Jim Smart
February 19, 2007
Photos By: Mark Houlahan

During the middle of our nation's bicentennial, a small group of enthusiasts from Atlanta, Georgia, decided to form the Mustang Club of America (MCA). The whole thing began with a small classified advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution, inviting interested Mustangers to turn out for the MCA's first meeting. Shortly thereafter, the MCA held its first event at Stone Mountain, Georgia. That was 30 years ago.

There was plenty of track time for everyone. We spotted everything from early Shelbys and dedicated track cars to brand-new Ford GT supercars.

In 1976, the Mustang Club of America was committed to what would become known as classic Mustangs, the '65-'73s-the Lee Iacocca-inspired Mustangs people still loved 12 years after their introduction. Concerned over the potential demise of the Mustang amid sagging sales and lackluster plans for the future, enthusiasts became committed to saving older Mustangs. This alone is what inspired the MCA, and this is where the MCA focused its energy in the years to follow. The MCA's slogan was "Ownership Not Essential, Enthusiasm Is." This inspired thousands to join.

The MCA's founders probably didn't understand it then, but they were creating a foundation for world-class car-judging standards that remain with us today. They also conceived a formula for a successful international car club. The MCA has been through its share of ups and downs through the years, but the club has managed to raise its own benchmark, setting new standards for excellence and surviving the odds.

We couldn't imagine a national MCA event without Jon Enyeart of Pony Carburetors. Jon's tune-up clinics are always beneficial to enthusiasts.

There are a lot of people responsible for the MCA's success and with whom we remain friends all these years later. But it's the late Jim Osborn we remember the most. Jim fueled the MCA's growth with his contagious enthusiasm for both the Mustang and the MCA. It is impossible to think of the club without thinking of Jim and his family. Although he's been gone seven years, his dynamic spirit and the result of his efforts remain.

Over Labor Day weekend, thousands gathered at Barber Motorsports Park, just outside Birmingham, to pay tribute to the Mustang Club of America, its founders, and its legacy of success for three decades. Old friends got together to rub elbows, shake hands, and reminisce. There was plenty of conversation about cheap Shelbys and junkyards full of parts long ago. Some folks thumbed through old copies of the club's Mustang Times magazine when it was little more than a newsletter. Others passed around photo albums and watched videos from Grand National shows through the years. Still others walked the show searching for old friends they dared not miss, fearful they might not see them again for ages. That's what a landmark show like the MCA's 30th is all about-connecting with old friends and making new ones.

The cool thing about Barber was the message it sent enthusiasts about the MCA. When the club was founded, only factory-original, concours-restored classic Mustangs were allowed. Even the most basic six-cylinder hardtop was restored to original condition per the warranty-plate codes. Back then, modifications of any kind were unacceptable, and with good reason. Concours-restored classic Mustangs taught us all something about how to preserve history and get these cars back to factory-original condition. It was a wonderful time to be a hobbyist-and a trend that lasted 20 years. It infused value into these cars, making them not only an excellent investment, but a lot of fun, too.

In the interest of survival and continuing growth, the Mustang Club of America has adopted the restomod movement, setting up classes for modified Mustangs and weaving more driving activities into its events. Another fascinating renaissance for the MCA has been opening itself up to all Mustang model years, which couldn't have been better timed considering the phenomenal success of the all-new '05-'07 models. Not only are enthusiasts embracing the MCA, so is Ford Motor Company. Ford set up shop in Birmingham along with other manufacturers and businesses like K.A.R. Autogroup, Vortech/Paxton Superchargers, Classic Design Concepts, Boss Shinoda, Saleen, and MPS Auto Salvage.

Barber gave enthusiasts a 2.38-mile road course to play on. Steve McCarley, show chairman, says over 1,500 Mustangs participated down the straights and around the apexes at Barber. Pony Trails, a special driving event pioneered by former Mustang & Fords Editor Jeff Ford, was staged at the MCA's 30th Anniversary bash, funneling more than 200 Mustangs from Barber to the city of Homewood. In Homewood, Mustangs shut down the town, lining up for thousands of people to see. Call it three solid blocks of Mustangs at the invitation of Homewood city officials. Locals loved it.

Like every landmark event in the MCA's history, the 30th was a show to remember and treasure because it represented survival, fellowship, and continuing success. It's a fitting tribute to the club that launched Mustang Mania II in the mid-'70s-a burning passion for these cars that has yet to find an end.