Mark Boettcher, wearing a Mustang-inspired shirt, went to California in 1997 to purchase his 1993 Ford Mustang 5.0.

Mark Boettcher, wearing a Mustang-inspired shirt, went to California in 1997 to purchase his 1993 Ford Mustang 5.0.

Photo by Patricia O’ Blenes

Behind the Wheel: Brothers bond over classic cars

By: Maria Allard | Metro | Published August 11, 2022

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 Don Boettcher’s 1968 Chevy Corvette was his passion. His brother Mark inherited the car.

Don Boettcher’s 1968 Chevy Corvette was his passion. His brother Mark inherited the car.

Photo provided by Mark Boettcher


METRO DETROIT — Thinking back to his childhood in metro Detroit, Mark Boettcher remembers the four-speed 1968 Chevrolet Corvette that his older brother, Don Boettcher, owned.

With a black interior and exterior, the 427 big-block automobile stood out. Don was living on his own, and Mark remembers his older sibling always working on the car.

“My earliest memory was in 1980 when he was sanding the flares over the tires. He was sitting on a milk crate in his garage,” Mark said. “I thought, ‘This thing is awesome. It’s a beast.’”

Don’s car culture influenced Mark, a 1988 graduate of Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, and in 1997, the younger Boettcher traveled to California to purchase a 1993 Ford convertible Mustang 5.0.

Don died from cancer in 2018, but the Corvette has stayed in the family with Mark, who is the youngest of six children and who, today, resides in Clinton Township.


‘He put his own touch on it.’
At age 18, Don Boettcher told his dad — also named Don Boettcher — that he was in the market to buy his first-ever hot rod. After saving $800 from shoveling snow and cutting lawns, the young man was ready for his own set of wheels.

“Can you imagine that?” was what the family patriarch thought of his son wanting to get a sports car.

In 1974, the two Dons shopped around for the perfect vehicle. When they pulled up to a converted gas station on Lawndale Street, in Detroit near Dearborn, Don had found his Corvette. The price tag was $2,500, and he applied for a loan to purchase the vehicle.

“I took him to the bank,” the elder Don recalled.

Over several years, Don paid off the car in regular installments. Don could often be spotted driving the ’68 Corvette around Telegraph Road and Grand River Avenue. He also made several changes to the car. According to Mark, he swapped out the timing chain for a gear drive, which made it sound like a blower. He set in place aluminum needle-bearing roller rockers and a Canton windage tray oil pan. The Harley-Davidson motorcycle company enthusiast extended the front, molded in a front air dam, and removed the pop-up headlamps.

“He put his own touch on it,” Mark said. “This is one of a kind.”

Mark — broker/owner of Lawyers Realty LLC in Mount Clemens — has owned his Mustang for 25 years. It was his high school dream car, and after searching high and low, “I found it in April of ’97 online,” he said. “I knew I wanted a western car.”

On May 7, 1997, Mark flew to San Francisco. He then made his way toward the town of Alameda, California, to purchase the ’93 V-8 convertible Mustang from the owner, named Mike. The pair still keep in touch. The plan was to drive his new car back home to Michigan on Interstate 80.

But he hit a few bumps in the road. Because the electric motor had failed, Mark was unable to put the convertible top down. He had looked forward to driving his new convertible across the country with the top down, but that wasn’t going to happen. He had to wait to come back home before getting it fixed.

Still, he kept the motor running. Early in the trip, Mark drove through what he described as “the beautiful backroads of wine country” around Lake Berryessa, then to Interstate 80 and toward Lake Tahoe.

He then ventured through Salt Lake City and into Wyoming, spending some time in a place called Medicine Bow with a population of 398 people. During the journey, he met his dad in Denver, where the two of them continued on the road trip.

“I wanted the memory of hanging out with my old man on the way home,” Mark said. He even played “California,” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, on the drive home. Mark detailed the recollection in a personal essay that he wrote when applying to law school.

“My father had flown from Detroit to Denver to join me for part of the ride east of the Great Divide. Unfortunately, in Laramie, Wyoming, about 150 miles from Denver, some sharp object found the inside of my right front tire,” he wrote. “I had a spare, but it was a ‘donut’ spare, not to be taken over 45 MPH. I traveled the 150 miles at 45. Nearby freeway patrons were not impressed. My father was at the Denver International Airport at 12 a.m. The vehicle he saw had three good tires, and a non-working top. The vehicle I saw had 110% potential.”

Eighteen hours later, Don, Mark and the Mustang made it home.

“We got back to Detroit at the crack of dawn on Mother’s Day, May 11,” Mark said.

The license plate on Mark’s prized possession reads “SF CALI,” paying homage to where he bought it. He also had local automobile pinstriper Dr. Ru hand-paint “California LX” on the deck lid.

Do you own a vehicle with an interesting history? For a chance to be in an upcoming edition of our Behind the Wheel feature, email Staff Writer Maria Allard at