Bob Bentz Jr.’s boyhood fascination with Mustangs that was ignited when he and his father began restoring their first coupe in 1982 has turned into a garage full of the classic cars that surely would make even a Ford executive jealous.
Bentz Jr. bought his first Mustang – a “red on red” 1964½ coupe that was the car’s premiere on the road – for $3,500 when he was just 16 years old. He and his father spent years replacing or repairing many of the parts on the car, and they both caught the classic car bug with that experience.
Now their gleaming collection resembles a car museum, paying homage to Ford’s cult classic that is now celebrating 50 years on the road. Each of the more than 40 cars, most of them Mustangs, the father and son duo has restored over the years has a different story behind it. Their sprawling garage on their Morris Township property holds coupes, convertibles, Shelby and BOSS editions and even a rare Hertz rental version with a souped-up engine.
Right in the middle is that original “red on red” car that still has sentimental value even if it doesn’t command the same resale value as many of the other 25 Mustangs they currently own.
“That’s one I did a long time ago. That car needed a lot of work,” said Bentz Jr., who is now 48. “This is probably my worst restoration because it was one of the first ones.”
Over the years, they’ve purchased one Mustang from each model year between 1964 and 1973 during the peak of the muscle car era, along with a few other specialty years and editions. The Hertz car produced in the late 1960s could be rented for $19.95 a day and was often raced on weekends before being returned, Bentz Jr. said. Another 1973 Mustang convertible was purchased from a man who had two daughters and “didn’t want to cut the car in half” for their eventual inheritance.
“I used to drive him crazy saying, ‘Pap, let’s go take a look at that one.’ You have to (restore) them, then you have to sell some of them to make money and keep going,” Bentz Jr. said. “Buy something cheap just to get you started.”
They milked cows on Bentz Sr.’s dairy farm during the day and would spend their free time working on cars in a three-bay garage. When Bentz Sr. sold his farm in Morris Township to Consol in 1994, it gave them a chance to ramp up their obsession and build a climate-controlled garage for the cars on their new property near Prosperity.
The process is most satisfying as they continue to look for new Mustangs to perfect or totally rebuild. Bentz Sr., 84, said he now enjoys polishing the chrome and paint to get the cars to sparkle.
“You know what it looked like before and remember all of the work you’ve put into it,” Bentz Sr. said.
Bentz Jr. celebrated the Mustang’s golden anniversary this year by purchasing a special edition Shelby GT 500 with a 662-horsepower engine. He plans to drive it across the country one day and hopes to visit each state with it.
“I’ve waited a long time for this car,” Bentz Jr. said.
That special edition hotrod will be on display for the Classics on Main car show on July 13 during the weekend’s Whiskey Rebellion Festival in Washington. Bentz Jr. said his wife, Candice, plans to bring a 1973 Mustang convertible to the car show along South Main Street that runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.