Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
August 1, 2009
Photos By: John Moore

Every five years, the Mustang nation comes together to celebrate another milestone for one of the most storied and longest-lasting nameplates in automotive history. In a tradition that dates back to the Mustang's 25th anniversary, Ford Motor Company and the Mustang Club of America join together to stage a huge bash so all Mustang enthusiasts, with interests in everything from concours vintage cars to late-model race cars, can meet in one place at one time. It's a unique partnership between the company that created the Mustang with the national club that continues to fan the flame.

Over 500 Mustangs, led by Ford Racing's Shelby GT500 Pace Car, cruised from Barber Motorsports Park to the Birmingham suburb of Homewood on Thursday evening. A street party followed, complete with a live band and restaurants remaining open.

From the number of cars and vendors to the size and scope of the venue, the Mustang 45th Anniversary Celebration was huge. Held over the April 16-19 weekend, the date happily coincided with the Mustang's actual 45th birthday on Friday, April 17. We can't say enough about the venue at Barber Motorsport Park, just east of Birmingham, Alabama. More like a national park than a race track, the Barber staff maintains immaculately groomed grounds and an even better racing surface. But, as a road course, the facility also covers a lot of ground. We overheard numerous complaints about the distances between activities, with the manufacturer/swap meet and car display areas on one side of the track and the race paddock and concours areas on the other side. Trams from nearby Talladega Speedway transported attendees around the perimeter road.

Thursday was the official start of the event, with hundreds of Mustangs rolling into the registration area, many of them part of the California-to-Alabama Mustangs Across America cruise. But the show really hit the road on Thursday evening with a 500-car caravan from Barber Motorsports Park to downtown Homewood (just south of Birmingham) for an evening cruise-in. We got there early to scope out photo spots and noted that plenty of Mustangs were already parked along Main Street. The total number of Mustangs likely exceeded 600 by the time the main caravan arrived.

Friday looked more like a Saturday with cars and participants rolling into Barber by the thousands. A fellow tram traveler noted that she and her husband decided to attend on Friday due to Saturday's rain forecast, a choice obviously made by many others. The manufacturer/swap meet area was jammed early as most people headed there first looking for deals.

Ford Racing's 45th anniversary display included an installation area, where Mustang owners could have performance parts installed by technicians from Gene Evans Ford.

Thankfully, Saturday's rain stayed away, providing a nice, sunny day so everyone could peruse the concours, watch or participate in the open-track activities, and shop the vendors. Ford President Alan Mulally created the event's biggest buzz when he arrived to visit with vendors and participants, including the nine original owners of '641/2 Mustangs who were set up, with their Mustangs, in front of the Barber motorcycle museum. The sold-out Saturday night Evening with Ford banquet at the Marriott Birmingham featured a number of speakers, including Ford Racing Director Brian Wolfe, Shelby Automobiles' marketing director Jim Owens, MCA president Steve McCarley, and race drivers Jerry Titus, Tom Kendall, and Scott Pruett. An Elvis impersonator closed out the evening. We suppose the Beatles impersonators were booked.

The rain finally arrived early Sunday morning, but it drifted through by mid-morning. Judging by the lack of traffic heading into Barber, we assume most participants, at least the car show crowd, made an early departure for home. Thankfully, the track dried quickly and sufficiently for the closing day racing activities, which included Cobra R and Mustang Challenge competition.