At first glance, Floridian Rick Nelson’s ’65 Mustang fastback looks to be a fine example of classic original styling and tasteful modern upgrades. Purists may quickly notice the non-stock American Racing Torque Thrust wheels, the disc brakes, the rebuilt powerplant, and freshened interior, but you’ll get no apologies from Rick. What you will get is a story of survival and renewal that will make you give this pony a second look.

“The car is an original, numbers-matching Ford Mustang GT A-code in Raven Black with a four-speed,” Rick told us. The two-owner car, which previously called New Jersey home, suffered typical northern wear before being left to the elements and parked for over 30 years.

Tampa, Florida, resident Rick Nelson’s 1965 GT has a story as deep as its Raven Black paint job.

The sleek fastback, wearing only a well-worn plastic tarp, succumbed to the winter snow, summer rains, and salt air before the ultimate disaster of Hurricane Sandy left the car submerged. Purchased from an estate sale in 2013 following the devastating storm, Rick shipped the car to Tampa, Florida, before embarking on a year-long rotisserie restoration.

“When I originally brought the Mustang home, it was in such bad condition that my wife Christine and daughter Grace started to affectionately call it the ‘Rustang,’” he sighed.

Years exposed to the elements and the devastation of hurricane Sandy left this New Jersey-based GT submerged.

“Neither my wife nor daughter had any hope for it and thought I had completely gone crazy,” Rick admits. “…The transmission, brake, and engine noise was so loud it announced the car coming several blocks away!”

Given the fact that Rick sold his fantastic, red 1965 Mustang Convertible, which his wife of 25 years Christine sanctioned as a 50th birthday present six months earlier, to buy this fastback, you can understand his family’s concern.

Seeing the potential of this factory GT, Rick transported the water-logged fastback to Tampa.


Early Influence

Growing up in the ’60s, Rick says he can still remember those early Mustang commercials on television. “I was mesmerized by the looks and sportiness of the car and told myself then I had to have one when I grew-up,” he said.

By high school Rick’s mom had married a Ford executive, which provided the impressionable young driver the enviable opportunity to see and drive the latest and greatest Fords.

“At 16 I was able to drive brand-new Thunderbirds, Grand Torinos, Mustangs, and a Maverick, which ended up becoming my first car,” he explained. “I really loved that Maverick, but still, owning a ’65-’66 Mustang eluded me.”

Rick credits Glenn Yudman, owner of Running Great Automotive in Tampa, with bring his Mustang back to life.

With several years of high school and part-time work under his belt, Rick set his sights on the local used-car lot. “There was a certain yellow 1970 Boss 302 that I really wanted,” Rick recalled.

It was immaculate, and pretty cheap by his recollection but stepfather Dan had concerns. “He said I would not be able to handle the car which, at the time, broke my heart, but he was probably right — I would have wrecked that car,” Rick conceded.

Today, with those youthful driving worries behind him, Rick says nothing compares to cruising in his Mustang.

“It’s the ride and the ambiance driving down the road that you can’t authenticate,” Rick said. “I love my daily driver, but you can’t forget the days of your young adulthood with the smell of gasoline, burnouts, the sound of the engine or the wind rushing through the window moldings whistling with every push of the gas pedal.”

A regular at Tampa area events, Rick’s ‘Rustang’ has come a long way.

Rick’s Mustang may no longer be bone stock, but he says that’s only enhanced his love for the car.

“The car designed to be designed by you,” may have been taken to the extreme thanks to hurricane Sandy, but for Rick Nelson his Raven Black GT will always be a survivor.