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5 Questions: Mechanicsburg father-son restoration project rolls into this weekend's Carlisle Events Ford Nationals
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5 Questions: Mechanicsburg father-son restoration project rolls into this weekend's Carlisle Events Ford Nationals

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A brilliant blue 1972 Mustang Mach 1 will no doubt attract the attention of visitors to the Carlisle Events Ford Nationals show this weekend.

It’s a good bet the car wouldn’t have been as enticing back when Joe Zelinski and his son, also Joe but known as JT, first found it in Mount Holly Springs. The car was more rust than metal, but the father-son duo worked on restoring it for more than four years.

The Mustang will be part of a display celebrating the anniversary of the “Big Horse Mustang,” featuring a range of 1971-1973 Mustangs including a rare Shelby Europa, an Olympic Spring Edition Ford Mustang, an original survivor Boss 351 Mustang and other restored and custom cars from the era.

The Ford Nationals show runs from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. to noon at the Carlisle Fairgrounds. The event marks the return of the downtown Ford Parade and Street Party at 7 p.m. on Saturday. More details are available at the Carlisle Events website, www.carlisleevents.com.

Mustang Restoration 2

JT Zelinski had hoped to have a 1972 Mustang Mach 1 restored for his prom at Cumberland Valley. It wasn't ready in time for the prom, but was ready for his wedding day with his wife, Katie.

Q. How did you find the 1972 Mustang and what condition was it in at the time?

A. My son was the one who found the car. He really wanted a project car to restore and drive to his senior prom at Cumberland Valley. He was a junior at the time. I was very reluctant at first, stating the obvious; no time, no funds, no interest. However, between his mother, Jolene, and himself, they wore me down for which I am extremely grateful. He had seen a classified ad for the car. We went to look at it and after the inspection I was not interested, but he was excited. The owner had been racing the car at the South Mountain Dragway. It was in very rough shape. Typical lots of rust, but it had potential. We negotiated with the owner and actually drove it home that night. Not sure if we should have driven it after we got it home seeing the true condition; extreme rust and rot. In fact the floor pans, wheel wells and trunk floor were all but gone. The motor was leaking oil everywhere. The quarter panels had over four inches thick of body filler covering the holes. What had we gotten into?

Mustang Restoration 3

This 1972 Mustang Mach 1 was taken from a rusty shell to an award-winning car during a father-son restoration project.

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Q. When you have a car in that condition in front of you, where do you start?

A. The first thing we did was to strip the car down removing all interior components. We then took inventory as to what we may need as replacement parts such as wheel wells, fenders, floor pans and began the search for these items. Some were available locally but most came from internet searches. There are parts in the car from Miami, Houston, LA and Seattle. I am not sure how anyone could do this prior to the internet. Not all of the body panels were available and we had to fabricate some of the items such as firewall to floor pan extensions. At this point, I realized that in order to complete the car properly, there was no way it would be ready for the prom. JT and I discussed and he had reached the same conclusion. We just pushed on completely rebuilding the engine, the transmission, all electrical, bodywork, painting and interior. After four and a half years, it was ready for the street. I have entered the car at Ford Nationals at Carlisle every year since completing the restoration and it has won awards each year. We must have done something right.

Mustang Restoration 4

The interior of Joe and JT Zelinski's 1972 Mustang Mach 1 was in poor condition when they bought it in Mount Holly Springs.

Q. What was the most challenging part of the project?

A. Finding the parts that I needed. We just couldn’t go to a store and buy them off the shelf. Extensive research was required so that it was as authentic as possible.

Mustang Restoration 5

The restored interior of Joe and JT Zelinski's 1972 Mustang Mach 1.

Q. What was most rewarding about working on the project as a father and son?

A. The time we got to spend together.

Q. If I’m doing the math correctly, the project has been finished for almost 10 years. What have you been doing with the car since?

A. Your math is correct. The restoration has been completed a little over 10 years now. We have taken to various car shows, parades, Sunday drives and the PA Auto Show. All of this was dependent on weather permitting. The car has only been in the rain two times both at Carlisle during the Ford show. It has also seen snow once when returning from the Farm Show building after the PA Auto Show. Even though JT did not get to drive the car to his senior prom, he did drive it to his wedding.

Photos: 2019 Carlisle Ford Parade

Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.

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