- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Ed Mucha always drives slow as he passes the front of the Hagerty Insurance headquarters. It’s a habit the long-time car guy and retired tool maker kept for years.

Rolling along, his foot off the accelerator, Mucha, 78, gives himself plenty of time to get a glimpse of whatever classic car is on prominent display in the building’s circular foyer. This month he drives a little slower and looks a little longer because his is the car in the window, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle (https://bit.ly/1eUSfGb ).

The Caspian Blue Metallic 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang convertible beamed almost as bright as Mucha’s smile while he chatted about the car’s 50th birthday. The first Mustangs rolled off the production line on April 17, 1964. Mucha’s car’s 289-cubic-inch V8 rumbled for the first time on April 22 that year.

Mustang club experts from the Detroit area told Mucha his car was the eighth Mustang convertible assembled. Most of the first ones went to Ford itself, Mucha said.

“I can’t imagine selling it,” he said. “You just get a good feeling looking at it.”

And it’s not like he hasn’t had chances.

Somebody follows Mucha home, “every time I drive it,” he said. “It’s always been a good car.”

One guy who tailed Mucha told him he wanted to buy the car and pulled out a stack of $100 bills.

“I said, ‘you and a lot of other people,’” Mucha said.

He drove his Mustang as a family car for the first handful of years. It became a classic when it turned 10 years old, he said.

“We called it the ‘honey car,’” Mucha said. “It’s always the girls who come up and say ‘nice car, mister.’ The guys just sit there looking and rub their chin.”

The car’s been in his family longer than many of them have been alive.

“They don’t ever remember a time without the Mustang,” he said.

Mucha’s Mustang currently is on display in the corner showroom at Hagerty Insurance.

Mucha bought the car more than 40 years ago from the Ford dealership in Traverse City. Two dealers and one other owner clocked less than 2,000 miles on the car’s odometer in its first couple of years. Mucha remembers he paid less than $2,000 for the gently used car.

“She gave me hell,” he said, smiling toward his wife, Betty.

“Who drives a convertible in northern Michigan?” she shot back.

It didn’t take long to win her over, he added.

Since then, the family clocked about 80,000 miles on the car and hasn’t done much besides maintain it. The car became a centerpiece in weddings, proms, graduations and family picnics.

Ford has produced the Mustang for the past 50 years consecutively.

Mucha doesn’t drive the car much anymore - barely clocked 120 miles last year - but hopes one of his grandchildren will decide to preserve the classic.

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