By Brian Earnest
Back on Aug. 20, 1966, Lucille Chambliss of Evansville, Ind., marched down to Keys Ford to pick up her shiny new 1966 Ford Mustang. Chambliss was 53 years old at the time, and she was determined to take very good care of her new pony car.
In the next 20-plus years, Chambliss only put about 30,000 miles on her Mustang, and she maintained it with fanatical devotion, giving it regular service, swapping batteries — probably even before they were needed — and promptly taking care of any repair issues, including several new starters. She also had paint work done three times when the Mustang needed some touch-up work.
Sometime in the late 1980s, Chambliss was unable to drive her Mustang any longer, and she turned the car over to her son, who planned to restore it. That plan never panned out and the car was eventually purchased by Sergio Atanes, a Mustang-loving charter boat captain from Tampa, Fla.
Atanes never met Lucille, who died in 1993, but after finding out how attached to her car she was, and how carefully she documented every last service detail during the 20-some years she drove it, he is determined to keep the car looking and driving as good as the day Lucille first drove it home.
“My wife and I, after going through all this literature we got with the car, it almost felt like we knew her,” said Atanes. “Lucille saved everything she ever did to the car. I have the original window sticker, warranty card, spare set of keys like new, the tag in case you lost your keys and every inspection slip… Oil change and battery warranty cards and proof of the mileage (31,946 miles) when I got her. She now has 31,973 miles. Her last receipt was from Goodyear when she put the first set of tires on the front of the car in 1988. It reads 29,847 miles. We even have a $2 parking ticket she got in 1980 in the package.
“I’ve got one of those 6-inch binders and it’s got everything on it. I really never knew [her son] had all this paperwork that goes with it because he never told me. He just told me it was his mother’s car and it was low-mileage… I was just amazed at what the guy sent me. I got a box with a new exhaust system, a box with a new starter… All kinds of stuff, and a big box full of paperwork. It was all his mother’s original paperwork. It’s amazing, really.”
Even though Chambliss didn’t drive her car much, her son had planned to take the car apart and restore it. Somewhere along the line, though — apparently around 1993 — the plan stalled and the car wound up in pieces and on blocks in the man’s garage.
“About a year ago, I found out about the car from a friend,” said Atanes. “You know, you go to car shows and you talk to people. He said he knew a guy who had a Mustang that had been his mother’s. I guess what caught my ear was that his mother had been the only owner. So I asked my friend to get a hold of the guy and ask him to call me. A couple weeks later, the guy called me and we talked about it.
“I didn’t even see the car before I bought it. He sent me a picture of it on jacks in his garage, and that was it.”
By the time he got the ’66, Atanes had a full-blown case of Mustang fever. Three years earlier, he had bought a red 1972 Mustang that had become his favorite toy during his semi-retirement from the charter boat business. “Then my wife started really getting into it and she started asking about ‘one for me,’” he joked.
Atanes said the 1966 Mustang was basically “a shell with a motor” when he got it. The car had been painted and given new weather stripping, but it was missing an interior, wiring and suspension, among other things. “I had to put new bumpers on it. New exhaust, new brakes,” Atanes said. “But the motor had been completely re-done. The guy worked at Toyota, and I think his plan was to do what I did with my ’72 — re-do the whole thing. But I guess his wife made him stop and told him he had spent enough money on the car.”
Lucille Chambliss and Sergio Atanes are certainly not alone in falling hard for the 1966 Mustang. Seldom has the car-loving public been more smitten with a new machine. Ford cranked out more than 607,000 copies of its third-year pony car for 1966, making it the third-most popular American car of the year — not bad for a model that hadn’t even been around for a full three seasons.
Overall styling didn’t change much from the previous year. The grille featured the floating Mustang emblem in the center with no horizontal or vertical dividers. Inside, the cars received a new instrument panel, padded dash, seat belts, emergency flashers and electric wipers. The 120-hp, 200-cid six-cylinder was standard and went in 253,200 of the cars. The base V-8 was the 289-cid two-barrel that delivered 200 hp. The four-barrel 289 pushed the power output to 225 hp and the high-compression “K” code brought the number up to 271.
Atanes’ car came with the base 289 and Cruise-O-Matic, which was a $185 option on the V-8-equipped cars. “It’s got the center console, Pony interior, heater, air conditioning, AM radio,” Atanes said. “About the only thing I did different to it was I put dual exhaust on it instead of single exhaust. It just sounds better and runs better. And I put a new compressor on for the air conditioning. Those old compressors were terrible.”
In memory of the car’s first owner, the Atanes simply refer to their blue Mustang as “Lucy.” Soon, the couple plans to have the restoration finished on their 1972 Mustang so Lucy will have some company in the pony stable.
“As far as I’m concerned, the car looks as good or better than it did when it was new,” Sergio said. “I’ll never sell it. I just get too much satisfaction out of it — when you take it somewhere and you hear someone say, ‘It looks like it came right out of a showroom.'
“We’ll probably put 400, 500 miles on it and just enjoy it. We’ll take it to a few shows. We really enjoy the camaraderie and people who are doing the same thing we’re doing.”
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