The car chase scene in Steve McQueen's 'Bullitt' was such an iconic, visually stunning moment in cinema, it added new life to the muscle car industry in the United States. It was perhaps also Pakistan's first proper introduction to the legend of the classic Mustang which truly set off in 1965, with its most popular Fastback model.
Now fifty years after 'Bullitt', one car enthusiast in Karachi's Khudadad Colony has taken it upon himself to reintroduce the legend of the Fastback to Pakistan, revamped to compete with its 2015 counterparts.
Shakeel Ansari, 47, is passionate about cars above anything else and not being a 'billionaire' does not bother him at all. Instead, he believes in taking up projects of revamping “gems” — discarded with the passage of time — and bring them back to life.
“Anyone can go and buy a 2015 model, but can anyone make a 1965 classic as good as new?” Shakeel asks humbly. “Any person with a passion and love for cars would go to lengths to buy a scrapped Ford Mustang,” he adds.
Shakeel learnt the skills from Asian Autos back in 1980 when he was just 17-years-old.
“Later in 1990 I started my own workshop (Shakeel Autos). I have never thought of this as a job, but as a passion.”
“I started my work with a very small workshop which only had the capacity to accommodate one car. Slowly and gradually I expanded my workshop to an extent that there is now space to hold 30 cars. Today, after so many years, I also have 30 to 35 workers employed at my workshop,” Shakeel, a well-known personality in the auto repair business, says.
Shakeel Autos has dominantly worked on restoring Japanese-made cars but the American-built 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback was brought to them as a challenge in 2014. “This car is manufactured worldwide but I don’t remember it being manufactured or restored ever before in Pakistan,” Shakeel says.
The car was 50 years old and its original parts had all been licked by rust. The engine, fuse, body — everything was scrapped.
“When I got the car, I first made sure all of its parts were available in America and could be shipped here. Once that was confirmed, I started the restoration work on the car,” he says.
As the shipment of parts started to arrive in Karachi, Shakeel started rebuilding it bit by bit and quite often he had to research over the internet about things he didn't know of.
“We didn't want to compromise on the quality at all. All the parts that we have installed in the car are in line with modern technology,” he adds.
It took Shakeel 15 months to bring the Fastback back to its original shape which included purchasing and fitting of equipment.
“We started off with denting, and then paint work, colour, engine, suspension, powering the brake and steering, and also installed Wi-Fi radio system in the car. Each and every part installed in this 1965 Ford Mustang is certified, manufactured in 2015,” he says.
Shakeel had a 15-member team solely dedicated to working on the car.
“We spent day and night on this car till we were completely satisfied with the condition. We have prepared the car in such a way that not even a single screw is local; every part is authentic,” he adds.
“We have used six paint coats on the car whereas the company itself only uses two; furthermore we have used an anti-rust sheet from Italy. We used bake painting process in which the air and dust particles are removed from the surrounding after which the paint is sprayed,” he says.
The 47-year-old 'auto master' believes that the older version is no match to the one he has restored and “if the 1965 model is placed in front of this one, it would not compete”.
“Passion has no limit. One can spend millions to fulfill his passion. You can spend billions and buy a new car but you cannot 'buy' this one. Where will you find this zero meter 1965 Ford Mustang? This car is one of its kind, it’s priceless,” says Shakeel.
Reporting by Umer Bin Ajmal
Video by Muhammad Umar
Produced by Taimur Sikander
Published on Dawn.com, March 6th , 2015