The Big Five Oh
Ford’s Mustang celebrates its milestone birthday in style at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Fifty is a significant milestone. When people approach what most perceive as mid-point in life, some want to pretend that it didn’t happen. However, most want to throw the party to end all parties. After all, if you’ve made it that far, it is definitely cause for celebration.
After the opening ceremony closed, Ford brought the 50th Anniversary edition into the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the media. The press swamped the white S550, and later as the media coverage died down, the public flooded in for a closer look.
When it came time to celebrate the 50th birthday of the world’s favorite Pony car, the Mustang Club of America knew the party had to be huge. The club had hosted celebrations for other significant milestones in the past. Most recently, the club blew out the candles on the Mustang’s 45th at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. However, for the car’s big 50, the club knew it had to be even bigger; So much bigger, that just one venue wasn’t enough to contain it.
Our friends at AmericanMuscle.com brought their usual media crew to the event to film, and they conducted a brief interview with Ford CEO Mark Fields regarding the Anniversary car. The interview must have gone well, because Mark Fields surprised AM’s on-camera personality Dave Kaeck with a high-five!
As such, the club planned twin celebrations to cover both sides of the country—one in Las Vegas, Nevada, for West Coast fans and one in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the East Coast. Drivers in the Great American Pony Drive started in Mustang, Oklahoma, and drove to either event, while another group of hardcore fans drove from California to Charlotte in the Mustangs Across America cruise. In fact, we heard that Charlotte was the far larger event, with about 3,800 cars registered, while Vegas still had a stout 2,000 registered cars. Of course, thousands more were on hand just to see the spectacle.
Fortunately they didn’t sully this cake with 50 candles. It is, however, adorned with the official show logo, so it might be a collectible. Hopefully it won’t be found in a barn one day, but we didn’t have time to stick around and have a slice, so we aren’t sure if it’s chocolate or vanilla under that icing.
However you want to slice it, the celebrations were huge, and they were mirrored by other celebrations as far away as China and the Middle East. Let’s face, the Mustang is a popular 50-year-old. Obviously, the Mustang is our favorite 50-year-old, so we headed out to both events, and what you see here is our comprehensive coverage of the Charlotte bash. Sadly, steady rain really hurt the attendance on Saturday, which is typically the biggest day for any show. However, there were still lots of hardcore fans that braved the weather.
Without an aerial shot, it is impossible to really capture the scope of the Mustang 50th Celebration in Charlotte. However, this little sample gives you the idea that there were Mustangs for as far as the eye could see. Mustangs were driving all over the area, and they took up spots at hotels for a 25-mile radius around the track.
Whether you attended or not, there was a lot to see at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so check out our gallery to get an idea what a great party it was.
Officially kicking off the Mustang 50th Celebration on Thursday April 17, 2014 a host of Ford officials showed off the 50th Anniversary Edition Mustang that had debuted the previous day at the New York International Auto Show. Several Ford officials spoke about this limited-production Mustang, but Executive Chairman, Bill Ford, really stoked the flames of enthusiasts when he admitted that he’s not supposed to pick a favorite Ford, but the Mustang is his favorite.
Our buddies over at Latemodel Restoration were offering T-shirts and coupons in the company display. Fans just had to sign up via one of several interactive iPad displays. Needless to say, the company was swamped by throngs of Mustang fans, and quickly moved through a massive number of shirts. The company also sponsored the Mustang Organizations Rallying Enthusiasts program at Charlotte, which let clubs and groups park together.
Fortunately, those waiting in the long lines in the Latemodel Restoration booth were able to entertain themselves by looking at this awesome Terminator-powered Fox. Under the hood the car rocks a Four-Valve 4.6 blown by a Whipple 2.3-liter supercharger fed by a JLT Cold Air Intake and fueled by a Glenn’s Performance Sleeper fuel system. The stout modular is backed by a Tremec T-56 six-speed engaged by a McLeod clutch. On the outside, the Fox hunkers down over a beautiful set of True Forged Victory wheels.
One of our favorite cars at the show is this Terminator Bullitt built by SVTP Member Jmccormick (be sure to check out his awesome build thread). This car is as clean as clean gets. Justin transferred the Cobra engine, six-speed transmission, and independent rear suspension into his low-mileage Bullitt, along with the entire Terminator wiring harness. The resulting combo makes a 440 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, but the level of detail and the number of Highland Green-powercoated parts really take the car to the next level.
While it might seem like an unassuming Coyote on the outside, there’s a good reason this car has the hood up.
Yes, it is still sporting a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter, but it has been upgraded with a Ford Racing Performance Parts Cobra Jet intake, an FRPP throttle body, and a tweaked Airaid cold-air intake. That means it’s good for mid-400-horsepower in a stealthy package.
