Mustang Neal: what a lucky guy

Published 1:40 am Friday, November 25, 2011

Neal Titus is the only owner of this 1966 Ford Mustang fastback. (Submitted Photo)

Special to the Daily News
The dealership paperwork shows a purchase price of $2,600 on Sept. 9, 1966.
The new Ford Mustang was the same model his friend purchased in 1965 and that Neal Titus and his buddy used for double dates.
Long before computers were used to locate cars, people called car dealers to find out what new cars were available and their locations in the Carolinas. A match came back for the car that Titus dreamed of owning, and it was located in Greensboro, not far from his Roxboro home. When he arrived to look at it, he could not believe it was in a big field with lots of other cars. It happened to be in the middle, but it was easy for Titus to see because it was love at first sight.
Titus was 20 years old, soon to be a senior in college. He had $2,600 to spend on a new car. If he had $167 more, he could have gotten the higher horsepower V-8 motor and dual-exhaust package. He wanted a fastback and a three-speed, manual transmission. This car had those items. He talked the salesman into selling him the car for $2,600. After paying for the car, the first six months of insurance coverage and filling the gas tank, he had $5 left — enough to go on a date.
Titus picked up his girlfriend, Linda Hamlin, and drove toward the local Helena High School football game in Timberlake. On the way, three deer darted out on the road. Titus contends that while one passed him, another jumped over the car’s hood and the third deer stopped in its tracks and watched. The car missed the deer.
Titus and Hamlin were married in November 1968. He did not take the car to the wedding site, as he was afraid his buddies would mess it up.
Titus, a teacher, drove the car to school every day. He taught middle-school math and physical education at Chocowinity, and later in his career he was promoted to principal. He retired in 2004. He drove the car daily until sometime in the 1980s, when he decided to purchase another car for everyday duties.
He was never persuaded to sell the Mustang. Parting with it was unthinkable.
The car has 114,300 true one-owner miles on it. It is painted its original color of Wimbledon white. It has a red interior with the three-speed on the floor. It has been lovingly taken care of over the years. Its original radio still works. The lighter still works because Neal never smoked nor allowed any else to smoke in the car. The back seat folds down, and the rear air scoops are functional. Eventually, Titus added the dual-exhaust package to the car and had the engine rebuilt.
Forty-five years after buying the Car, Titus still owns it. Titus and his family live in Washington. As for the friend who owned the 1965 Mustang that lead Titus to buy his Mustang, Titus still keeps in touch with him.
Titus and his Mustang were the special featured owner and vehicle for the Down East Rods and Classics show held at Pecheles Ford in Washington on Oct. 22. Down East Rods and Classics honored Titus with a lifetime preservation award presented by Tommy Respass, club president.  Titus accepted the award, saying, “It is just a car.” Many of those who observed the presentation wished they had the keys and the title to that “just a car.”