FAIRFIELD — Carol Marini met her powder blue V-8 hardtop Mustang, then a lime gold color, at Al Eames Ford in Antioch on March 8, 1968, where she and her then-husband bought it for $3,200.
“We had an Opel before and that was nothing but trouble,” Marini said of the vehicle she nicknamed, “the Blue Beast.”
For the next four decades, it would be the only car that Marini drove. After 43 years, three engine overhauls, two transmission overhauls and five paint jobs (one of which turned it to powder blue), its odometer ticked over 800,000 miles. As of Wednesday, the odometer read 823,590 miles.
Ford Motor Company made a video of the odometer as it passed 800,000. The video can still be found on YouTube.
“Very few cars of any make or model have as many miles as mine,” said the 69-year-old.
Proper maintenance has been the key to keeping her car running this long, she said.
The two have been through several automotive tribulations, including an engine fire, blown engines, transmission problems, worn-out brakes and rust.
They have also stayed together through personal problems such as a divorce, the loss of the home she lived in for 38 years and the loss of her life savings from a Ponzi scheme that she said forced her to live hand-to-mouth in rented rooms until she was recently able to qualify for Section 8 housing.
“My beloved Mustang is about all I have now. It was my means of salvation, refuge and means of escape,” said Marini, who said she would take her car for long drives when things got too overwhelming for her. “Whenever things got too stressful, I got in my car and drove.”
Now, on the verge of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the development of the Mustang, Marini is seeking sponsors so she can participate in April’s Mustang 50th Anniversary Pony Drive, which involves caravans of Mustangs driving from both coasts to meet in Mustang, Okla., for two days of Mustang-related events.
“This would be the wonderful opportunity of a lifetime,” Marini said. “I would love to see the country in my beloved Mustang.”
One of the caravans is scheduled to start March 3 in Sacramento and make its to Oklahoma. After the cerebration there ends, any interested drivers can then travel to motor speedways in Charlotte, N.C., or Las Vegas.
Marini said that taking part in this would be impossible for her without some financial sponsorship.
“If there is one car that demonstrates the longevity and durability of the Mustang, it is mine.” Marini said.
It has been 50 years since the first Mustangs went on sale April 17, 1964. More than 9.2 million have been sold, making it one of the most iconic and popular cars in automotive history.
It has given rise to competitors such as the Chevrolet Camaro, the Pontiac Firebird and AMC Javelin, but none have reached the legendary car culture status the Mustang enjoys.
The Mustang has since not only made its appearance on roads around the world, but also countless movies, television shows and even postage stamps.
Marini stuck with her Mustang, “because I loved the style of the car, because it had a personality, because it had character.”
Maintaining it has also given her knowledge of auto maintenance.
“As problems developed, I learned how to fix them. If I was not able to, at least I could tell the mechanic what the source of the trouble was,” Marini said. “It is important for women to understand how to take care of their cars.”
While it may not be the most fuel-efficient ride these days, she said her now 46-year-old Mustang “has been paid for many times over.”
“It is still my daily driver after 45 years,” Marini said. “I have speed when I need it, but I am a very conservative driver.”
The closest brush Marini came to losing her car was in 2009, when the engine caught fire in a mall parking lot. Luckily someone dashed out of the nearby Macy’s store armed with a fire extinguisher and put the fire out.
Marini now considers her Mustang a lifelong companion. “The car and I will be together until the end,” she said.
Anyone interested in helping Marini take part in the Mustang 50th anniversary drive can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 ors email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.