Normally Ford destroys its prototype vehicles because they aren’t deemed legal for the street, but every so often someone saves them from the clutches of the crusher. This is said to be the prototype for the first modular-powered Cobra.
However, rather than being a 1996 Mustang, this is tester built in a 1995 chassis. There so many rare cars in Charlotte that we lost track, but this one certainly stood out from the crowd.
As one of the coolest Mustangs ever built, most ’03-’04 Cobras tend to stick to close to the stock script when it comes to exterior mods. They even have a pretty by-the-numbers path for power mods.
Well, this Terminator breaks the mold on two levels. Not only does it wear Saleen body panels on the outside, but under the hood wears a centrifugal supercharger. Yes, the stock Roots blower was booted out in favor of a ProCharger and a new upper intake.
Jay Tucker at JLT Performance is a big fan of your editor’s booth photography, so we just had to snap a fresh photo of his display. Seriously, the booth was nicely adorned with both GT and GT500 power on the outside, but the real action was all the products in the booth.
JLT showed off its new, painted radiator covers, and the one that caught our eye was the new CAI for Cobra Jet manifold conversions. Look for more on this product here at SVTP in the future.
It’s been a while since we ran into former NMRA Ford Drag Racing stalwarts Barry and Roxanne Shepard. Since relocated to Virginia, Roxanne has kept her racing close to home by running, and often winning, at local drag strips. Still, the duo made the drive down to the 50th and displayed her beloved Tweety, a 1999 Mustang GT. This 10-second ride features a Livernois-built, Two-Valve 4.6 boosted by a Vortech SQ-Trim supercharger.
A flip-front front end isn’t at the top of our mod list, but we can certainly get behind the patriotism displayed on the hood.
Not only does the hood flip up to display an eagle and flag, but in that position it reveals a Roush TVS-supercharged Coyote breathing through a homegrown oval inlet.
Though he owns one of only 383 Candy Metallic 2011 GTs, owner Ed Sobolewski wasn’t shy about modding his California Special.
Obviously the owner of this 2001 Bullitt is a big fan of Steve McQueen’s favorite ride, but that doesn’t mean he was ready to leave it stock.
Not only did he add stripes, body panels, projector headlights, and more, he really detailed the engine compartment by paint matching numerous parts. Additionally, the radiator cover is signed by Bullitt engineers Art Hyde and Scott Hoag.
The Yellow Mustang Registry crew had a strong presence in the M.O.R.E. parking area, and Steve and Santina Flynn made the trip down from New Jersey to show off this 1999 S-281SC.
The New Edge Saleens were some of the most attractive ever built, and this Chrome Yellow example is striking. It has the performance to back up the looks, as it is equipped with a built Two-Valve and a ported Saleen supercharger.
This pink accented Mustang did its job attracting raffle ticket buyers for the Cruise for a Cause, which benefits cancer research. Backed by sponsors like Ford Racing, Royal Purple, and VMP Tuning, the raffle will award 21 winners, with the grand prize value clocking in at over $7,500.
Now we all know that SVT got its start with the 1993 Mustang Cobra. Obviously it is a significant, limited-production ride. However, the rarest of the breed are the Teal variants. Only 1,355 of these Cobras were built, and this example looked like it just rolled off the dealer lot.
Moreover, owner Kerry Jacobs says it is #18 and the last pre-production Cobra built before the line switch over to building them for the public.
Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s team was definitely ready to rock at Charlotte. They were set up full force displaying RTR Mustangs and handing out goodies to fans. The company’s booth even had a charging station so Mustang fans could replenish their phones during a long day at the event.
Also on display was Vaughn’s RTR drifter. Of course he started his 50th celebration in Vegas with a drift demonstration out west. Then he hopped a red-eye and made the trip out to Charlotte to spin some tires in this.
Not only was it the first chance for many Mustang fans to see the 2015 Anniversary edition, it was also the first chance for them to lay eyes on a 2015 Mustang. Though some people are still resistant to the change, we found it heartening that the 2015 Mustang rotating at the center of the Ford display had a constant crowd around it.
Members of the crowd seemed to stay for a while and soak in the car. They also snapped lots of photos.
On one side of Ford’s display was a collection of new offerings leading to the Mustang in the center. On the exit side, the display was lined on both sides by various models from recent eras in Mustang history, from Foxes all the way up to the new car. Proudly representing the outgoing models in style was this Grabber Blue 2013 Boss 302.
If you didn’t already know, your new editor is an unabashed Fox enthusiast. Not quite a purist Melvin, but a definite fan of the breed. I always wanted an ’82 GT, and when I finally got one I always wanted to add this taillight filler panel that joined the two small taillights and took up the real estate used by the license plate. I don’t think many of these parts were made, and I hadn’t seen one in years. I was pretty excited to snap a shot of this one. After all, it is the little things in life.
