LAKE ELMO, Minn. – Ruth and Tim Bredahl were pleased as could be to open the gift and find a toy replica of the 1965 Ford Mustang they once owned.
Their 50th wedding anniversary was about to get even better.
The real thing had just pulled to the curb in front of the restaurant.
"You've got to be kidding," said Tim, his face lighting up as his daughters led the couple outside.
Before them stood the car Tim and Ruth had driven from the church on their wedding day.
"This tops everything," Tim gushed. "It's unbelievable."
The Bredahl's daughters, Michelle Wolter and Heather Goetz, stood grinning nearby as their parents climbed into the Mustang, smartly restored in its original shade of red with a white leather interior.
"Surprise!" Michelle exclaimed.
Months earlier, Michelle received an email from a former co-worker that brought her to a warehouse in Pittsburgh where a broker was selling the Mustang her dad had purchased shortly before his wedding.
"He took all the money he'd been saving as a chemical engineering student at UND," Michelle explains, "and then signed a deal to do $56.13 per month."
Michelle and Heather can't imagine their childhoods without the Mustang.
From family vacations to driver's training, the car was their constant companion - the first car the sisters ever drove, and a hit with the boys in the Stillwater High School parking lot.
"I don't think anyone could beat you off the stoplight," Michelle laughs. "When those Mustangs came out that was the car to have."
The sisters remember their father diligently washing the Mustang and regularly working under the hood.
"That was a hard moment for him to say goodbye to that car," Heather says.
Nearly 30 years after he purchased the Mustang, Tim Bredahl sold it to a relative.
A decade later, Michelle repurchased it, but couldn't afford the Mustang's needed restoration. She sold it to a co-worker, who moved it first to St. Louis and then to Pittsburgh.
That's where she located it, now restored, in the car broker's warehouse.
Michelle purchased the Mustang on the spot, then had it shipped to the Twin Cities as a gift to her parents on their 50th anniversary.
"They've given us everything, so seems like a very small thing to do," Heather says. "It's not leaving - ever. It's staying in the family."