When Jason Prock saw a 1994 Mustang Cobra advertised for $3,000, he couldn't resist. "I just saw it and liked it," he said. "It's hard to explain. It's a faster, better model than the regular Mustang. They're good cars."
He called up the seller, Ryan Kadolph, and said he was interested.
"I said, 'Just come out and look at it,' " Kadolph recalled. "He said, 'I can't look at it. I'm in Iraq.'
"At first, I didn't believe it. It sounded like he was calling from across the street."
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During that conversation, Kadolph came to realize he was dealing with a Halstead police officer who was indeed in Iraq on his second tour of duty as a member of the Army National Guard.
Kadolph said he reluctantly agreed to sell — sight unseen — a car with chipped paint and serious engine problems to an American soldier.
When Prock returned home from Iraq on Wednesday, he expected to pick up a car in serious need of repair. Instead he found that Kadolph and several other businessmen had pooled their resources and turned the Cobra back into the sleek muscle car it was meant to be.
Prock's wife, Sara-Nicole, kept the secret for several months as work on the car proceeded.
"I'm just really amazed," she said. "They did a really good job."
Kadolph, who owns Auto Pros at 3801 W. Pawnee, said he originally bought the car as a project.
"I had every intention of fixing up and selling it,'' he said.
Kadolph said he never got around to fixing the car, and decided in May to sell it as a broken car.
After Jason Prock bought the car, Sara-Nicole Prock stopped by Kadolph's shop to take a look.
"When I first saw the car it was a mess," she said. "There's no other way to describe it. The paint was all chipped off. It sounded horrible. It was a nightmare."
But then she got a surprise: Kadolph told her he was going to fix it.
"I said, 'How much is it going to cost?' " she said. "He said, 'Nothing.' Basically he wanted to do something for a soldier.
"I think he was utterly shocked that somebody from Iraq would call him about the car."
Kadolph tackled the heavy engine work.
"The heads were bad," he said. "The No. 5 intake valve was leaking pretty severely."
Russ Bynum, a sales representative for BG Products, donated transmission and rear differential fluid.
"My son's in Iraq, so it was real easy for me to donate," he said.
A few other area businesses helped out with parts and a fresh coat of paint.
Jason Prock said he is indebted to everyone who contributed.
"I'm definitely going to tell all my friends about it," he said.