By Charlotte Iggulden
Why Cars Mean Memories
Ever since its sensational arrival in 1964, the Classic Ford Mustang has continued to embody the American notion of freedom and individuality for its owners.
In 2020, Hollywood actor Jason Momoa surprised his wife Lisa Bonet, actress and philanthropist, by restoring the car she bought at age 17, a rare, sporty luxurious 1965 Ford Mustang GT convertible.
The finished product was a way for Momoa to rebuild nostalgic memories for his wife whilst creating new ones together and as a family. He revealed in an Instagram post that he had been planning this romantic gesture for as long as they had been together: “Aloha everyone, this is 14 years in the making. I wanted to surprise my wife with the first car she ever bought and bring it back to life and into our family.”
This article shines a light on Jason Momoa’s classic Ford Mustang restoration project.
After being discovered by designers Eric Chandler and Takeo Kobayashi, Hawaiian-born Momoa began modelling, then working part-time in a surf shop before being cast as Jason Ioane in Baywatch (1999-2001) when he was 20. He is now best known for playing tough, warrior roles, most notably in Game of Thrones and Aquaman films. He has also starred in Stargate Atlantis (2005-2009) and his own film, Road to Paloma (2014), alongside his wife, Lisa.
Described by Men’s Health as a modern man, the Aquaman star is spiritual and in touch with his emotions. He says, “I may look big and tough, but I’m not.” He also loves the outdoors and is ‘very midwestern,’ having grown up in Iowa. Jason says he appreciates well-designed things, owning a pink Cadillac named Bernadette and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The Classic Ford Mustang Restoration Video
Jason’s Mustang restoration project was documented in a short film titled ‘My Wife’s First Mustang,’ posted as a YouTube video on August 4, 2020. It was directed by Damien Bray for On the Roam, a creative production company founded by Momoa, who believes in quality storytelling through beautifully honest cinematic technique. The video is appropriately set to the nostalgic music of Colter Wall, including songs Sleeping on the Blacktop & Caroline from his album ‘Imaginary Appalachia.’
Having decided to outsource the work to professional mechanics, Jason took Lisa’s Mustang to restoration expert Misha Munoz and custom automotive builder Divine 1 Customs, based in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2019.
To help create a timeless look, the Mustang is first shown in vintage-style flashbacks.
Now rusty, with the removable top gone and interior worse for wear, the film follows the car’s full restoration, where it is taken apart then pieced back together into factory perfect condition, albeit with a few modifications.
Lisa Bonet’s 1965 Mustang GT convertible
The video does not reveal whether they found Lisa’s Mustang convertible or if she had kept it for sentimental value.
However, it is mentioned that she bought it when she was 17, around 1984. From what can be ascertained, her car is a ‘Silver Blue’ convertible with a white vinyl top.
Divine 1 Customs researched the model and found it was one of three built in 1965, presumably with the same combination of options. With many features available the year after the pony car’s introduction, Lisa’s classic Ford Mustang was originally custom built with lots of added extras. The camera appears to highlight the personalised touches and it seems her convertible included the sporty GT package and new deluxe interior décor group, known as the ‘Pony Interior.’
The Pony Interior featured special vinyl seat covers with embossed running horses, a 5-cluster instrument panel, pistol grip door handles, woodgrain steering wheel and appliques on the instrument cluster, glove box and centre console.
As a Mustang GT, this Equipment group included fog lights in the grille, dual exhausts, fog lamps, white GT side tripes, and circular dials.
The ‘289’ number on the side of the car suggests the Mustang was powered by one of three Ford V8 engine options: 2V 200hp, upgraded to 4V 225 hp, or 289 4V HiPo. The camera points to Carroll Shelby motors but his connection is unclear. The 1965 fastback had been the basis for the GT350.
With a base price of $2,614, the convertible had standard hardtop features except for cloth vinyl interior, with a vinyl-bonded top in white or black. It also had a Mustang emblem in centre grille, four metal spokes in front of a honeycomb grill, and an attractive windshield trimmed with chrome.
