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‘Mustang Shelly’

A tale of how one woman found a car with special meaning

“MNT2B,” or meant to be. If all goes according to plan, Shelly Fitzgerald’s vanity plates for her newly acquired teal-colored ’94 Ford Mustang convertible will read those words, which in this case, it’s hard to argue against that being true.

“My mom always wanted a Mustang and in ’94, that was the year of the newer body styles, Dad talked her into ordering one,” Shelly said. “So she actually ordered it from Axtell’s exactly the way she wanted it. She wanted teal (paint), she got it exactly like she wanted it ­— this was her dream car.”

Shelly said her mother, Karen, was a very selfless person and rarely would want to treat herself, but this Mustang became one of the few exceptions.  Karen kept the car for a number of years, had vanity plates that read “Pony 94” and even had a denim driving jacket with a mustang on the back.

Karen loved the car, but after becoming a grandmother and coupled with higher insurance rates, she decided it was time to part with her dream car, Shelly said.

“She was getting grandchildren and car seats don’t really fit in the car, so she sold it,” Shelly said.

Karen passed away unexpectedly close to three years ago. Shelly said they were extremely close and she wanted to find a way to retain their bond and pay tribute to her, which led her on a mission to find a car like her mother’s.

“Every fall, I get to thinking about her and want something to connect with her with,” Shelly said. “This fall, I told my husband, ‘I think I want to get a convertible like she had. That was like her car, I just want to connect with her and I think that would be cool.’”

“People tell me all the time I look just like her, so I think, ‘How fun would it be to have a car just like hers?’” she continued.

With her mind made up, Shelly and her husband, Don, began scouring CraigsList, trying to find a car that matched the specs of her mother’s.

“There aren’t many teal ones,” she said. “There were a couple in Florida, one in Chicago, and one in Ankeny. So we called the Ankeny one, and my husband said, ‘Maybe it’s actually hers, you know there aren’t that many around.’”

While trying not to get her hopes up too much of it being the same car, Shelly called the seller in Ankeny. Unfortunately, he told her that the original owners of the car were from Webster City and not  Newton.

“That kind of crushed our hopes of it possibly being hers,” Shelly said.

They arranged for a meeting with the seller and were blown away by how well the car was kept up. Despite being nearly 20 years old, the car only had 77,000 miles on it and was kept in pristine condition.  It even had the same features as her mother’s car. Although they had been told the car came from Webster City, Don still asked the owner if they could see the title.

“He showed us the title and sure enough, their name wasn’t on the title,” Shelly said. “But the guy said, ‘All the original paperwork is in the trunk. If you want to look through it, you can see everything that has been done to it.’”

“So I was looking at the car and my husband was looking through the trunk and going through this envelope of paperwork and all of a sudden, I hear him say, ‘Shell, this is it! This car was purchased in Axtell in Newton!’” she continued.

Upon hearing this news, Shelly said she just let it all out right there in this stranger’s garage in Ankeny.

“It wasn’t a pretty cry,” she said jokingly. “It was one of those cries you don’t even want to see. And then my husband said, ‘Look at this.’ (He) turned around the envelope and written was my parent’s names and my mom’s handwriting and then of course, I lost it again.”

The Fitzgeralds purchased the car and Shelly’s mission to honor her mother had finally come full circle. She said she and her husband see this as a “God thing” for her to be able to drive her mother’s former dream car and she couldn’t be more ecstatic over it.

As she was getting ready to drive it back to Newton on what she described as a “chilly night”, the seller posed a question to Shelly.

“Do you want the top up?” he asked her. “I said, ‘No way.’”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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