Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
April 28, 2014
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

Suzanne Drake recalls her panic when she first learned that her son, Troy, had been born with Down syndrome. "I'd never known anyone with Down syndrome so I didn't know what to expect" she says. "I didn't realize the actual capabilities of people with this disorder. What I failed to understand when Troy was born is that Down syndrome is just one small part of who he is. My son is more like everyone else than different."

Suzanne soon discovered the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), an organization dedicated to raising awareness about Down Syndrome and assisting parents with the information needed to help their children lead active and fulfilling lives. Twenty-four years after his birth, Troy Drake now works with his father, Scott, in the packaging department at Drake Automotive Group, the world's largest manufacturer of Mustang reproduction parts. "Troy does everything that we do," adds Suzanne. "He makes his own breakfast and lunch, water skis, and rides a bike. And he loves Mustangs!"

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So when Scott Drake was looking for a way for his company to make a contribution during this year's Mustang 50th anniversary activities, he decided to restore a '64½ Mustang convertible, tour it around the country throughout the Mustang's anniversary year, then sell it at a January 2015 auction with 100 percent of the sale price going to NDSS.

A big believer in "paying it forward," Scott Drake is not a stranger to Mustang builds for good causes. In 2008, he funded the restoration of the '66 Mustang owned by his high school drafting teacher, Bale Palagyi, who inspired Scott to produce his first reproduction part in the early 1970s. In 2009, Drake teamed up with the Mustangs of East Texas club to restore the "Pay It Forward" '66 convertible. The red Mustang sold for $42,000 at Barrett-Jackson, with proceeds going to the East Texas Crisis Center to assist victims of family violence.

The restored Drake 50th Anniversary Tribute ’64½ Mustang debuted at last year’s SEMA Show, where Drake staff supported the vintage theme by dressing in 1960s clothing. From left to right, Joe Johnston, Bob Fisher, Cynthia Curtain, Scott Drake, Suzanne Drake, Troy Drake, and Paul Kerner.

For his 50th anniversary tribute, Scott sought to restore a first-year Mustang and began the search for a suitable '64½ convertible. He found it inside the walls of Drake Automotive Group. Longtime employee Paul Kerner informed Scott that his father in Oregon owned one, a mostly original car that had been parked since 1981. "Paul learned how to drive in that car," Drake says. "His father had taken it apart over 30 years ago but never got around to finishing the restoration. We made a deal."

For the restoration, Scott once again approached Mustangs of East Texas, a regional group with the Mustang Club of America. "They answered the call again," adds Drake. "They're a great club from Tyler, Texas, all volunteers who used the convertible as a learning experience for new members. The club is loaded with Mustang experts and they really enjoy helping each other. They are the perfect example of what a Mustang club should be."

Club members pitched in with labor and parts, working nights and weekends to restore the '64½ Mustang in six months following Drake's request for an all-original theme to honor the 50 years of Mustang. Eddie Siler from Siler Paint and Body donated labor and materials for the bodywork and paint, changing the car's original Prairie Bronze with Palomino color combination to a traditional Wimbledon White with red. Randy Ortigo from Ortigo Performance rebuilt the 289 four-barrel engine, while Hays Automotive handled the automatic transmission work. Other contributions included power steering from Chock-O-Stang, seat belts and carpet from Craig Chesley at Ssnake-Oyl Products, and of course any needed reproduction parts from Drake Automotive Group. Club president Curtis Warren led the way by devoting many hours of his own time to the project.

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Fortunately, most of the unique '64½ parts were still on the mid-production 1964 car, including the early horns, headlight assemblies, hood, clip-on interior door handles and window cranks, air vent knob with the "A" marking, and radiator support with extra venting. The generator charging system was also intact, although Drake had to track down an original shroud. He's still looking for the unique '64½ shifter knob and convertible scuff plates.

The restored convertible made its debut at the 2013 SEMA show as part of Drake Automotive Group's "return to the 1960s" display, complete with Scott, Troy, and other Drake employees dressed in hippie and psychedelic regalia. From there, the Mustang will participate in the 50th Anniversary Pony Drive from Oklahoma to the Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration in Charlotte, followed by country-crossing appearances at Fabulous Fords Forever in California, the Prairie Roundup MCA national in Illinois, the Ford Roundup in Washington, the Pony Express MCA national in Nebraska, and Mustangs in Historic Savannah MCA national in Georgia. The MCA has partnered with Drake to help offset the transportation costs.

Finally, in January 2015, the Drake 50th Anniversary Tribute will go across the block at one of the major Arizona auctions with the total sale price going to the National Down Syndrome Society, an obvious choice for Scott and Suzanne Drake. "Our mission is to raise awareness about Down syndrome," says Suzanne. "We are truly blessed. With Troy, we've been able to meet so many people and experience so many things that we otherwise would have missed."

A big believer in "paying it forward," Scott Drake is not a stranger to Mustang builds for good causes.

Fortunately, most of the unique '64½ parts were still on the mid-production 1964 car, including the early horns, headlight assemblies, hood, clip-on interior door handles and window cranks, air vent knob with the "A" marking, and radiator support with extra venting.

Finally, in January 2015, the Drake 50th Anniversary Tribute will go across the block at one of the major Arizona auctions with the total sale price going to the National Down Syndrome Society, an obvious choice for Scott and Suzanne Drake.