Compassion in the car community

A muscle car painted the picture of understanding ALS for local car enthusiasts.
Craig Reagans 1973 brown Mach 1 Mustang features custom stickers of Craig and his wife, and is completely rebuilt from the ground up. The interior was completely torn out and replaced with new dashboard and radio.
Craig Reagan’s 1973 brown Mach 1 Mustang features custom stickers of Craig and his wife, and is completely rebuilt from the ground up. The interior was completely torn out and replaced with new dashboard and radio.
Photo by Fayobami Taiwo

This past Sunday, Cars and Coffee welcomed exactly one car: a sleek, brown Mustang that stood alone like a lone ranger in the Wild West.

This Mustang, with its powerful four-barrel engine, didn’t need any other cars to showcase its dominance. As the sun hit its brown body, it shimmered magnificently, exuding a sense of unmatched prowess and confidence. This lone ranger has been tamed by one sheriff for 41 years. 

Craig Reagan, the owner of this Mustang, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) disease on July 29, 2016, and was given two years to live. Eight years later, he continues to fight the disease and has been going to car shows showcasing his ‘73 Mach 1 Mustang from his high school years. He brought his own crowd consisting of two close friends, Steven O’Neal and Randy Quinn, to the Aggieland Outfitters car show.

“You don’t see classic cars like this anymore and it’s like driving a tank,” said O’Neal.

Reagan used to build custom homes, go hiking, fish and teach his sons how to ride a horse, but ALS Led to medical retirement as now he is unable to take care of himself and requires around-the-clock care. The disease, eating at his mobility, was no match for his mindset —It just took a different road to allow him to still find ways to do things. 

Reagan goes out to car shows with friends and family whenever he can. The inability to drive does not affect the ability to go to church or spend time with his three kids.

“If I don’t keep my mind busy, I will get severely depressed,” said Reagan.

Craig Reagan, Aggie class of 1998, graduated in December of 2002 with a degree on Construction Science. This photo shows Craig’s hand being held up by Randy Quinn due to his loss of strength and dexterity. (Photo by Fayobami Taiwo)

Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the fatal neurological disorder causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to degenerate and affects voluntary control of arms and legs. His speech is slurred as the disease continues to spread, but he communicates online using an eye gaze device that helps him type. Through the device, he told his story on a website created by him.

Before the diagnosis Reagan mentioned how much he loved to drive around by himself and with his friends. 

“We used to do street racing and drive on the streets illegally and I like speed and I like to go fast,” said Reagan. 

This Mach I Mustang embodies the 80’s muscle car culture with its broad body panels and rear grates resembling stalwart armor. Dark accents around the headlight and grill were similar to the reins of a vintage steed, enhancing its timeless appeal. Brown leather inside the car appeared subtle, yet aged with a combination of matte and glossy finishes on the dashboard and control, reminiscent of a well-loved saddle. 

Like a seasoned racehorse, it navigates turns with the agility of a champion, and its ride quality is as smooth as a gallop over prairie grass. The only time it sputters is when the muscle car is suddenly revved up.

For O’Neal, the car’s sentimental value extends beyond its shine and clean look.

“It’s a really cool car but it’s more than that, it’s a story and this was Craig’s original car,” said O’Neal. 

Reagan bought the car in 1983 for $2600 and mentioned the car would be around for years to come. Ever since Reagan graduated from New Caney High School in New Caney, Texas, this brown beauty has been driven and showcased by him and his buddies for 37 years. 

His high school reunion was where he met and reconciled with buddies Richard Watson, Brett McMath, and Mike Silva. He mentioned to them during this meet and greet that the Mach I was still around and that it was not running and he had hoped to fix it the same way all of his friends fix their cars. 

“About 30 years ago I moved to Houston and Craig and I hung out and partied all the time, and even then we did a lot of work on the car, probably worked on it more than we drove it,” said Quinn. “Worked on it so we could drive it.”

During that time, it had a mixed-matched paint job and the motor was blown up, causing Reagan to not drive the classic for 15 years.

