Age difference can be overcome when it comes to love and attraction – we know that. If you’re in love, it doesn’t matter how much younger one person is. Still, Madison Miller’s situation is unique. She was just 6 when the lightning bolt struck.
“This has been my dream car ever since I was six years old and saw one at a car show,” she explains, her hand on the front fender of her burgundy 1966 Ford Mustang. “I started saving to buy one of my own.” When she received cash gifts for Christmas and her birthday, she saved the money, year after year, not squandering it on other things. When she was 14, in 2013, she found a Mustang for sale on the local craigslist. “I couldn’t even drive yet.”
The Mustang was all original, garaged here in the New River Valley. She had just enough money to buy it and showed the listing to her father, Eddie Miller. “He said, ‘Let’s take a look at it, make sure it’s okay,” she recalls. When they got there, her dad observed: “Looks like it’s in great condition.” And he let her buy it.
The car is almost entirely original and came with 25,000 miles on it. Today it has 26,700 miles. She is the car’s third owner and wants to keep it as original as possible. The Mustang’s paint is original, as is the interior, and almost the entirety of the mechanical parts. The inline-6 engine, for example, is the original engine. One upgrade the car has had is the addition of brake boosters.
Miller has repaired the car herself, with the help of her father. “He’s showed me how to work on it, and we replaced the alternator.” She drove her Mustang for the first time when she got her learner’s permit with her dad in the passenger’s seat. “It was so exciting,” she gushes. “It’s such a classic, sporty car.”
Miller takes the Mustang out on fun rides such as going out for ice cream or to the car shows hosted by NRV Classic Cruisers in Fairlawn and Bissett Park. “I like to go to the cruise-ins with my dad. Often, people will come up to me, and say, ‘Is this your dad’s car?’ And I respond: No, it’s mine.”
Miller’s daily driver is a 2015 Jeep Renegade. She has just graduated from New River Community College and will begin at Radford University in the fall for a bachelor’s degree in visual communications. In her free time, she likes to go antiquing, to yard sales and other sales, looking for things to resell in the antique booth at Charlotte’s Web II, formerly Cambria Emporium, she shares with her father and her boyfriend, Luke Underwood. The original Charlotte’s Web is still open in Salem.
The Mustang debuted on April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair as a reasonably priced 4-seat vehicle, and sales instantly and wildly exceeded expectations. Known as the first of the pony cars, 22,000 were sold on the first day (MSRP $2,368), and more than a million across the first year and a half.
A pony car refers to an affordable, stylish automobile with a sporty image. Soon after the Mustang’s impressive popularity and success came Pontiac’s Trans Am, the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro. The pony cars are smaller than muscle cars and characteristically sport a long hood and short rear deck. According to Ford, the Mustang was conceived as a “working man’s Thunderbird.”
Several stories emerge for its name. The original suggestion was naming the vehicle for the World War II fighter plane, P-51 Mustang, which sounded too airplaney-y, so the alphanumeric part was removed. Another story relates that cars were being named for animals, so a list of animals was submitted, and Mustang was selected. In any event, the Mustang has always evoked something a little wild and free, a little rebellious with charm to spare.
The earliest version, just two years younger than Miller’s, measured 180 inches long and featured a floor mounted shifter. Weighing in at under 2,500 pounds, it also cost less than $2,500. This pony stayed in the race, crossing a finish line when, in 2002, its top two competitors, the Camaro and the Firebird, ceased production. Camaros came back seven years later, and in 2014, Mustang once again galloped into the lead in sales for pony cars.
Miller has friends who have asked: “Why do you have such an old car?” Her answer to them: “Even though it’s older, it’s got style.” She is not alone in recognizing car style. As of August, 2018, more than 10 million Mustangs have been built in the U.S., and production and demand are still trotting along nicely. Miller is also in good company with Mustang owners like former president Bill Clinton, Jay Leno, Tim Allen, Patrick Dempsey and Charlie Sheen. Oh yeah, it’s got style.
Text by Karl H. Kazaks
Photos by Tom Wallace