The love affair between a person and their car, whether Dodge, Chevy, or any other brand in between is immense, but for Cindy Ezernack of Zwolle, the love between her and a Ford Mustang means something much more meaningful.
The story begins when Ezernack was a young high school student. Through a number of unfortunate familial events, she was living with her grandmother and working during a summer break.
Despite working for her school clothes and the occasional Coca-Cola and candy bar, young love was brewing. Ezernack and her then-boyfriend, Jerry, had been together for three months and things were going swimmingly.
She stopped at the mechanic shop where her future husband was working, and he told her that he almost bought a car.
Cindy saw the white 1968 Ford Mustang GT and fell in love. Three weeks later, Jerry got her the car.
“Even at such a young age, the car meant a lot to me,” she explains. “I learned to drive in that car. I drove to high school. I drove to work. It was a lifeline that was much needed. It allowed me to stand on my own two feet.”
All the while, her and Jerry’s relationship was progressing more and more.
“Jerry and his family were different people than I was used to,” she recalls. “To me, they represented love and generosity that I needed at the time. They allowed me to feel like I was a good person and could cope with the bad home situation I was in.”
Three years later, they were married. The Mustang even figured into their wedding.
At the time, Jerry was driving a Trans Am, which was going to be their “getaway” vehicle after the reception.
As is tradition, the car was covered with any number of balloons, cans, toilet paper, and any other number of items. The couple decided to stop and pick up the Mustang instead, and the groomsmen had also exercised their decorative touches on it, despite it being locked up in a garage.
Years came and went. The car was showing it’s age, and eventually it’s faded paint, worn interior, and clothes hanger antenna gave way a newer, necessary car. Jerry and Cindy’s years together also yielded three children: Amanda, Emily, and Kyle.
Even though life got in the way of the car, it was never sold and stayed with them for the the marriage. As the children aged into maturity and had children of their own, it was finally time for the car to move into the spotlight again.
“Plenty of people offered to buy the car from us,” Cindy said. “We could just never let it go.”
The car was initially stored in 1983 and was removed 23 years later in October 2006. The car was Jerry began pouring time into the restoration for the much-beloved car. It was a six-year labor of love that was only truly completed within the past few months, just in time for the Mustang’s 50 year anniversary.
Now, the Ford has a crystal champagne tri-coat finish with tuxedo black trim and gold ghost flames. Jerry also custom-built a 408 engine for the car, which dynoed at 579 horsepower.
“The first time the car had been driven in almost 30 years was in May,” Ezernack says happily. “We took ‘Mathilda’ to the Toledo Cruisers MayDaze Car Show, where she won second place despite not having the interior fully finished. After that, we had to drive to Zwolle due to that town being so important to us.
Indeed, the small Louisiana town has been important. That was where Ezernack fell in love, raised a family, worked, and attended church. Even the name of the car, “Mathilda” is an ode to the town’s unofficial anthem, sang by Louisiana favorites Cookie and the Cupcakes. They chose the spelling of Mathilda means “mighty in battle.” The combination of words describes Cindy and her struggles throughout her early life.
The last piece of the car was finished just in time to take her to Tulsa, Okla., for the 41st Annual Mid-America Ford and Shelby Nationals. Mathilda won first place in the 1967-1970 modified class.
As for the future plans of the car, Cindy plans to keep it on the road.
“I’m going to drive the car to work,” she says proudly. “I see this car’s restoration as the end of many years of struggle and hard work throughout the life of two people,” she said. “I’m going to enjoy it for many years.”