Brad Bowling
September 1, 2006

MCA National Meet
Johnson City, TN
May 26 - 28, 2006

There are several MCA National meets around the country each show season.

When Ford Motor Company introduced the low-performance Mustang II in August of 1973, many of us closed the door on the Mustang story and considered the 1965-73 models to be the only history worth preserving. Three years to the month after the II debuted, a hardcore group of fans launched the national Mustang Club of America with a show in Stone Mountain, GA. The (MCA) organization's stated goal was to preserve and enjoy the first-generation Pony car, while quietly ignoring any vehicles Ford might choose to label "Mustang" in the future.

Max Epps attended that inaugural MCA event, where he was inspired to start the first chartered regional MCA branch in his hometown of Kingsport, Tenn. As the legend goes, it was on a cold, rainy November night that same Bicentennial year when Max and nine others met in the Anderson Ford dealership to write the bylaws for the First Tennessee Regional Group. (FTRG) incorporated in '77, with Max elected its first president.

Since its formation 30 years ago, FTRG has been busier than a Republican fundraiser at a Texas barbecue. At the second MCA Grand National in '77 - again in Stone Mountain - FTRG won Regional Group of the Year honors. FTRG hosted its first MCA National event in 1978, its first Grand National in '81 (bringing in a then-record 226 show cars, still impressive today) and other Grand National shows in '84, '91, '94 and '97.

For those of you who don't speak MCA as a second language, we should explain that there are several National events around the country each show season, but only one Grand National. Mixed in with its history of big events are dozens of smaller shows, cruise-ins and charity rides. And we can't forget about the thousands of trophies accumulated over three decades by FTRG members as they attended judged car shows all over America.

When my caravan of Mustangs from Charlotte, North Carolina, pulled into the campus of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City the afternoon of May 26 for the "Mustangs Meet in the Mountains" 30th Anniversary show, we were greeted by MCA's and FTRG's famously effi cient staff.

I was driving a beautiful 2005 Satin Silver Mustang GT coupe, courtesy of Carolina Regional Mustang Club president Greg Sullins, who had pulled his '66 and '73 coupes in one gigantic enclosed trailer. FTRG member and 20-year MCA veteran Steve Smith ran through a list of questions about the car: was the owner an MCA member (yes), did I know his membership number (no), how many miles on the odometer (20,000 and change), did we have a fire extinguisher onboard (probably)? Steve was taking me through the classification process, which is the first step for anyone entering an MCA National or Grand National event.

"Classification is how we help owners determine the best category for their car," Steve told me. "This especially helps first-time participants, but it keeps regular show people from entering a class 'beneath' them and taking trophies they might not deserve."

The process only takes five minutes, and everyone has to do it unless they pay an annual fee to secure classification status ahead of time.

Steve was the first of many people I would meet during the three-day show whose Mustang interests covered both old and new models.

"I had a trailer problem and could only bring one car to the show: my '93 5.0-liter LX convertible. It's triple black, and I just bought it last month. My '65 K-code convertible had to stay home."

Green classification sheet in hand, I coasted down the hill to the registration tent and met Margaret Davis, an FTRG member. Greg's '05 GT was not one of the 268 pre- registered cars, so he filled out the paperwork and paid the $40 show fee while I talked to Margaret.

"We should have about 40 drive-ups this weekend," she estimated, "so figure on more than 300 cars."