Four decades ago, in 1974, the Mustang II was in Ford showrooms, Richard Nixon made history by resigning as U.S. president, and drivers were complaining because gasoline prices had risen to 55 cents a gallon. First-generation '65-'73 Mustangs were simply used cars. National clubs like SAAC and the MCA were still two years away.
Yet in Oklahoma, Jim Wicks and his wife, Terry, were addressing picnic invitations to Shelby owners that Jim had met over the previous years. The couple were pleased when 16 cars showed up at Rockwell Park. Inspired, Jim held his second picnic the following year and 35 cars lined up in Doc Hickman's backyard. On the third year, 1976, the event drew 75 cars. Jim knew he was onto something.
Friday at Mid-America is a continuation of the four-day open track activities at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, located an hour west of Tulsa.
The Mid-America Ford and Shelby Nationals (www.midamericafordmeet.com) may have humble beginnings but it has become one of the top Mustang and Ford event destinations for thousands each year. This year, Mid-America attracted over 1,000 cars, with 30,000 people participating in at least one activity—cruise, open track, drag racing, car show, swap meet, and banquet.
"It's absolutely beyond my wildest dreams," Jim said when we asked him if he ever dreamed of such a turnout. "I thought the first picnic was a pretty neat deal and maybe we'd have a few more people the next year."
Plenty of vintage Mustangs also get in on the Hallett action. SEMO Classic Mustang owner Jeff Sneathen brought out his ’70 Boss 302 clone for some open track fun.
(Right) With its middle of America location, Mid-America is a great place to make transactions. This year, Thoroughbred International delivered one of their reproduction ’65-’66 fastback body shells to Steve Mank for a restomod build.
Shelby American and Ford are both major sponsors of the Mid-America Ford and Shelby Nationals, so they brought several vehicles for participant rides with Shelby VP Gary Patterson and former Mustang Club of America President Steve McCarley.
Mid-America’s Thursday night cruise kicks off the weekend festivities. Participants start lining up early, eventually wrapping all the way around the Tulsa Southern Hills Marriott.
Mid-America founder Jim Wicks provided our ride for the cruise—a survivor ’68 Shelby G.T. 500KR.
Two historic Shelby Mustangs—5R002 and 5R003, the first competition and street G.T. 350s—were on display throughout Mid-America as part of their 50th anniversary tour. Oklahoma’s John Brown, owner of Thoroughbred Restorations, recently restored the cars for owners John Atzbach and Mark Hovander, respectively.
Banquet keynote speaker Steve Ling, Ford’s North American Car Marketing Manager, provided some new details about the ’15 Mustang and other new Fords.
Sunday’s car show, conveniently located in a parking area near the Marriott, closes out Mid-America each year with a popular vote show, Shelby concours, manufacturer displays, and swap meet.
The Mid-America action moved to Tulsa Raceway Park on Saturday for a full day of drag racing on the quarter-mile.