- Story by Sean McIntyre Photographs by Don Denton
Colwood’s Shawn Kosmuk never considered himself a Mustang fan, but instinct and circumstance had other plans. For the past seven years, Shawn has been hard at work rebuilding a vintage 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1. With the car nearly restored to its original state, he’s prepared to concede he may have a little Mustang blood in his veins after all.
“I’ve been into cars my whole life, but I’ve never typically been a Mustang guy. I just like that body style, and everybody says 1969 is the year to have if you’re going to have one,” he says. “I see cars as art and this one looks beautiful to me.”
|Shawn Kosmuk stands with his 1969 Mustang at Esquimalt Lagoon.
Shawn may not have realized it at the time, but his connection to the classic car started when he was a child, watching 1968’s Oscar-winning Bullitt. The movie features actor Steve McQueen driving a 1968 Mustang in what film critic Emanuel Levy called “one of the most exciting car chases in film history, a sequence that revolutionized Hollywood’s standards.” The 11-minute ride through the streets of San Fransisco is widely thought to have cemented the film’s status as an instant classic.
Shawn may not be burning rubber and squealing turns amidst local landmarks like Fisherman’s Wharf and the Coit Tower, but he’s having a great time making do with the hills and curves of Southern Vancouver Island.
“It’s an absolute joy to go up around these hills. It smells and feels like you’re getting into a race car, and it’s just so freeing — you just go out for a cruise and listen to the engine,” he says. “I have so much fun driving it that it’s hard to find time to do the work on it.”
|Front grill and headlights on Shawn Kosmuk's 1969 Mustang at Esquimalt Lagoon.
Shawn figures he’s completed about 98 per cent of his restoration but jokes that work on a classic car is never really finished. He began working on it about seven years ago, when he picked it up near his former home near Caroline, Alberta, about 60 kilometres southwest of Red Deer. The car’s previous owner acquired it from a Seattle resident, but no longer had the time and energy to commit to what promised to be a massive restoration project.
“When I got it it was half yellow and half black. The original colour was lime green,” he says.
Shawn filled garbage bag after garbage bag with peelings from 11 layers of paint as he got down to bare metal. He carved out corrosion and welded in new rear-quarter panels, straightened out what appeared to be some minor collision damage on the front end and completely rebuilt the car’s 395-horsepower engine.
|View of motor in Shawn Kosmuk's 1969 Mustang.
When he moved to the coast about two years ago, the Mustang was one of the few personal possessions Shawn brought with him from the prairies. The result is a near-fully-restored classic muscle car that’’s attracting attention across the West Shore.
“Anytime I stop, I’m constantly getting thumbs up and whistled at,” he says. “It’s a typical muscle car. It’s a little bit loud, and it likes to go fast.”
Since the Mustang has its original suspension and drum brakes, driving it serves up one heck of a workout. And despite the car’s sleek exterior, Shawn says, its handling characteristics require a “special touch” behind the wheel — something that’s given Shawn a new appreciation for how far car technology has evolved in the 50 years since this car first hit the road.
“I can’t imagine what things were like before this because they thought this was amazing for its time,” he says. “It’s fun to drive, but it’s also a good reminder of how far we’ve come in such little time.”
|Rear view of Shawn Kosmuk's 1969 Mustang at Esquimalt Lagoon..