Finding an even better Mustang

John Ludes' gorgeous Sunset Pearl ’65 Mustang glows like a nuclear reactor's core in bright winter sunlight. The car was a “replacement” for an earlier Mustang that Ludes owned in high school.
John Ludes' gorgeous Sunset Pearl ’65 Mustang glows like a nuclear reactor's core in bright winter sunlight. The car was a “replacement” for an earlier Mustang that Ludes owned in high school. The Wichita Eagle

John Ludes was thrilled back in high school when his dad, Buddy Ludes, bought a ’66 Mustang coupe as a father-son project, even if it was a 6-cylinder car.

“He figured I’d be getting tickets in it if it had a V-8,” Ludes recalled.

“The idea was to get it looking good and have a good, safe car,” his father explained.

And looking good it did, in bright red, with chrome wire wheels. They used parts off a cousin’s wrecked Mustang to finish the project. But when Ludes went off to college at Fort Hays State, he left the Mustang behind.

“When I came home on spring break, the Mustang wasn’t in the garage. I said, ‘Dad, where’s the Mustang? Are you getting it worked on?’ And he said, ‘Nope, I sold it. It was just sitting there collecting dust.’”

Needless to say, it wasn’t Ludes’ favorite spring break.

“But that created the desire to always want another one,” he said. “You know, one of those deals where you’re looking for your old toys. I’d been looking for Mustangs for six or seven years on the internet.”

Most of the cars were too far away to go look at and in too rough a condition for Ludes, who took his uncle, Gerald Squiers’ advice on what to look for.

“He’s a real hot rodder. He said you would be better to go and buy one that’s completed, buy it done and then just go have fun with it.”

Four years ago, he thought he had found just what he was looking for in Castle Rock, Colo., listed on craigslist. But before he could follow through on contacting the owner, the listing was gone, so he figured he had missed his chance.

“Then a couple or three months later, it was back on,” he said. This time, he and his dad wasted no time driving out to check out the car, a slick 1965 Mustang 2+2 painted in deep, shimmering Sunset Pearl paint.

“It was so bright when he got it out of the garage, we literally had to put our sunglasses on. It was blinding. In daylight, it really pops,” Ludes said. “I told him we would be back the next week with a truck and trailer.”

The 2+2 fastback, introduced later in the first year of production, totaled just over 77,000 of the nearly 681,000 1965 Mustangs produced. Ludes’ version evidently spent most of its early years in California, where it underwent an extensive rebuild/restoration from 2005-2007.

“It was an original A-code car, with a 289 V-8 and a T-10 4-speed transmission,” Ludes said. The rebuild included the flawless Sunset Pearl paint job and a set of 15-inch American Racing flat-spoke mag wheels. The car is equipped with Shelby performance exhaust headers, Magnaflow mufflers and Ford Racing valve covers, as well as a chromed strut bar under the hood. Disc brakes have been added up front.

Inside, a pair of low-back Mustang Pony bucket seats in black vinyl offer about all the seating that’s ever needed. The rear seats are usually folded flat when Ludes and his dad are on the road to area car shows, or just cruising down to the Cozy Inn to pick up a bag of hamburgers..

“The best thing about the car is driving it. Every time you go out in it, somebody comments on it,” Buddy Ludes said.

“Whether it’s a 9-year-old kid or an 80-year-old lady, everybody knows a Mustang,” added John.

One of the high points of owning the brilliant orange fastback was winning the Wounded Warriors award at the Belleville car show, he said.

“It was really cool. My granddad was a veteran. They gave us a plaque, a coin and a flag signed by all the wounded veterans. We were very, very honored by that.”

Ludes has had to do very little to the car aside from routine maintenance, like repairing the brakes. So he is convinced his uncle’s strategy of buying a completed car makes perfect sense for him, instead of spending years investing tons of money in a project car.

“He has every receipt ever done on the car, and John’s been offered a lot more money for that car than he paid for it,” said his father.

“When I tell him about the offers, his eyes light up a little too much,” laughed John Ludes. “And no, he’s not selling this Mustang.”

But he said he’s long since forgiven his dad for selling the first one.

“My dad and I have had a lot of fun with this car. I guess I’ll let him drive it,” he said.

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