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How the Bullitt Mustang inspired this enthusiast to save classic cars from the crusher

Written by Aaron McKenzie, Photography by Naveed Yousufzai

Inevitably, it was Bullitt.

Armon Mustang

As a car-obsessed – or, more to the point, Ford-obsessed – kid growing up in California’s Bay Area, Armon Ebrahimian was bound, sooner or later, to stumble across the 1968 film from director Peter Yates in which Steve McQueen plays a police detective charged with babysitting a witness in a mafia trial. More than the film’s plot or characters, however, it is the iconic car-chase sequence  – in which McQueen, in a 1968 Highland Green Mustang Fastback chases a 1968 Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco – that has stuck in the minds of car enthusiasts like Ebrahimian since the film first debuted. The chase, wrote film critic Emanuel Levy, was “one of the most exciting car chases in film history,  a sequence that revolutionized Hollywood's standards.” It certainly left a lasting impact on a young Ebrahimian. 

Armon FastbackArmon Fastback

Around the same time that Bullitt entered the teenage Ebrahimian’s world, he also caught wind of the US government’s Cash for Clunkers (CFC) program. Conceived in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, this program paid car owners to turn in their old, gas-guzzling cars – which would be destroyed – in exchange for a $3,500-$4,500 voucher that they would then use (in theory, at least)  to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles. Proponents of the program claimed that CFC would reduce the use of fossil fuels while also stimulating an American auto industry that had been reeling for years and which was on the brink of collapse as the finance industry stumbled. As James Gilboy of The Drive reported in 2022, however, even as CFC cost the federal government $3 billion, it appears to have done little to increase overall fuel efficiency, while much of the program’s money ultimately went abroad. The program also attracted criticism for helping to spike used car prices as it removed 677,081 vehicles from American roads. For a young Ebrahimian, however, the CFC program was not merely numbers on a spreadsheet, it was personal.

Armon FastbackArmon Fastback

"At the time, I was a teenager looking to buy an IROC Camaro or a Fox-body Mustang and people were junking them,” says Ebrahimian. “I thought, 'what the hell? I wanted that car.' It was frustrating because the program was just making the pool of cars that much smaller, which seemed like a waste."

Armon Fastback

The 15-year-old Ebrahimian took his indignation and redoubled his car search, specifically for a classic Mustang. With Bullitt fresh on his brain, he had dreams of a Fastback – preferably a 1968 Highland Green model –  but was well aware that these were beyond his modest, teenage means.  Ebrahimian would eventually get his green 1968 Fastback but not before buying and selling several classic cars to fund that purchase, cars that included a 1966 coupe (his first car) and a 1969 convertible on which he taught himself to weld and do metal work after learning how much it would cost to pay someone else to fix all the rot that plagued the car.

Armon FastbackArmon Fastback

“I was quoted $10,000-$15,000 to do some of the rust repair on [the 1969 convertible] and I was 18 at the time, so I thought, ‘that’s not happening,’” recalls Ebrahimian. “I figured I could buy all the tools, buy all the metal, screw it up ten or twelve times, and still come out ahead. Luckily, I got it right the first time around.”

Armon FastbackArmon Fastback

Whether you call it bootstrapping or good karma earned through hard work, Ebrahimian was finally able, in 2018, to buy a 1968 Mustang Fastback. Sure, it was an “obnoxious” shade of yellow when he found it sitting in the previous owner’s backyard in Napa, but it had a 428 cubic-inch FE V8 and a 4-speed transmission. No stranger to hard work, Ebrahimian immediately started stripping the car down and transforming it into the car he had always wanted.  For Ebrahimian, he was doing more than merely restoring a car; he was saving it, giving it a new lease on life.  It’s an ethos that has inspired not just his own classic car passion but also a  broader mission: keep these machines on the road as a benefit to the culture at large.  The result: “Save Classic Cars,” a platform which started out as a Facebook page in 2010 before evolving into a website (2015) and an Instagram channel (2019), each of which strives to “keep classic cars on the road where they belong.” 

Armon FastbackArmon Fastback

“Seeing something that was neglected and which is now back on the road is incredibly satisfying,” says Ebrahimian. “The cars represent something more than just a means of transportation: you're building community and you're learning new skills if you work on them. If I go through my phone, probably 90% of the contacts are people I've met through cars and through working on cars. You can’t replace that. These cars are catalysts for friendships and for building communities.”

Armon FastbackArmon Fastback

Ebrahimian also hopes that his own journey – and his DIY ethos – will inspire other young enthusiasts who might find themselves intimidated at the prospect of working on their own cars. 

“We are so blessed to have practically every single resource available via the internet,” says Ebrahimian. “Odds are, someone has already done what you’re trying to do, and they've most likely posted about it online, in depth, step-by-step, telling you exactly what to do.” 

Armon FastbackArmon Fastback
Armon Fastback

Even the online treasure trove of information, however, is no substitute for basic human interaction, says Ebrahimian. 

“Go to car shows and talk to people,” he says. “These are the people you'll call when your project goes sideways. It's okay to ask a million questions. If someone's into classic cars, they're probably happy to answer those questions, just like I am. We’re all just trying to build a community, we’re all learning new skills, and these cars represent something way more to us than just a means of transportation.”

Armon FastbackArmon Fastback

And so, whatever it takes, just keep those classic cars on the road. 

More about Armon

You can follow Armons Mustang adventures on IG (@saveclassiccars).

Meet our contributors

As an avid driver and collector, photographer Naveed Yousufzai (@eatwithnaveed) captures California's car culture from a true enthusiast's point of view for various automotive publications.

Aaron McKenzie is a Los Angeles based writer, photographer, and producer with an eye for all things automotive. You can see more from him by checking out his Instagram (@aaronwmckenzie).


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