A spray painter by trade, Michael Leeson is accustomed to seeing a new coat of paint transform a car but could not have imagined the irresistible blue he was about to discover after buying a 1969 Mustang convertible.
The Goulburn car enthusiast bought the Mustang in Ballarat in 2007. One of five imported from America, it had been resprayed red. The only indication of its original colour was in the accompanying documentation, known as the Marti Report. This recorded ‘winter blue’ and a code, which coupled with research was enough for Michael to mix into the Mustang’s original, wondrous colour.
After much preparation, rubbing back and priming, four coats of colour and three coats of clear lacquer over the top of the colour were applied on the engine bay, exterior and underneath the car which was turned upside down for the job.
“Wow. That is a nice colour,” Michael had thought at the time, pleasantly surprised by the shimmering result. When paired with the Mustang’s sleek style the gorgeous blue turns heads and creates excitement and a sense of occasion.
The 1960s Mustangs emerged from what pundits say is the Ford automotive industry’s most innovative decade when they turned around the flailing fortunes of the car manufacturer.
Jump forward to 2022 when Goulburn Mulwaree Council, organising a street parade to honour Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ellen Ryan, asked Michael to provide the rare blue Mustang convertible. “It was an awesome thing to be asked to do, I’m very proud to have been able to do it,” he said.
That packed parade was due reward after Michael’s long search for a 1969 model and turning the un-drivable, unloved car initially imported as a donor car – one to be stripped for parts for another Mustang – into a showpiece.
“I knew exactly what I was buying,” he said. “It didn’t have carpet so I could see the floor in bad condition, but there was nothing hidden, I knew what I was buying.”
Taking his time on the restoration he divided it into sections, setting a fresh goal for each step – the brakes, the boot – and not moving on until completely satisfied each segment was completed. “I didn’t look at the car as a whole, a lot of people get lost that way,” he said.
The motor, gearbox, diff, brakes and every other nut and bolt were taken out. Michael and a friend, Roger Emerton, totally rebuilt the engine. All the dashboard instruments were sent away, recalibrated and reinstalled.
Discarding the worn-out black interior he relied on the compliance plate to establish the original interior had been white and worked alongside a motor trimmer installing new white vinyl covers for the seats and door trims.
“I wanted to be hands-on with pretty much everything,” he said. “There wasn’t much left of the hood so I purchased the white trim for it; the motor trimmer also fitted that which was the first one he had ever fitted.” Two hydraulic rams fold the hood into the rear of the car, a remarkable feat back in 1969.
More than six years had elapsed before Michael dared take his pride and joy out on the road. After firing up the V8 engine (which comes to life with a deep, hearty burble) he nosed the Mustang gingerly down the driveway.
“I was panicking the first day I drove it around the block,” he said. “I only went 100 metres up the road if that, then turned around and came back.
“I went that little but further each time I took it out,” he said.
“If a cloud appears in the sky I’ll race home,” he says, laughing. His first big trip to a Canberra car show ended when the fine weather turned cloudy. Making a dash for home he discovered the wipers were shot. They were the only items not replaced. He still shakes his head with a smile at his simple oversight.
Since then, the Mustang has won at Laggan, Campbelltown’s All-American Day and Canberra for best convertible and amassed several trophies too.
While many Australian enthusiasts like to change left-hand drive Mustangs into right-hand drive, Michael has retained the left-hand drive and has a timber-trimmed steering wheel. He services the car which generally amounts to a grease and oil change because he travels for only short distances.
Each time the covers come off its gleaming body he gets a charge of satisfaction and as the Mustang sweeps around a corner or cruises along the highway joyous shouts of approval follow in its wake. “I’ve always loved the Mustangs and being a Ford bloke, I just wanted a Ford Mustang,” Michael said.