We're standing in a nest of Russian L-39 trainer jets at a private airport in Gadsden, Alabama. From soaring distance, we look like a worm the baby birds are too awkward to slurp up. The temperature on this March day is a record-low 25 degrees but 450mm of Canon autofocus glass creates a weak, heat-like shimmer as we study the object of our fascination.
The wave in the air makes the scene mythic, cause for goosebumps - or is it the cold crawling up our arms? The blue Mustang sits at one end of a long taxiway revving its engine, bragging in short barks that horsepower is about to kick inertia's butt. Clutch dropped, the blue coupe accelerates like a bullet from a gun barrel - no drama, no squealing tires, just a Mustangon a short, urgent mission.
Four gears considered and discarded, two left ignored as dual turbines reach maximum boost in the middle of each shift. We watch this Mustang eat up the length of the runway with unchallenged authority; picture an F-14 scooting across the deck of a carrier on takeoff, and you're there. Mission accomplished!
When it parks door-to-wingtip with one of the Soviet jets there are no dripping fluids, no metallic popping sounds, no embarrassing vapor clouds. No super-car shortcomings at all. This 710-horsepower beast - that's 900 ponies at the crank - is as docile and predictable as Mom's minivan.
Rudy Beaver steps out of the 2006 Platt & Payne Signature Edition Shadrach Mustang, having just taken delivery this morning. After a lifetime of working hard the 78-year-old real estate developer is spending his golden years playing in a big toybox, which includes the heavily modified 2005 Harley-Davidson Ultra Glide motorcycle he drives from his farm to the airstrip, a 1970 Dodge Charger with a 605-horsepower Hemi and a '55 Thunderbird with a 455-horse supercharged small-block.
Rudy used to own this airport and the hangar we are standing in - the perfect location for a hobby business started in the '90s in which he rebuilt, flew and sold military jets from Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, China and Britain. Remember when Chrysler head Bob Lutz was featured in car magazines at the stick of his very own jet? Rudy built that ride for Lutz, and about 150 more like it.
That explains the crazy-expensive winged toys, but what's up with this Shadrach Mustang?
With 2005 and '06 Mustangs styled so closely after their ancestors, great memories were certain to be resurrected. Carroll Shelby has already created 21st century versions of the G.T. 500 and Hertz rent-a-racer models; Mustang 69 wowed the crowd at SEMA with its all-black Boss Sixty Nine show car; and we can hardly wait to see Ford apply Mach 1 and Bullitt treatments to its retro-styled coupes.
That's what the big companies with big names and big budgets are doing to celebrate the flashier milestones from Mustang history, but where's the love for the people and events that are not household names today but should be? What about the racers who won Ford its Total Performance crown one quarter-mile at a time at dragstrips all over the country? We applaud Pure Power Motorsports for returning to the pedestal two stars of the strip with its line of commemorative, high-performance Ponies dedicated to Hubert Platt and Randy Payne.
Now, if you are not old enough to have seen a new 1970 Mustang, or you slept through a semester of FoMoCo History class, we should probably explain that Platt and Payne were a charismatic duo who put on drag racing seminars for Ford dealers at tracks all across America. The two Georgians and their blue race cars were known collectively as "The Going Thing."