In 1977, when he was 18 years old and working in a Virginia grocery, Buster Moore bought himself a candy-apple-red ’68 Mustang. “I loved it to death. I thought it was absolutely cool.”The sporty Sprint model wasn’t his first car, he says, but “it was the first decent one.”Then he turned around and gave it to his high-school-senior girlfriend, Vickie, and got another car for himself. He figured, “If we broke up, I get my car back.”“It was a nice gesture,” remembers Vickie, as the couple sits now in their living room in Concord. She had been riding to work with a friend in a car that, she says, “we had to stop and put water in.” Plus, it had no heater.The Mustang didn’t particularly impress her, even though the zippy little cars had taken the auto world by storm after Ford introduced them in 1965. Vickie soon repaid his magnanimous gesture by presenting him with his Mustang mangled from a car accident. A woman ran into her and a rear quarter panel was crushed. “Oh, my goodness. I was a nervous wreck,” she remembers. “I hated to have to take that car home to him.”But Buster then made what may have been the best move of his life: “He made sure I was OK first,” she says. But after that, he admits, “I wanted to wring her neck.”The car, which wasn’t badly damaged, was fixed, the romance survived, and Vickie and Buster married the next year. He hid the Mustang. “I didn’t want anybody messing the car up with shaving cream and shoe polish. Only four people knew where it was.” What had been their dating car became their “grocery-getter,” and Buster went to work for Philip Morris in Richmond. When the company asked for volunteers to move to the plant in Concord, the Moores – and the Mustang – came along. He drove it to work his first day at the cigarette maker, and his last, says Buster, 52. He retired in 2008.In 1997, he became concerned about some rust spots, “and the more I looked, the more I found,” he says ruefully. He solicited the help of a friend, Kevin Yeargin of Carolina Pony Cars in Monroe. The two had worked together on NASCAR race cars in Richmond – Yeargin as salaried employee for the Junie Donlavey team, Buster as volunteer.Yeargin had moved to Charlotte with the Bob Whitcomb racing team, worked for driver Alan Kulwicki’s team, and then opened his own restoration shop.He wasn’t thrilled about the state of Vickie’s Mustang, he says, wondering why they didn’t just gut it. So they did, with Buster working during spare moments over the next few years. Kevin and his crew, which includes his dad, Jim Yeargin, did the body work and painting. Buster did the mechanical and electrical work. Not only was he working full-time at Philip Morris, he says, he signed up for overtime “to support my habit” – the restoration.By 2004, the rust was gone, the motor had been salvaged and rebuilt, and the exterior – treated to a modern two-coat paint job – surpassed the original in luster and shine. The Moores were ready to try it out. Their inaugural drive was 4,000 miles, when they joined thousands of other restored vehicle owners traveling from Texas to Wisconsin on the 1964 Hot Rod Power Tour.They didn’t mind starting out with a classic car on such a drive, Buster says. “I had more faith than I had doubts. I had faith in myself, the mechanical and electrical part.” He also trusted his brother and a friend who rebuilt the engine.Now the Mustang mostly goes to car shows or cruises area roads. It sits in a place of honor in the Moores’ three-car garage, near a case displaying more than 40 trophies it’s won. Its paint catches the sunlight, its black vinyl seats gleam and the prancing pony on the front grille declares it to be what it was in ’68: Ford Motors’ siren song to the young. Fuzzy red dice with black spots hang from its mirror. And now Buster is rebuilding another Mustang for Vickie. She wants air conditioning and power steering, he says, two things the ’68 Mustang doesn’t have. This one is a ’69 Mustang MACH 1, considered in its day a muscle car. Buster, who often has the carcass of an old car or two sitting amongst the family’s five drivable vehicles, was selling the parts from a MACH 1 when Vickie told him to keep the car; she wanted one.He found another in Waxhaw instead, and once again, he and Kevin stripped it down, keeping only the roof and rocker panels. Then Buster started poring over parts catalogs.He ended up spending far more than the $3,000 to $3,500 the original ’69 cost, he says. Just buying parts, “I spent five grand in one day.” The restored ‘69 has a sloping back roof, accentuated with metal louvers over the back window. But unlike the original, this one not only has air conditioning, power brakes and automatic transmission with overdrive, it has a custom color scheme chosen by Vickie after she saw a somewhat similar design on a diecast car at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer. Silver stripes stand out against the black of the chassis.Even though he’s president of the Ford Owners Association of the Carolinas and a familiar figure at classic car shows, Buster insists he’s not a purist. “I want it like it was, but better.” He expects to have the MACH 1 ready to roll onto the highway by Christmas. Vickie, he says, “is thrilled to death.” With two classic Mustangs, they could end up competing against each other at car shows.Vickie has come a long way from her teen years, when she says she wasn’t really that interested in cars. That’s why, she laughs, there’s no truth to his mother’s assertion that she married him because of the Mustang.“But ” she laughs, teasing him. “That helped,” he finishes the sentence. Remaking the classics, “is fun for me,” he says. “It’s something to make her smile.”
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