(Author’s Note: I had the good fortune of speaking with Kelly several years ago as she prepared to take a cross country trip in her Mustang “Calamity Jane.” Her blog chronicling the adventure, A Map and a Mustang, became wildly popular and is a must read for any enthusiast who believes these cars were meant to be driven. — JP)
“I just graduated with my Master’s degree in geology last week” says 25-year-old Kelly Hattori, whose travels with her aptly named Mustang “Calamity Jane” make you wonder how she could possibly have crammed any more into her busy days.
“I study paleontology, which is the field of science devoted to the study of ancient animals and environments” she added. “You could say that I really like old stuff. I am also a huge traveling enthusiast and love to camp and hike.”
That could make one wonder how an affable, then 19-year-old college student, found her way into the classic car hobby.
“I entered the classic-car scene through non-traditional means. I’m not from a ‘car family,’ but instead picked up my love for the hobby in 2010 when, during a fit of madness in which I decided I should learn to work with my hands, purchased my ’66 Mustang “Calamity Jane.” Although my parents assumed that Jane would just be a summer project or a brief wild streak, the car turned into a never-ending obsession.”
Kelly spent three years learning and building Jane to be everything she ever wanted in a car even driving home from college 120 miles each weekend just to work on the car.
“I could have just driven her as-is, but I kept wanting it to be perfect,” she explained.“My goal was achieving a dressed-up stock look that hid a subtle modifications while retaining a very vintage feel.”
To that end Kelly retained the built 289 powerplant and Toploader four-speed manual with stock two-tone blue interior and a dark blue exterior.
“I added stealth fuel injection; power rack and pinion; air conditioning; bigger brakes; better stock cooling; improved street or track and open-tracker suspension; upgraded electrical and LED lighting,” she added.
She also added Fox Mustang seats, a custom-built center console, three-point seatbelts, a Retrosound audio system and other trick goodies to complete the goal of improving the long-term driveability while not making it feel too new.
Disaster and Rebirth
Following years of learning and countless hours of dedication to the project, Kelly celebrated the completion of her fastback on April 22, 2013. Three days later, she and her prized pony were hit by a distracted driver nearly destroying the car.
“I walked away without a single bruise fortunately but Jane was in ruins. My perfect, beautiful car… destroyed,” said Kelly. “It was the worst day of my life.”
Not one to let things sit, Kelly first took on the insurance company and then set out to save Jane from what many would have accepted as its fate. With much persistence and passion, on December 23 Jane rolled out of the body shop for the second time looking better than ever.
“I spent another four months replacing broken parts and other wreck-related issues that needed to be remedied and proudly declared her “back” at 1 a.m. the night before traveling to the Mustang 50th Anniversary in Charlotte, North Carolina – almost a year exactly after the wreck.”
“Jane’s been through hell and back with me,” Kelly said. “From a major wreck to a triumphant victory lap around Charlotte Motor Speedway and every corner of the United States. No matter what I ask of this car, she always gets it done — even if it is with a bit of an attitude. I’m proud for this to be my first ‘forever’ car.”
She is clear to point out that her automotive success can be attributed to her father “who always provided support in even my most insane endeavors,” friend and master body man Chas “who provided a clear path when I was hitting a dead end,” and friends on the Vintage Mustang Forum “who provided me with detailed instructions on every possible way to build a classic Mustang.”
With tens of thousands of miles piloting her car Calamity Jane, Kelly says that although she likes the new Mustangs.
“I prefer my classic car for driving experience and visibility. It may not have all of the modern bells and whistles but I like it that way,” she said.
The 25-year-old says she really doesn’t need or want backup cameras, media stations or motorized power everything but after a little prodding Kelly concedes there may be another project one day.
“A ’69 fastback with a 429 in it. I’d really like to build a car that is nothing but the embodiment of aggression, something that is so totally undriveable that it is completely absurd,” she said. “I want a lot of power that is really good at doing nothing but going sideways and making a lot of noise” she says with a twinkle in her eye.”
For Kelly it would seem, no challenge is too tough to master.