Brad Bowling
September 1, 2006

Although she has owned and showed a variety of early Mustangs in her 26 years with MCA, her current ride is a stock '93 red convertible GT that has earned enough points to achieve Retired status. I was glad to find more people who appreciated both old and new Ponys, but my goal for the weekend was to talk to as many folks as possible about their modified late models.

I found my first gathering of such cars and their owners when I parked Greg's GT in the "LMA" (late model A, or "Elly May") section, which included all 2005 and '06 Mustangs. Because they are essentially new cars at this point, the Elly Mays are not assessed by judges; instead, they are reviewed by other show participants for a Popular Choice trophy, whether modified or stock.

After parking in an assigned spot marked LMA-288, I checked out some of the competition. Ed Cozak of Bedford, VA, had a nice '05 coupe in silver with a Mach 1/Boss-style swatch of black covering most of the hood.

"It's easy to overdo these things," Ed told me about the car whose license plates declare 'BIGCHIL.' "I've made a few mods for my personal taste: K&N cold air intake, SCT programming, Tri-Ax shifter and a pair of Borla axle-back pipes. My first Mustang was a '65. I regretted getting rid of it, and it took 40 years to get another one. This one's not going anywhere!"

Ed's was a story I would hear throughout the weekend: he fell in love with the first Mustang, didn't buy another one until now. Betsy Hargis, for example, of Terre Haute, IN, had a Mustang at the tender age of 16, but did not step up to the pony plate again until she saw the '05. The Hargises have applied a chin spoiler, CDC dash package, accent decals, sequential turn signals and a trick trunk mat to their new car.

I heard a similar tale from Carroll and Karen Sutton, who drove their red '05 convertible GT - nicknamed 'E TICKET' - from Springfield, IL. "We bought a '65 convertible on July 4, 2000," Carroll told me. "It got a first place at the 2004 Grand National, but when we saw the '05 prototype in Dearborn I told Karen we had to have one. We've made a few changes to it, but the hardest part was tracking down a tan convertible top boot to match the tan interior. For some reason, Ford thinks the boot should be black on this car, which doesn't match anything. We saw a car with a tan boot at SEMA and had to do some research to find the company that made it."

Once I tore myself free from the Elly Mays, I found that late model modifieds appeared to be taking over MCA, a club founded on the preservation and painstaking restoration of '60s Mustangs.

Some cars were heavily modified, such as the '01 coupe Ray Taylor was helping his daughter detail. The Stoneville, NC, Pony had been tricked out with scissor-style doors, BFGoodrich Scorcher tires with yellow bands in the tread, a balanced and blueprinted V-6, S-trim Vortech, lightweight Kmember, custom interior and trunk panels, laser-engraved hood and multi-colored gauges. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention it's the exact color of a tennis ball - Leah's favorite sport.

Another head-turning Mustang was Jim Buehler's gray '88 GT, whose chassis was sitting flush with the pavement when I nearly tripped over it. Jim is the original owner of the hatchback, which Air Ride Technologies in Jasper, Ind., fitted with airbags and a compressor for a tuner-style altitude change.

"Six years ago I got tired of the stock look," Jim said. "I started stockpiling parts for the transformation in my living room. The engine is a Ford Racing 347, the tranny is a Tremec TKO and it's got an Auburn rear axle. I had a six-point cage installed, along with a fuel cell, side pipes, subframe connectors, a ram air hood and leather over the original seats."

Weekend Wheels
Never before in automotive history has the aftermarket been so prepared for the release of a popular car. Thanks to Ford Motor Co.'s cooperation and encouragement, countless accessories and upgrades were available for the '05 Mustang before it actually hit showrooms.

Greg Sullins loaned me his modified Satin Silver '05 coupe for the trip to Johnson City, which made the 180 miles through North Carolina and Tennesse mountains that much more pleasant. To the already loaded GT premium package Greg added 18x9-inch chromed bullitt wheels, 285/35Zr18 Toyo tires, a boy racer rear wing, some stylish dual exhaust outlets, louvers for the side windows, tinting, traditional lemans racing stripes and matching GT-300 side stripes.

The 4.6-liter V-8 now puts out 350 horsepower by way of a Diablosport predator tunable performance programmer, C&l performance mass air flow intake unit and Magnaflow exhaust. The engine runs best on 93 octane fuel, and looks great with its catalog of dress-up accessories from MAC and Upr. Eibach springs created the car's fighting stance.

With so much strong competition among the late Models, Greg was not surprised to see the 2005-06 popular Choice trophy go to someone else, but his '73 coupe with 981 original miles won its third gold award in the Unrestored class and his '66 coupe received enough points to enter the newfor-' 06 Conservator class - MCA's highest achievement for a show car.