Car Restorers Help After WWII Veteran’s Mustang Was Stolen

It was stolen and stripped of its parts by someone who was hired to restore the 1967 Ford Mustang.
Andrew Thomas September 6, 2018

Vintage car restoration is expensive, especially after the car’s been stolen and stripped of all its parts. However with the help of family, donors, and a restoration shop this man would get his beloved car back, and more.

Harry Donovan is a World War II veteran and car enthusiast. In 1969, he’d bought a 1967 Ford Mustang for his wife Marie.

Forty years later, in 2009, a man named Daniel Lee came to pick up Donovan’s car for restoration.

However, three years and $8,000 later, Lee had taken off with the car.

“I just wanted to get the car back, and get it done,” Donovan told Humanity.

Eventually, the Mustang was found. However, it had been stripped of nearly all of its parts.

The Mustang stripped of its parts. (Courtesy of Ken Mosier)

Donovan’s granddaughter, Danielle Moran, started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to restore the car. She was able to raise over $23,000, but another group would step in to help.

Jim Webb, a member of the veteran’s association The American Legion, came across Donovan’s story in the Indianapolis Star. After reading the article, he decided to bring the story to his friend Ken Mosier’s attention.

Mosier is also a member of The American Legion and owns a car restoration shop called The Finer Details in Indianapolis.

Webb went to the shop and put the article on Mosier’s desk.

Donovan when he was in the U.S. Army Air Corps. (Courtesy of Cheryle Donovan)

Upon learning about what had happened to the World War II veteran and member of The Greatest Generation, he and his employees were determined to help.

When Mosier found out what had happened to Donovan, he was furious.

Mosier and many of his employees, their families and friends have connections to the military.

“We have hearts. We wanted to help him out in any way that we could,” Mosier explained to Humanity.

“It just puts a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. To go and do something like that, especially to a gentleman of Mr. Donovan’s stature, you just have to get involved.”

Mosier along with David Engle, Justin Bliss, Sean Muss, Jay Webb, and Scott Dowdy decided to do something about it.

When the Mustang came into the shop, Webb and Dowdy disassembled what was left of the car to the bare frame.

The team needed new floor pans, firewall, frame rails, fenders, a hood, and a lot of sheet metal.

A look under the hood of the restored Mustang. (Courtesy of Ken Mosier)

Fortunately, the National Parks Depot donated all of the sheet metal for the car. That’s when Webb, Dowdy, and Engle began to do all of the metal and body work on the car.

Once the body work was completed, the team primed and blocked the car for two months before they were able to paint.

They then painted the car, sanded, and buffed. Afterward, the final assembly for the car began.

Webb, Muss, Bliss, Engle, and Dowdy ran the electrical system of the car, and then they had to assemble each piece of the car.

“We paint everything separate, so you got to hang the doors back on, the fenders back on, the hood back on, all the pieces back on the car.”

Donovan with his restored Mustang. (Courtesy of Ken Mosier)

Then, Webb, Dowdy, and Engle began to add trim, lights, emblems, and glass to the car.

Dowdy figured out how to put together the motor and the transmission, and Bliss worked on the suspension.

The final step was working on the interior of the Mustang. Webb and Bliss recovered the entire interior, and then Bliss and Dowdy installed the rest.

The team spent 18 months, 1,500 hours, and roughly $75,000 worth of work to restore Mr. Donovan’s car.

(Courtesy of Ken Mosier)

The restoration employees often worked nights and weekends to get the job done.

The whole group was elated once they had finished restoring the Mustang. They were just as happy as Mr. Donovan.

“Him coming here and seeing it, all of us, the guys, him, the family, everybody else got tears in their eyes,” Mosier remembers.

When Donovan saw the finished, restored Mustang he had only one word to describe how he felt: “Amazed.”

When Donovan stepped into the car, Webb put one of Donovan and his late wife’s favorite songs on the radio.

“He sat there and listened to that, started it up, and just smiled, and smiled, and smiled,” Mosier recalls.