Eric English
July 21, 2014

What are the chances that Las Vegas weather in April will be good? A lot better than the chances in Charlotte, and that's exactly what happened for the Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration. Locals told us it was one of the hottest series of days yet this spring, with temps in the mid 80s and sunshine galore. In short, the weather could hardly have been better for a birthday party!

Held at the gigantic Las Vegas Motor Speedway facility, the venue offered more than enough space for the show fields, open track, manufacturer's displays, and oval track parade laps that were planned. In fact, it's possible the venue was actually too big, as we felt like we spent considerable time hoofing between display and event areas—with little to look at in between. No matter though, we enjoyed our time checking it all out, including daily speakers on Mustang history and evening programs to include the unveiling of the 50th Anniversary '15 Mustang Thursday night. That event fittingly took place outside the New York, New York casino/hotel, Friday night saw a gala at Shelby American, and Saturday night's banquet included notable speakers such as Bob Fria, Hal Sperlich, and Moray Callum.

One thing we did find surprising, though, was the lack of a drag racing event. According to Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration Executive Director Ron Bramlett, drag racing at both Vegas and Charlotte were canceled well prior to the weekend due to lack of interest. We say, what's with that Mustang fans?

We’re not sure of all the drivers in this photo from the open track event, but we do know they were having tons of fun. That’s J. Bittle driving his red 427-powered ’67 G.T. 500, with Tim Riley right behind in his blue Restomod Shop-built ’67 fastback.

All in all, it was a great time in Vegas, with organizers estimating around 2,500 participating Mustangs. The Mustang 50th Birthday was well attended from around the globe, with enthusiasts often wearing identifiable shirts. We spoke with one gentleman from France, who said that a group of 400 of his countrymen and women had come to Vegas for the event. Now that's dedication!

And with all the entertainment that Vegas has to offer, we dare say there was something to do even if one tired of the Mustang overload. Then again, is that really possible?

Arguably the two most famous Mustang concept cars ever, Mustang I (1962) and Mustang II (1963) were present in Vegas courtesy of the Henry Ford Museum and Dearborn Historical Society.
We found Mustang II particularly interesting, as many of the production car’s styling cues were included in this one—for example the coved body lines, twin brow dashpad, and door panel shapes.
Ford brought two ’15 Mustangs to display, which attracted crowds all weekend.
Baer Brakes had a nice display of wares, not to mention the company’s sweet ’69 Sportsroof wearing a full complement of the latest braking bling. Stance? Nailed it!
We found ourselves drooling over this Coyote–powered Shelby 6000 series Cobra. We think we got the evidence wiped up before anyone noticed.

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Not many ’67 G.T. 500s look like this today!
Paul and Leticia Kerner displayed their unrestored Shelby in the Scott Drake booth, where it attracted plenty of attention. From the description, it’s been stored for about 30 years—and apparently not washed for a commensurate period of time.
The 1970 coupes don’t always get a lot of love, but this one was looking good with Grabber Orange paint, a nice stance, and attention to detail. Well done!

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Dennis Meijndert came all the way from Alberta, Canada with his ’68.
The hot-red fastback features a turbocharged 331 based on a Dart block, and much more.
Ken Berger owns this unique ’65 Mustang wagon, custom built by former Ford designer William Sibo. It runs a 429/C6 powertrain, along with rack-and-pinion, coilovers, A/C, and more.
While being a vintage magazine, we can’t help but offer up our thoughts on the best vintage vibe on a newer model that we saw all weekend. That award would go to the ’12 Boss 302R which Biskup Motorsport was hot lapping on the track. The ’69 Bud Moore team paintjob looked absolutely perfect, and makes us wonder why Ford didn’t opt for this on the ’12 Laguna Seca cars, rather than the strange orange trimmed themes they went with.

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Ford offered rides and drives around the infield road course, in a wide variety of new model Fords. Aptly called “Ride and Drive,” it proved a popular event with the crowds.
Showgoers were scooping up official memorabilia left and right.
This’65 GT is yet another.
We were shocked by the absence of a single Boss 429 in Vegas—unless one turned up on Sunday after we had to board our flight home. Perhaps even more shocking was the presence of two 427 SOHC-powered early fastbacks! One was this gorgeous street machine.
Chris Brooke’s dad bought this ’65 G.T. 350 brand-new, and removed the G.T. 350 tape logos right away to hide the Shelby’s identity from the insurance man. Chris has recently written a small book relating the endless escapades he had while driving the car as a teenager in the late ’60s (www.itsnotyourfaultcarrollshelby.com). The car remains a completely unrestored time capsule, and still sports the Boss 302 engine, which Chris’ dad installed in the early ’70s.
We imagine the stack-injected 427ci SBF makes this first-gen convertible restomod really sing!


Old-School vs. New-School

Fifty years of Mustang evolution has brought us a great new car in the form of the '15 model, but it also presents an opportunity to study vintage cars built past and present. Reviewing several old-school/new-school builds reveals how things are done very differently depending on the era:

Old School—Open Track/Road Race
Brad Smith is cool with his old school ’66 Shelby, and so are we. Brad and his brother built the car in 1971, after finding the G.T. 350H shell in a SoCal wrecking yard. Soon, the boys were racing SCCA B-Production and having a blast. Much of those days remain, what with big flares, American 200Ss (w/265 and 295/50-15s), and a Bud Moore mini plenum equipped Boss 302. In an age of chalk mark restorations, Smith’s Shelby stands tall as ever!

New School—Open Track/Road Race
Kudos to Ron and Kim Schoch for running their extensively modified ’65 fastback at the open track on Friday, and then having it all cleaned up for the show field on Saturday. Ron painted the car himself using Dupont Hot Hues Bombay Blue. Note the shaved drip rails, ’05 quarter glass, and ’05 door handles. A healthy 347 belts out something near 500 horsepower, and the suspension includes a Rod and Custom Mustang II-based front, and Control Freaks IRS out back.

Old School—Drag Race
Larry Knapp owned the other SOHC powered Stang we referenced earlier, and it’s got quite a story. Knapp is the original owner, having purchased it from the famed Foulger Ford in Monrovia, California. Knapp raced it with a 289 for several years, but then in 1969 took it to Holman Moody Stroppe in Long Beach for a drag conversion to include fitting of the SOHC motor, and extensive fiberglass body panels. It’s been a racer ever since, with a recent high 8/151-mph pass at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield. Knapp tells us the current Cammer was the last engine built by Ford guru Earl Wade, who passed away in 2012.

New School—Drag Race
Unfortunately, we never caught up with the owner of this fine ’67 quarter horse, but we were impressed nonetheless. The hoodscoop denotes a 335-series powerplant, and this machine is as beautiful as it is state of the art. Full tube chassis, big engine setback, nitrous, and the list goes on.

Old School—Street Machine
Can you say time warp? This ’69 Mach 1 was straight out of the best of 1975, with a Dyer’s 6-71 blower atop a big FE, giant Appliance slotted mags, and yellow slapper bars. If you think we’re dissing on this thing, you’re wrong—the car was immaculate, and we appreciate the owner bringing it out!

New School—Street Machine
This gorgeous Acapulco Blue ’69 Mach 1 had a killer stance going for it, as well as a butter smooth 4.6 Two-Valve modular from something like a Crown Vic. Not huge power, but no doubt an incredible and reliable driver.