had built shelves all the way around the car so whoever wanted the car had to remove the shelves to access it and then put the shelves back. Still interested, we came to an agreement on the price – on a car I could not see.

That Saturday, I showed up with my best friend Claude and a wrecker and we started removing the items from the front shelves and the deck that had been built over the shelves and the car. We found that the front shelves were not attached to the top deck so we were then able to pull the shelving unit out of the way and get our first look at the car.

Pulling back the tarp exposed a 1966 2+2 289 4‐speed fastback Mustang. With a quick look around and inside the car, I was very happy with what we were looking at but we really lacked time to inspect it. Claude started airing up the tires while I jacked it up to remove the blocks and put a tow strap around the rear end. Claude used the wench to pull the car free from its resting place and out into the sunlight. The car’s condition was amazing!

We didn’t have time to take it all in as we still had to fulfill my bargain. We removed everything from the back shelf which also wasn’t attached to the upper deck. The solution? Move the front shelf up against the wall, relocate the back unit to the middle, and put everything back on the shelves and the deck. Nothing to it.

James came out to look at the car as we were finishing up and told us the car had come from the dealer with a dual carb and dual point distributor. One could almost feel his pain about the theft.

When we got to the shop and got the car unloaded, the first thing I did was leave a message for our vintage parts guy Larry. We spent the next hours checking out the vehicle but it was now getting time to clean up for cruise night. Larry showed up to inspect the Mustang and it was like he had found a long lost friend. He recorded the VIN, took photos, and started a parts list having already brought some items from his storage. Larry insisted that only NOS parts should be used – exposing that he was already thinking of purchasing the car.

Sunday, I spent the day checking over the 24,000-mile car. Then Larry showed up like it was Christmas with a new fuel tank, sending unit, belts, hoses, fuel pump, fuel line, plugs, cap, rotor, filters, gaskets, battery – even tires – every part NOS.

It took two weeks every night after work replacing and installing all of the parts. I had squirted oil in the cylinders earlier in the week in preparation for the next Saturday with one thing in mind . . . to drive it that night.

The oil pump was primed before installing the distributor. I started cranking the engine then, after fuel reached the carbs, I connected the power to the coil and checked for spark. It was ready to start and it fired right off. As it idled and warmed up, smoke started billowing from the exhaust – what we look forward to when waking these sleeping engines. After letting the engine run for about 15 minutes, I shut it off to let it cool and then started it back up make engine adjustments like setting timing and adjusting the carbs. For its first test drive, I headed down the street and onto the freeway. The car ran great and drove perfectly. I put it back on the lift and checked it over very well and it was now ready for Saturday’s cruise night.

Claude and I enjoyed a night of cruising in this Mustang. This would be one of the last days I would drive the car because Larry bought it on Monday. The last time I talked to Larry, he still owned the car. For me, it was about finding the car and getting it running.