By Amanda Stringfellow @amanda_l_s

A MECHANIC has spent 20 years in his garage meticulously restoring one of Britain's first Ford Mustangs to its former glory

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Videographer / Director: Matt Writtle

Producer: Amanda Stringfellow, Nick Johnson

Editor: Kyle Waters

Frank Middleweek's 1964 pre-production Mustang

Frank Middleweek, from Woodford, Essex, is the proud owner of a pre-production 1964 Mustang - one of three shipped to Dagenham to promote the car's launch.

The 69-year-old first bought the car from a friend in 1987 after falling in love with the vehicle.

After checking the vehicle’s identification number Frank was astounded to realise the car pre-dated the release of the American automobile.

Frank, who has been married to wife Terry for 45-years, said: “It’s a piece of history that is 50-years old.

The Mustang in the early stages of its restoration in 1994

“I’ve always been into classic American cars and this car is special because it’s an iconic car - people stop and stare wherever you go.

“When I first saw the car I was the only person to notice the production date was March 5th.

“According to Ford they started making the cars on March 9th so I decided to do more research, I knew it was something special.”

Frank finally bought the car several years later for £900 and drove it for a year before parking it in his garage, with the intention of overhauling the car once he retired.

In the meantime he set about collecting original 1964 Mustang parts for the restoration.

The 1964 Mustang before any restoration work had taken place

Frank began tracking down the paperwork for the car to be able to establish its origins and its history.

He rang and wrote to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan - but was told they couldn't help.

Frank then contacted the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), who supplied him with the vehicle's history - but there was a hitch.

"The car's previous owner had put on a personalised number plate," Frank said.

"As a result, on the original registration document, the DVLA had put a new label over the top of the original, so it half-obscured the original registration number.

"The had I could see was written by hand, so some of the characters could have been other things."

Frank's motor is one of three shipped to Dagenham to promote the car's launch

He tracked down a file in Chelmsford Records Office in which listed all imported cars - before realising that it only covered second hand vehicles.

Unwilling to admit defeat, Frank visited the records office and discovered that the file had been there all along.

"I went back to the desk with the file reference and said 'have you got that file?' he said.

"Bear in mind this is the file that they'd told me a couple of years ago they hadn't got, and they said 'yes' and went and got it.

"I felt excited. I traced the three vehicles and they all still exist today. A friend of mine owns one in Nottingham, but it doesn't have all the original features.

The 69-year-old first bought the car from a friend in 1987 after falling in love with the vehicle

"The other one we couldn't find anywhere, and then one day I stumbled across it on the internet. Someone in England had the car and had emigrated to Australia and took it with him.

"I called him up and told him that he had a hand-built, pre-production Mustang and gave him the original registration."

After restoring it with authentic materials over two decades, Frank believes it is now worth over £100,000.

Frank said: “I rebuilt the car over a 20-year period – it was a labour of love.

“When I started the restoration, because the car was so old I decided I wanted to use genuine Ford parts.

“I stayed faithful to restoring the original vehicle, I got all the factory assembly manual so every nut and bolt is correct.

After restoring it with authentic materials over two decades, Frank believes it is now worth over £100,000

“New old-stock parts command a very high price, an original never used battery can cost up to £2,000, so I had to be clever with what I bought – sometimes I spent years searching for the right part.”

Two other pre-production Mustang now remains in the UK – but Frank’s says his is the only one to be restored with parts from the era it was made, using unused parts still in their original Ford boxes or wrapping.

Frank said: “It’s a pilot car, there’s lots of production difference from the normal model because it was assembled by hand.

“The doors are different, the wiring is different, there’s probably 300 minor differences.

“The most difficult part was replacing the convertible top, all the professionals let me down and it took me weeks to do to get it to a standard I’m happy with.”

Pilot car: there’s lots of production difference from the normal model because it was assembled by hand

And Frank’s 20-year restoration has payed off as he now spends his free-time enjoying the rare machine.

“I like the whole car, it’s just perfect,” the motor enthusiast said.

“People think ‘wow’ when they see it’s a Mustang - but don’t realise how rare it is.

“When they release it’s pre-production they're gobsmacked.

"The cheapest I’ve seen in the USA was $150,000 USD for a coupe which was a nice car but far from the best example as it was restored with pattern parts.

After checking the vehicle’s identification number Frank was astounded to realise the car pre-dated the release of the American automobile

“I wouldn’t part with mine for less than £100,000 GBP.

"There has been offers made over the years - whether they serious or not, I don't know. People always want to buy something they can't own.

"When it's not for sale, it doesn't matter how much they'd offer you.

"I'm 69-year-old, I'm 70 in June and I'm at the stage where I'm not in the best health - four years ago I had an emergency heart bypass, I've had two deep vein thrombosis, I've had both knees replaced.

"Unless they offer me that sort of money, I'd rather look at the car and get enjoyment that way."

 

Frank with two magazines from 1964 which feature his pre-production Ford Mustang

Adam Longmore, a specialist in 1964 to 1968 Mustangs, and owner of company Mustang Maniac, agrees with Frank’s valuation.

The business owner from Braughing, Ware, has been helping clients restore classic Mustangs for over 30-years.

Adam said: "In my opinion the car is worth in excess of a hundred thousand pounds - but as we know, it's worth what someone wants to pay on the day.

Frank melting the lead out of the seams on the Mustang's quarter panels in his garage. Pre-production Mustangs were given 'show car finish' - meaning the joins weren't visible, making them more palatable to the eye

"I don't think it will achieve that money in this country but certainly probably would do in the USA.

"It would have to go to someone who appreciates what a pre-production Mustang is."

Frank added: "My car is hard to value as it's a hand built pre-production and only around 200 where built in 1964 and there's only about 20 or so left in the world today.

Under construction: The vintage Mustang being restored in Frank's garage in 1994

"Some are nice and some are not, and models vary some are coupes, some convertibles.

“This car is an escape from reality, you have to really drive the car where modern cars just drive you.

“When you sit in it you feel like your back in the 60’s, everything’s back at a slower pace and it’s very enjoyable.”