Joey Patterson is a shy, 6’1 football player until he starts talking about his car, the 1962 Ford Falcon easily recognized around campus for its vintage, movie-like look.
The freshman business management major from Coppell started building cars with his dad when he was 7.
“It started out as something he wanted to do, then I took interest,” Joey said. “When he told me not to touch the Mustang, I touched it. I actually turned on the car, and he said, ‘OK, we’re actually going to do this now.’”
Though he and his dad built cars together often, Joey said he taught himself most everything through car manuals, YouTube videos and working through the cars themselves.
“Normally, the dynamic is the dad does it and the kid hands him the tools, but my dad would hand me my tools, and I would work. He’s better at making the car look nice, and I’m better at the inside work.”
Before the Falcon, Joey and his dad built a 1966 Ford Mustang from the ground up. Upon completion, the duo found the car was worth around $40,000. Because he knew he couldn’t bring the car to Abilene, he started looking for cars on CraigsList and found his current car, a 1960s Ford Falcon Station Wagon prototype. The car had been sitting in a driveway and under a tree for 15 years without being driven. Now, it has only about 57,000 miles on it.
“We met the guy, and he was super cool,” Joey said. “His dad worked for Ford; that’s how they got it.”
For a month and a half, Joey worked on the car every day to get it running to come to school.
He rebuilt the brakes, the entire electrical, the engine and major parts, of such as the solenoid, the fuel pump twice, the vacuum advance system, the distributor, a new braking system with a new master cylinder, modified the carburetor to be automatic so it is no longer a manual choke, used a custom – designed heat tube that makes the car run efficiently no matter what temperature the engine is and changed the fuel lines.
“It’s definitely not like the Mustang or the other cars I’ve built,” Joey said. “It isn’t as fast, but it’s all original. It’s more of a cruiser.”
Of the 15 cars he’s worked on with his dad, his favorite is the 1955 Chevrolet pickup truck.
“Just hearing it turn on with my dad – him under the hood and me firing it up – completely changed my perspective. It really made me feel like we had a good father-son connection. It was something I had with my dad that changed my life for the better.”
Joey said because of a “strict family dynamic,” he didn’t have many friends growing up, but the cars gave him a way to go and hang out with people. He knew as soon as he got the Mustang running he could leave to be with friends.
“I’ve got a lot of memories, but since it’s still a project, there have been some moments I’ve been driving and it’s broken down on me,” Joey said. “It made it to Abilene, but once it got here – it kinda had some issues.”
Though the goal of “completion” varies from car to car, perfection for the Falcon is running as efficiently as it can for its job.
“There’s never an end-all-be-all,” Joey said. “You can always upgrade something to get it running better. It depends on what you want from it. That’s the beautiful thing about it; you can customize them. It’s just so simple.”
Toward the end of summer, Joey and some of his football teammates took a trip across town, and his car broke down as he was exiting. He quickly stuck a blinking, magnetic light on the top of his car because it doesn’t have emergency blinkers.
“My friend Rowdy said, ‘We should have taken my car. This thing is a piece of junk,’ and I was like, ‘Don’t you ever call the Falcon a piece of junk,’ and I slammed on the gas pedal to reload the fuel system, turned it on and it fired up, and I said, ‘That’s why you don’t screw with the Falcon. We’re gonna make it.’”
Joey said if he could turn his passion into a business, he would. In the future, he said he hopes to find a place he can take all of the cars he’s worked on, similar to an auto ranch, but with new cars instead of broken down ones. Because newer cars drive differently than older ones, Joey wants to give people the opportunity to rent cars and appreciate them the way he does.
“When I got into my friend’s brand new Audi, it said, ‘Hello,’ and I almost had a heart attack because the car was talking to me,” Joey said. “I’m not used to that. My car has four knobs and the radio, and that’s it. I just like the throwback. I love them so much because I grew up with two in my garage, and I saw them every day. If you ask me about a new car, I don’t understand it. If you go back before 1985, I probably know what you’re talking about.”
Comparing older cars to newer cars, Joey referenced the Fast and Furious movies, and how feeling the cars is never the same every day. He said sometimes, he feels like he’s driving the fastest car in the world.
If his business didn’t work, Joey said he would want to find a career in which he could thrive in his two favorite things: building old cars and talking to people.
“I see it as a hobby, but I would love to do it for a living.”
As a deep snapper for the Wildcats, Joey said working on cars gives him a break from long practices throughout the week, and sometimes football lets him take out his built-up car frustrations.
Joey started playing football in high school with his younger brother, despite being told he would never find success on the field. In 2017, he was replaced by the no. 1 kicker in the nation, Caden Davis, and decided to try long snapping.
“I turned out to be pretty good,” Joey said. “I didn’t think I would play in college, and then all of a sudden, I got 10 Div. I offers, one of them being ACU. Instead of picking schools that were bigger, I stuck with ACU because I really loved the environment.”
“I’m just a normal guy. I want to bring smiles to people’s faces,” Joey said. “Every time I drive the car around, people always turn heads and look at it and give me a thumbs up.”