Out of 559,451 Mustangs and 73,112 convertibles produced in 1965, approximately 15,106 had the GT package and 5,338 had the luxury option. An Instagram user points out that by combining these interior options, alongside being a convertible, 4-speed manual transmission, optional dealer installed floormats, circular outside rearview mirror, luggage rack, and tachometer clock, made Lisa’s car exceptionally rare.
1965 Mustang Restoration Guide/Process
- After receiving the vehicle, Divine 1 Customs washed and hosed the Mustang inside and out, including the door panels.
- Moving it inside the garage, the mechanics dismantled the car, detaching the convertible roof, wheels, dashboard, pipes, honeycomb grill, doors, body panels, hood, luggage rack and rear lights.
- The threadbare fabric was taken off and presumably thrown away.
- The four-speed manual transmission was removed, and presumably reconditioned.
- The steering wheel, dials, and glass were also dismantled.
- Years of dirt was scraped off and rust removed, most notably on the passenger side door.
- The original small block 289 Ford engine was hoisted out, dusty and dripping in coolant.
- The body panels were rebuilt, and all dents removed.
- The floor was replaced with new sheet metal from Scott Drake, with bedliner treatment and complete underside.
- A completely new leather interior was fabricated, incorporating the original running mustang motif.
- Once everything was removed and preparation completed, the car underwent a total body respray at the paint shop by PPG Automotive Refinish. Instead of the original silver blue with white GT stripe, the car was painted a custom mix of pearl green over a black base, ending up a glossy black.
- The car was then reassembled. The motor, Mustang powered by Ford, was rebuilt, polished, and painted black. According to The Drive, the car is shown running with this engine at the beginning of the video. Divine 1 Customs say on their Instagram page that the engine was rebuilt by MSD performance, featuring a modern ignition system, aftermarket aluminium valve covers, EFI, coil distributor, and plug wires, alongside K&N filters for the oil.
- Divine 1 Customs gave the car a tasteful, full restoration with thoughtful attention to detail, including plenty of chrome, stainless steel, cup holders, new black soft top, and factory looking wheels. The nostalgic element was retained, including the four-speed manual transmission, three-spoke, woodgrain steering wheel, dashboard, and glove compartment.
A Romantic Gesture to Rebuild Memories
Although private about their personal life, the video suggests Momoa chose to make this special gift to relive a memory.
During their TV appearances, Jason and Lisa are known to express their belief that they were destined to meet. Momoa told James Corden on the Late Late Show that “it was more than love at first sight” and he knew she was the one when he first saw her: “Ever since I was 8 years old and I saw her on the TV [Cosby Show as Denise]. I was like, Mummy, I want that one… that’s my wife, she just doesn’t know it yet.”
Lisa has also called Jason “the love of her life,” saying “he is everything she hoped would come.”
The restoration video is narrated by Jason, revealing his desire to be a part of her past. His nostalgic, poetic ode aims to reawaken happy memories, “that first love, cruising by a lonely beach with the top down and saltwater air, feels like dancing over the ocean.”
“Bought with love and a smile,” the classic Ford Mustang had given Lisa a life of freedom, filled with incredible destinations, where “boundaries and limitations fade in the rearview [mirror] … The open road became a mirror to your soul… Beneath the thunder, and the pipes and a few hundred horsepower.”
Upon seeing the car and holding several photographs of it in its original state, Momoa emotionally confirms that it was a “Big dream come true…I never thought that it would look like this. To be in this passenger seat with my wife here and to surprise her, and our babies in the back, riding in her first car when she was 17. I’m excited to see her face.”
Unsurprisingly, his efforts were well received.
Jason Momoa’s Mustang restoration project represents a couple’s romance and a family’s journey.
In cynical modern times, and particularly within the Hollywood industry, his and Lisa Bonet’s connection and dedicated romance is refreshing, even on a Youtube channel.
Poignantly, the video ends with the lyrics to Caroline, “the grave in the garden won’t be satisfied until your name is next to mine.”
Author: Charlotte Iggulden
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