Royal Oak resident Art Cairo stands with his 1964 raven-black Ford Mustang, left, and 1950 Mercury Monterey.

Royal Oak resident Art Cairo stands with his 1964 raven-black Ford Mustang, left, and 1950 Mercury Monterey.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Two different cars tell their own stories

By: Maria Allard | Metro | Published July 13, 2021

 The Ford Mustang includes authentic signatures from Edsel Ford II on the glovebox and Ford Mustang designer Gale Halderman on the visor.

The Ford Mustang includes authentic signatures from Edsel Ford II on the glovebox and Ford Mustang designer Gale Halderman on the visor.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 The Ford Mustang was made with a K-code and once owned by Henry Ford II.

The Ford Mustang was made with a K-code and once owned by Henry Ford II.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ROYAL OAK — Imagine owning a car that was built specifically for Henry Ford II.

Such is the case for Art Cairo.

The Royal Oak resident is the owner of the 1964 raven-black Mustang that once belonged to the automobile maverick.

Cairo also owns a 1950 Mercury Monterey purchased brand-new by his grandfather 71 years ago. The Merc has just 14,000 original miles.

Both cars are very special to Cairo, and here are their stories.

 

‘It’s a piece of history’
In 1974, Cairo spotted an advertisement in a local newspaper that listed the Mustang for sale at a reasonable price. He made contact with the owner and purchased the 1964 1/2 prototype Mustang.

“This was a prototype Mustang that was made for Henry Ford. That was the prototype that set the standard for all the Mustangs to come,” Cairo said. “None of this ever made it to production. It was too expensive. They built other Mustangs with systems not as fancy. It cost Ford close to $200,000 to build this car.”

Cairo knew the car with the black leather interior was special.

“It’s a piece of history. This is the first Mustang made with a K-code. The console is made of real wood,” Cairo said. “It was not built on the assembly line. This was built starting back in December 1963. The door trim handles were all handmade. They are so rare. Everybody loved it.”

According to a Dec. 8, 2017, letter from Ford Mustang designer Gale Halderman, the Mustang’s body was hand built at the Allen Park Pilot Plant, and the powertrain was installed at the Dearborn Assembly Plant.

The letter states some styling prototype cues: the teak wood, padded leather top, deep pile carpeting and numerous die-cast chromed knobs, latches, plates, and moldings that never made it into production. The final assembly was completed under Halderman’s supervision. According to Cairo’s research, Henry Ford’s chauffeur “really loved the car.” And one day, Ford passed down the vehicle to his driver.

“Here’s the car,” Cairo said. “He gave him the keys. Henry’s chauffeur drove the car for about five years. He sold it to the guy I bought it from.”

The Mustang also has a couple of special autographs. About three or four years ago, Edsel Ford II — the great-grandson of Henry Ford I, grandson of Edsel Ford I, and the son of Henry Ford II — signed the glovebox. Halderman’s signature is on the passenger visor.

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Built to last
Cairo’s grandfather, Joe Cairo, bought the 1950 Mercury Monterey brand-new.

“I remember it as a kid, seeing the car in his garage,” Cairo said.

Cairo’s grandfather died in 1958, and the Monterey “sat in storage until 1993.” It was then passed down to Cairo’s dad, Art Cairo Sr. When Cairo’s father died, Cairo inherited the vehicle.

“The Monterey was a deluxe. They only made 510 of them in 1950,” Cairo said. “They were trying to get the car to look like a convertible even though it was not.”

Cairo still has his grandfather’s paperwork for the Monterey, including the retail buyer’s order and statement of motor vehicle sale. The total cost was $2,649.14 and included a radio, heater, back-up lights and overdrive.

The Monterey does come out of the garage for family drives and stops for ice cream with Cairo’s three granddaughters. It does not have power steering; therefore, “it’s hard to steer.” When out on the road, the Monterey is always a conversation starter.

“The older people love it,” Cairo said, adding people always have stories about family members who have owned similar models. “They always have stories.”

Cairo has showcased the Monterey and Mustang at the EyesOn Design automotive design exhibition held annually at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. The Mustang also was invited to the “Concours d’Elegance” and was featured by Ford Motor Co. at its World Headquarters for the 50-year anniversary of the Mustang.

Other than the occasional display, Cairo keeps the prized possession in his garage.

“I would love to drive it,” Cairo said. “I can’t afford to get it messed up.”

Cairo belongs to three car clubs: Ford & Mercury Restorers Club of America, The Vintage Motor Car Club of America, and Mustang Owners Club of Southeastern Michigan.


SHARE YOUR STORY
Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history? Contact Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com and you could be featured in an upcoming edition of Behind the Wheel, sponsored by B & B Collision of Royal Oak.