The year was 1998 and executives at the government-owned Insurance Corporation of British Columbia wanted to commemorate ICBC’s 25th anniversary with a 1973 model car. Word reached Dave Mitchell, a journeyman auto body technician who was manager of the corporations’ Research and Training Centre in Burnaby. Mitchell was a car enthusiast and he often looked through magazines advertising collector vehicles in both Canada and the United States.
“ICBC wanted a 1973 model car to commemorate 25 years in business and would have taken any car,” Mitchell says. “They wanted to buy locally, but I looked at a Camaro that was all rusty. Then I saw a beautiful 1973 Mustang advertised for sale in California and thought that would get a lot of attention.”
After receiving the thumbs-up from ICBC corporate headquarters, Mitchell and a work colleague headed south with his car trailer attached to his pickup. “We drove non-stop to Stockton to see the car. It was just as described,” he says. Original owner Elwin Engdahl, ex-U.S. military, had purchased the Mustang from Eagal Ford in Stockton, Calif. He was 81 years old in 1998 and decided to sell the car he bought 25 years earlier.
“If you come and look at this car, you won’t be disappointed,” he had told Mitchell during a telephone call.
There was no disappointment. “I met with the old boy, he popped the garage door open and there was a true rust-free California automobile: Nice and straight and never been hit,” Mitchell recalls.
The Mustang convertible was well optioned with power steering and disk brakes along with an AM/FM multiplex stereo radio. It had been driven just 58,000 miles. Mitchell handed over $5,500 and the car went on the trailer for the trip home to British Columbia. He cleared the car through Canada Customs and dropped the car at the ICBC Research and Training Centre that he managed.
Then he explained that ICBC wanted to display the car to celebrate its 25th anniversary and then would raffle the car. ICBC would get back the cost of the car and the proceeds would go to the United Way. “That can’t be a bad thing,” Mitchell told the cameraman who subsequently packed up and left without a story.
As the story goes, she determined the collector car would be too expensive to keep. After a short time, she parked it on a street in Port Coquitlam with a for sale sign on the window. The man who bought the car kept it for 14 years — until he was in his late 80s. He had ICBC collector insurance and license plates on the car that currently shows 79,000 miles on the odometer.
Reunited with the car he brought to Canada for ICBC, his employer, more than two decades ago, Dave Mitchell says: “Looking at the car brings back memories. It still looks really good. A car that is original is a great car. They are only original once.
On the topic of ICBC owning a collector car, Mitchell has this to say: “It was the right thing to do. ICBC got some recognition and helped a charity. You can love ICBC or hate it, but it’s been there for people for almost 50 years.”