Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mustang Magic

It's probably around the year 2001. I had taken my 1966 Mustang completely apart and put it back together and needed some extra parts to finish it up. Parts from a 1966 car aren't easy to come by, the Internet wanted lots of money, and shipping larger parts is no fun. I even went to NAPA to try to buy some parts. The clerk at NAPA flatly told me that "My car was old" and that I "needed to buy a new one." Good thing they told me or I never would have known.

I asked around and eventually found a place called "Mustang Magic" that apparently had been operating since the sixties. I had some trouble finding it, I had to drive through a bad neighborhood and fight through a congested autopark. I could tell it was the store by the sight of two long rows of classic mustangs, some of them in good condition, some not. There were four garage bays, two for mechanical work, and the rest for auto body.

The door to the old building creaked open, it smelled like motor oil and old paper. There was little light, and little room, as standing room was limited by a long desk directly in front of the store. The walls were plastered with faded vintage automotive posters. A snake in a wire cage contentedly worked on digesting a small mouse. An older fellow was sitting behind the counter, and I just started talking to him about cars.

For hours.

His name was Lew, he was a real character, always joking, cynical and more energetic then you'd expect. Whenever you needed a part he'd wind his way through piles of junk and pull out just what you needed. I hung out at the shop as soon as I got off work, and learned to work on some very nice cars. Vintage mustangs were special in their own right, but that all changes when you're turning a wrench on a Shelby 500KR.

One of my favorites was when we got one fantastic looking restored Mustang up on the lift, and the drivers side floor pan had been fixed by welding a stop sign in under the car.

Time passed, eventually the exotic European repair shop across from Mustang Magic started to build an addition. As the cinder block walls were going up, Lew commented on how the workers had no clue what they were doing. A day later one of the walls fell.

(Click for a larger image)

All those classic cars, crushed in a rain of cinder. Lew was understandably devastated, but he was still energetic and knew he'd make it out of this. The winter was harsh, the snake died in the cold.

Some time passed, I lost my Mustang as well, but I still visited Lew. He had grown more cynical, and didn't smile anymore.

The insurance company classified it as an "Act of God" and refused to pay him a cent. Not all of the cars belonged to Lew, and the owners were suing him for the price of their crushed cars. Business had dried up, and the city told him to move his junk heaps.

One day I came to visit, and the shop was gone. Lew, the cars, the tools, everything. No one knew where. I never saw him again.

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