It was the late ‘90s and teen Dan Wilson was living his dream of driving a 1965 Mustang GT. Dan and his dad had spent hours together in their garage in Denton, Texas, working on the car: rebuilding the front end, putting on a new vinyl top, and even painting it themselves. That Mustang took Dan anywhere he needed to go, including to pick up dates for homecoming and prom.
“I really loved that car,” Dan remembers. “It was kind of part of my identity.”
But as high school drew to a close, Dan knew the time to part with his Mustang was fast approaching. The family’s plan had always been to raise the value of the car by updating it and then selling it to help pay for Dan’s mission. So, after being called to serve in Salt Lake City, Dan left the beloved Mustang with his parents for them to sell while he was gone.
“There was a part of me that hoped they wouldn’t sell the car,” Dan says. “In the back of my mind, I was hoping they would keep it, and when I got home it would be sitting in the garage waiting for me. But [my parents told me], ‘No, no. It’s totally gone.’”
Dan’s life moved along after he returned from his mission, but when he saw cars that looked like his old Mustang out on the road, his heart would drop, and he dreamed about finding a way to get his back. In fact, he occasionally looked up the car’s VIN number, allowing him to keep an eye on the car. At one point, Dan contacted the current owner to ask about the Mustang, and it turned out the owner was interested in selling. But Dan had two young kids and limited garage space and knew it just wasn’t the time to buy it back. So he kept waiting.
About seven years later, Dan and his wife, Amber, built a new home near Houston, Texas, and finally had the space and means to bring the Mustang back—if the owner was willing to sell.
Using the car’s VIN number, Dan found a phone number for the owner. In the fall of 2022, he sent the number a text and subsequently learned that his Mustang was now in Washington, DC, and was owned by an older gentleman who had a small car collection. Dan explained his history with the Mustang, even sending a photo of himself standing by the car in 1997. He told the gentleman that if he was ever interested in selling, to let Dan know.
Unfortunately, this DC gentleman was not interested.
But to Dan’s delight, about a week later, the man called him back again—the owner was willing to sell. After several weeks of negotiating a price, Dan surprised his dad and flew them both from Houston to DC to go and look at the car.
“Honestly, I didn’t really get too hopeful until we got up there to make the deal, because [I was thinking] this deal could fall apart at any time, or the car could be in terrible shape, or just something would go wrong,” Dan says.
But nothing went wrong. The Mustang was just how Dan and his dad remembered it.
“The inside of the car smelled and looked just the same as it did when I was in high school. It brought back memories of going cruising with my sisters, going on dates, or driving faster than I should have,” Dan says.
So, he signed the paperwork. And 25 years after he had sold it to serve a mission, the 1965 Mustang was back home in Dan’s garage once again. In a Facebook post, he says it feels a bit like a “fairy tale.”
And now, just like his dad once did with him, Dan has been working on the car with his own teenage son, JD, who will soon leave on a mission.
“It’s come full circle with me in the parental role,” Dan says. “The Mustang was one of the vehicles, quite literally, that got me on my mission. And here my son is, weeks away from going on his mission, and we’ve been able to turn wrenches and do things together on that car.”
He added that for him, this is an example of how giving up something you love for a greater cause can work out in the long run.
“It would have been fine to never see this car again, and for most people that is the case. I feel truly blessed and fortunate to be able to buy it back. … I’m not blind to the fact that it is truly a blessing to see this come full circle: [I had] something that was near and dear to me at that time of life and [I was] willing to walk away from it to serve a mission, and [now] to have it come back around is a blessing.”
Dan’s son, JD, will report to the Brazil Missionary Training Center on September 20 before serving in Salvador, Brazil. JD earned money for his mission through a lawn mowing business he started and is grateful the Mustang will still be there when he returns home.
But more importantly, he is grateful for what he’s learned from his dad during the time they spent together in the garage.
“I’d like to be someone [like my dad] who can be relied upon by others. There is a comfort and security that comes from knowing how to do things and how to fix things,” JD says.
Dan is sending JD out to the mission field not only as his father but also as his bishop. And Dan says his willingness to serve as bishop goes back to his choice to walk away from the Mustang and serve a mission.
“A mission is where I learned to truly help other people, to not think about myself,” Dan says. “It’s where I strengthened my testimony and decided the kind of person that I wanted to be in life, the kind of person I wanted to marry, and how I wanted to raise my children. It was probably the single most influential decision of my life.”