Mustang magic: Magazine marvels over restoration job by Franklin man

Jim Pennington’s rebuilt Mustang car is a thing of beauty. Candy-apple red, spotlessly clean, sleek lines and an immaculate, original interior make for one amazing car.

Toiling over the Mustang has been a labor of love for Pennington. He needs little in the way of reward other than the personal fulfillment it brings and a little bonding time with his son under the hood. But on the show circuit this year, it garnered more than just the normal nods of appreciation from fellow car connoisseurs. His painstaking efforts to restore this built-for-racing vehicle have landed in the national spotlight.

Pennington’s Mustang is prominently featured in the latest issue of “5.0 Mustang and Super Fords,” under the headline “Generation Thrill: Behind the wheel of his ’95 GTS, Jim Pennington’s Retirement is a blast.”

And, it clearly is, at that — Pennington, who lives in Franklin, retired in February as director of maintenance for the Jackson County school system. He’d previously worked as director of engineering for Angel Medical Center in Franklin.

“I’m enjoying it,” said Pennington, adding that retirement has given this car buff more time to travel to shows and to devote to his hobby — one that he’s managed to rope his family into. His wife, Mildred, helps by keeping his red Mustang interior pristinely clean.  His son, Jon, has a black Mustang. They travel nationwide together to shows, and he has boxes of plaques to show for it.

“Old cars are just like people,” Pennington said. “Just when you think they have no future, they can come out of nowhere and surprise you.”

Pennington purchased the Mustang in Asheville five year ago with 50,000 miles on the odometer, and restored the car in 2007. His son painted the car, replacing the original “laser” red with the candy apple color.

He elicited the help of others as well. Franklin resident Brian Sellers put Saleen stripes on the doors and Andrews resident David Wilson built the stroker engine that helps put the “power” into the super-powerful Mustang. Pennington added a rear spoiler.

Not too many of these types of Mustangs were made, Pennington said, and 1995 was the last year for the pushrod 5.0, which means something to Mustang aficionados such as himself.

Initially, Pennington noted, he just wanted to restore the car for a particular National Mustang Racing Authority event, True Street Drag Racing, but the looks and praise he received launched him instead into national car shows. Since 2007, he and his wife have spent almost every weekend at shows throughout the Southeast.

The editor of “5.0 Mustang & Super Fords” magazine was in the crowd during a show at Commerce, Ga. He asked Pennington if the magazine could feature him and his car, and Pennington said “sure.” At first, he didn’t realize what he’d gotten himself into.

“The photo shoots lasted two days,” Pennington said, noting that one shot alone of the car’s interior took the magazine’s photographer about two hours to capture.

Pennington also has restored a Chevrolet pickup truck, and he owns a 1989 Mustang GT with a built 306 with a Tremac.

Cars, it turns out, have paralleled his own retirement in more ways than one.

“With a little TLC and hard work, (cars) can have a new and rewarding second life,” he said.

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