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When Michigan resident Jeff Penrod was 14 years old his parents bought him a Mustang. They did it so he would maintain an A average in high school. The only two caveats were he couldn’t drive it until he was 17, and if his grades dropped below 4.0 they would sell the car. Well, the grades eventually dropped and Jeff’s parents, true to their word, sold his prized 1968 Ford Mustang coupe. 

And for all of these years afterward, he hasn’t forgotten that classic burgundy Mustang. “My dad was one of those people who and still is that if he says something he means it and that was the rule; I had to hold straight A’s, which I was more than capable of doing and it wasn’t like I was being asked to do something absurd,” Penrod told The Flint Journal. Jeff was a teenage kid. “I didn’t really care what someone else told me. I was going to do what I wanted to do.”

Jeff kept the Mustang in his memory, and also its spare key

1968 Ford Mustang coupe
1968 Ford Mustang coupe | Getty

The only thing he had was the memory and a spare key that he kept on his keychain. Years later, when wife Brianna saw the key she got the story of her husband’s first car. Right then and there she decided to find Jeff’s Mustang. 

She even had a plan; to get it for their 10th anniversary and Jeff’s 40th birthday. The Mustang survived, and the Penrod’s would even see it occasionally at local restaurants or old car gatherings. But the owner was never around so they never broached the idea of buying it back. 

Jeff’s wife started hiding money to ultimately fund buying the Mustang back

1968 Ford Mustang coupe
1968 Ford Mustang coupe | Getty

But Brianna slipped money away for what she hoped would be the day she could find the owner and buy the Mustang. Brianna finally told her father-in-law, who had an idea. He knew some police officers in town. They might help track the car down.

But the Mustang’s historic vanity plates lead to a dead end. Together they tried to spread the word they were looking, without Jeff finding out. Earlier this year the owner contacted Jeff’s father. 

“Rick (Jeff’s father) texts me and says: ‘when you get a minute, privately call me.’ And I’m like that’s super random but OK,” Brianna Penrod said. “And I don’t get a private minute because I have four kids and I have an audience at all times.”

Jeff got his car back this year on Father’s Day

1968 Ford Mustang coupe
1968 Ford Mustang coupe | Getty

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The owner of the Mustang was the person that Jeff’s father sold it to. He was willing to sell the car back. So the day after Brianna and Jeff’s father picked up the Mustang he was presented with his long-lost Mustang. It was this Father’s Day.

“When I walked outside there sitting in the driveway is the car I’ve been looking for or wanting back for 23 years,” Jeff Penrod said. “In hindsight, it being gone for 20-plus years was probably better for the car.” It is in amazingly good condition; especially for a car enduring those harsh Michigan winters.