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.

The Barber road course was a busy place all weekend, with open track, Mustang Challenge qualifying and races, and drift exhibitions. Participants in the Group parking area had the best view from their grassy hill.

Now comes the anticipation of the Mustang's 50th anniversary in 2014. Whereas the 25th anniversary in Charlotte initiated these traditional five-year events, it and the 30th, 35th, 40th, and 45th shows will likely be overshadowed by the celebration of 50 years of Mustangs-assuming, of course, that Ford and the Mustang hang on during these tough economic times. Throughout the 45th, we heard speculation about the location for the 50th, with some Mustang owners suggesting Dearborn as the ideal spot (but is it too cold in April?) and others hoping for a return to Nashville, home of the 40th anniversary show. MCA officials appear to be hinting at a return to Barber.

"Did you see the Hertz Shelby that someone pulled out of a barn?" That was the question that circulated throughout Barber Motorsports Park during the Mustang 45th Anniversary Celebration. I heard it all day on Friday, and people kept stopping me on Saturday to make sure I had seen it. I hadn't. Finally, someone pointed to the upper tier of concours parking. Looking down a long row of pristine show cars and concours competitors, it wasn't hard to find because of the crowd surrounding it.

The parkway into Barber Motorsport Park was jammed on Saturday morning. Workers did a good job of routing attendees and participants to their respective parking and display areas.

Strangely out of place among the best Mustangs in the world, the crusty old GT350H tugged at the emotions. Coated by dust and dirt, some felt sorry for its neglected condition. Others dreamed of stumbling across just such a car and buying it from an owner who doesn't realize the value. A few hurried over in hopes that they could make an offer before someone told the owner what he had.

Amazed by the attention for his old Shelby, owner Andy Vann stood back and took it all in, answering questions and turning down offers. He knows what he's got, having purchased the car from a Birmingham Ford dealer in 1967, right after it was turned in by Hertz. Essentially, Andy is the second owner-after Hertz.

Andy told the story over and over. He and his wife drove the GT350H for 13 years. He says the hood was damaged when his wife ran into the back of a garbage truck. In 1981, he parked the Shelby because, "My wife was getting scared of all these people following her home and trying to buy it." The Shelby sat in his shop for the next 28 years-until the Thursday before the Mustang 25th Anniversary Celebration.

For anyone interested in a Marti Report for their '67-'99 Mustang, Kevin Marti (left) from Marti Autoworks was on hand with his laptop computer filled with Ford production information.

"A friend of mine works at the Barber museum," Andy told us. "He called and told me that I should drag the Shelby out to the Mustang show. He said to bring it just like it is-don't wash it, don't clean it." Andy says it took him all day to get the engine to fire. Then he discovered the brakes were shot, so he drove it to the track using the hand-brake.

Even in its dilapidated condition, the Shelby gave up little pieces of history. The sticker with the Hertz ID number, 0053.B.H., was still on the front bumper. When Andy looked in the glove box, he found an original Hertz rate schedule for the GT350H. In Birmingham, the '66 Hertz Shelby rented for $12 a day or $60 per week, plus 12-cents per mile.

We asked what Andy planned to do with the car after its celebrated display at the 45th. "I'm going to stick it back my shop until I have time to restore it." -Donald Farr



The 45th provided a parking display area for groups, like Mach 1s and Bullitts. The French contingent wowed everyone by renting 2010 Mustangs from Hertz and parking them, by color, in this precision lineup.

45th by the Numbers
1
Mustang Number One, VIN 100001, was on display inside the Barber museum
9
Number of original owners and their '64 1/2 Mustangs in the Original Owner display
15
Number of foreign countries represented at the 45th
500
Limit for number of Mustangs in the Thursday night cruise. We think there were more.
550
Tickets sold for the Saturday evening banquet
2,300-
Estimated number of Mustangs, from show cars to race cars, that participated in the event
55,000
Number of participants and attendees on Friday and Saturday

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