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“He had it sitting in his garage and his dream was he would rebuild it with his boys and then unfortunately, he came down with ALS and was unable to do it and that’s when his buddies came together,” said O’Neal. 

Watson owns the shop, Rusty Nuts Garage, which is where the Mustang parked with hopes of a lone ranger returning home to its family. He took to Facebook to share Reagan’s story and the restoration project and then started a GoFundMe to help support the project and Reagan’s family. They pulled out the engine along with the flooring, added a completely new brown leather interior, fixed the rust and then came the final touch of new paint and body wash. A final touch of metallic brown paint with subtle shine indicated a classic well-maintained finish and revealed the car was done.

The Mustang was restored over the course of a year and Reagan received it back just over a year ago on July 22, 2023.

An active member of his community who loved helping others, Reagan was touched when his buddies offered to fix the car. Knowing it was a lot of work, he was blown away by the support and expressed immense gratitude for this project.

“Seeing the look on Craig’s face every time he saw the car being fixed was the best part,” said Quinn. “Craig deserves it, he’s done stuff for people his whole life and he’s always one to help people out and now finally someone got to help him out and do something for him.”

This might be just an old car to many, but to Reagan and his buddies, it was all about the memories. His favorite part about the car was driving around with his best friend and Quinn mentioned that they probably worked on the car more than they drove it. 

The car has intricate details telling his story. The left-hand passenger mirror had a white sticker with the name “Nancy” (his wife), accompanied by an Ichthus symbol. On the right-hand side was another white sticker with the name “Craig,” also adorned with the same symbol. 

“Car design is art and the story of this car and how it was rebuilt is very special and integral,” Stevens’s son Brock O’Neal said  “Calling it just a car discredits the entire lineage on everything it was built for.”

Craig Reagan, Steven O’Neal, Randy Quinn and Brock O’Neal come together by Brock’s car outside of Aggieland Outfitters on Sunday, July 7. (Photo by Taiwo Fayobami)

Reagan is a leading advocate for ALS patients to gain access to resources and therapy for this treatment. With his friend Mike Henson, they have tried to get access to therapies through a $500 million bill passed by Congress. He has even been to Washington D.C. to fight for ALS rights and has been an active member of protests such as the body bag protest at the White House, a method calling for Congress to allow therapeutic drugs for the degenerative disease of ALS.

Reagan and Henson founded the Facebook group “No More Excuses! ALS WatchDog Group”, which has around 15,000 members. Through this group, they update information about the bill and have discussions about the disease and how to live with it. 

Reagan confided about how ALS is on his mind 95% of the time and that he did not want it to get in the way of his day-to-day life. He is a fighter, a doer, determined to live on his own terms and not let ALS rob him of his spirit or future. 

“Don’t give in, Don’t give in to the disease, Don’t give up, and don’t give in to ALS, Don’t let ALS win,” said Reagan. 

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  • M

    Meyer OdetteJul 16, 2024 at 12:23 pm

    Last year, my 68-year-old partner was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease also known as ALS. Speaking and swallowing were two of his challenges. His collapse was swift and catastrophic, and neither the riluzole nor the medical staff did much to aid him. He would not have survived if our primary care physician hadn’t given him attentive care and attention, as the hospital center didn’t provide any psychological support. His fall was abrupt and catastrophic. His hands and legs gave way to weakness in his arms. This year our family physician suggested using naturalherbscentre. com for ALS/MND treatment, which my husband has been receiving for a few months now. I’m delighted to say that the treatment greatly reduced and reversed his symptoms of ALS, he no longer requires a feeding tube, sleeps soundly, works out frequently, and is now very active. In the hopes that it could be useful, I thought I would relate my husband’s tale; in the end, you have to do what suits you the best.

  • B

    Brenda SteyerJul 10, 2024 at 12:32 am

    Awesome story love the car it’s beautiful tell Craig hi

  • N

    NancyPJul 9, 2024 at 12:20 pm

    What a great story of friendship, love and perserverance.