Father's Day: The men in Esko family connect over classic cars

In a tight-knit family of car enthusiasts, Dave Johnson of Esko wasn't pulling his own weight. His son and two grandsons each owned at least one Ford Mustang, and Dave didn't. That had to change. So when Dave recently had his eye on a particular ...

Dave Johnson's Mustang
Dave Johnson’s 2008 Mustang Regency. (Submitted photo)

In a tight-knit family of car enthusiasts, Dave Johnson of Esko wasn’t pulling his own weight.
His son and two grandsons each owned at least one Ford Mustang, and Dave didn’t. That had to change.
So when Dave recently had his eye on a particular make and model of Mustang, he told his grandsons to give him a call if they found one matching his description.
“That was probably the wrong thing to say, because they found one real quick,” he joked.
The car his grandsons (Nate, 19, and Nick, 17) found - a 2008 Mustang GT in black and “winning” blue - completed the family’s collection, and for a pretty hefty price tag.
“Let’s just say, for the amount that I paid, I could have bought a brand-new Mustang,” Dave said. “It attracts a lot of attention at car shows.”
Nate, Nick and their father, Kevin (Dave’s son), all of Esko, own eight Mustangs between them. Nate owns a 1978 Mustang 2, Nick a 1968 Mustang, and Kevin is partial toward a 1984 Mustang GT 350 20th anniversary convertible; they’ve worked on five others, too. That’s why Dave was such an outlier.
“We’re classic car lovers, I guess,” Dave said.
But Dave’s 2008 Mustang GT isn’t exactly a classic car, at least based just on age. And ironically, Nick, the youngest of the group, owns the oldest car.
“It’s probably completely opposite of what you would think,” Kevin said.
Nate has been working on his car for three years, and Dave says it is almost ready for the road. Nick and his car aren’t as fortunate.
Kevin said he found rusting in the front frame of Nick’s car a few weeks ago, which left Nick “pretty devastated.” If they put in enough work, Kevin said they might have Nick’s car ready by next summer.
But Kevin said he wouldn’t mind if it took a little longer. Working on cars gives Kevin, Nate and Nick a chance to bond over something they love.
“We’re very close, and it’s not just cars,” Kevin said. “We do everything together. I would say they’re my best friends.”
Nate and Nick also are close with their grandpa, Kevin said. When Kevin is at work, Dave takes his grandsons to car shows around the state.
The family planned to bring their cars to Superior today, Father’s Day, for the 14th annual All Ford-Powered Car Show, though Kevin said rainy weather might keep them at home.
For the Johnson family, a passion for owning and restoring classic cars doesn’t come from a desire to display their work for others. Dave says it comes from a shared love of bringing cars back to their original condition, as well as the hope that all four Johnson men will be able to take their Mustangs on the road together in the near future.
“It will be kind of nice,” he said.

Father’s Day events

Tired of giving Dad those hastily purchased coffee mugs and multi-colored neckties for Father’s Day? He’s probably tired of it, too.
In the interest of breaking out of the traditional Father’s Day rut, here are three places in the Twin Ports you can bring Dad to make his special day, well, special.

The zoo

Take Dad for a walk on the wild side at Lake Superior Zoo.
The zoo’s “Wild about Dad” promotion includes a free hot dog for the first 150 dads who visit, as well as trivia games, train rides and a three-legged race.
Visitors will have the chance to see animals from Australia, Alaska and almost everywhere in between.
The zoo will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; for more information, go to


A car show

Ignite Dad’s engine at the 14th annual All Ford-Powered Car Show put on by the Twin Ports Mustang and Ford Club.
The club has teamed up with Superior’s Animals’ Voices and the Humane Society of Douglas County, with proceeds going toward the construction of a new animal shelter in Superior.
The car show will award plaques to the winners of 14 different classes, with each entrant eligible for door prizes.
Visitors can take photos with gangster-era cars and go for a ride in a 1915 Model T.
The show will run from 1-4 p.m. at Belknap Plaza, 130 Belknap St., in Superior.

The lake

Exercise Dad’s sea legs with a Grand Sightseeing Tour on Lake Superior aboard the Vista Star, the Vista Fleet’s chief vessel.
The Vista Fleet promises panoramic views of the North Shore during the nearly two-hour tour. Crew members will narrate the ship’s progress across North America’s largest freshwater lake, discussing the science and ecology of the lake, as well as the history of Duluth and its harbor.
Adults can ride for $16, and dads and children for $8. Tours will launch at 10:25 a.m., 12:55 p.m. and 3:25 p.m. For more details, go to

What To Read Next
Get Local