Not to be outdone by the yellow fellows, the Red Mustang Registry crew was out in the M.O.R.E. parking section as well. Proud RMR member Steve Thames had his Mustang GT Premium upgraded to HPE 650 specs by Hennessy Performance.
The package includes a Roush TVS supercharger, a Steeda carbon-fiber cold-air intake, a Hennessy calibration and more. While it’s not a Terminator, Steve has dubbed his GT Judgement Day, so it must remind him of the blown snake.
This 1993 Mustang LX hatch was so clean; you might think it was another car stored in a bubble by a collector. Well, not quite. Nope. Carla Henderson has over 80,000 miles on her unrestored Fox.
You’d never know that by looking at the Reef Blue/Black interior hatch. It brings you right back to 1993. Now Carla admits to keeping it in the garage, but you can tell she obviously loves driving it.
Hey, we know the guy that took that cover photo! Steeda brought out an impressive group of display and track cars to Charlotte. This black example is the Street Fighter, a 2010 Mustang that has been completely upgraded with Steeda gear and a blown 5.0 Three-Valve.
Most people have never owned a Cobra R, much less raced one. Well, Steeda brought out both of its historic Cobra R racers to the event. Not surprisingly fans were bypassing the modern Steedas, moving deeper into the company’s display and snapping photos of these rare racers.
Since many Rs never were raced, it’s great to see cars with true racing heritage on display the Mustang 50th Celebration.
Terminator Foxes are awesome machines. They are a combination of a classic era and a tipping point for the modern era of Mustang performance. Moreover, they definitely attract attention, so it’s no surprise that SCT Performance had Project Terminated on display with several other modern Mustangs that use its tuning hardware. After all, if you are going to get a Whipple-blown Terminator engine to run properly in a Fox Mustang, you are going to need a tune.
There were so many clean examples of rare Mustangs at Charlotte Motor Speedway it was enough to make a true enthusiast’s head spin. Of course there was a robust contingent of ’60s and ’70s Mustangs, but our era really began with the ’79 Mustang, and the Indy Pace Car is the most desirable example. Not only is it a limited-production model, but it also foreshadowed Mustangs to come, including the 1982 Mustang GT. Just seeing one in great condition sitting unassumingly at the end of a row of was really cool.
Speaking of seeing a Mustang sitting somewhere with little fanfare, this 2000 Cobra R was just out in the parking lot near the swap meet. One of 300 SVT Mustangs prepped for road racing, this Cobra is one of the most fun car we have ever driven. Not because it makes the most power or is the most refined, but because it is raw, rev-happy, and fast. This one is number 17 of 300.
Not only was AmericanMuscle.com on site covering the event, its MMD division was offering a chance to win its 2014 Mustang GT SEMA project car. If that wasn’t tempting enough, MMD was also giving away free T-shirts to those that signed up. If we were eligible to win, we definitely would have taken a crack at winning this beauty.
If you aren’t familiar with Saleen history, you might not realize the company took home the SCCA driver, team, and manufacturer’s championship in 1987. As such, it was really cool seeing this Saleen Fox upgraded to NASA American Iron Extreme specs blasting around the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Besides waiting in lines for Mustang swag, lots of lucky Mustang fans waited in line for the opportunity to take a ride in one of several Ford Racing School cars. We’d say it was well worth the wait to ride in a GT500, Mustang GT, or even the Fiesta ST that was part of the bunch.
Besides its vintage Fox and SN-95 racers on display in its booth, Steeda brought out its S197 “20 Car” for NASA American Iron racer Robin Burnett to run around CMS.
The wildest ride we spotted on track was Chris Griswald’s American Iron Extreme racer. Prepped by Paul’s Automotive Engineering in Cincinnati, Ohio, and riding on a full Maximum Motorsports suspension, this 1999 Cobra has a truly unique engine combo. It sports a built D.S.S. small-block engine under the hood that is fed by an unusual rear-mount turbo kit. More unique still is the intercooler is heat-exchanger for the air-to-water intercooler is also rear-mounted and uses air pressure from the open cockpit to force air over the heat exchanger. On just 5 pounds of boost this combo lays down over 840 horsepower at the wheels. Chris said that you really have to stay focused when driving a car this fast.
The open-track event at the Mustang 50th Celebration was broken down into four groups, A through D, with the A group being the most experienced and the D group being those with the least experience. We’d have to say that the owner of this winged Boss 302 had a bit of experience going around the track, as this sinister corner carver has to really car some speed to need that wing to plant the rear to the asphalt.
Having driven the Shelby GT shortly after its debut, we know it was a nimble, if underpowered S197. That said, it is far more common to see these rare rides on the street or at a car show. Seeing one flying around the 2.25-mile track at Charlotte Motor Speedway was a treat. The track used about 90 percent of the NASCAR oval, and incorporated eight turns, and that’s plenty to keep a Mustang speed fanatic entertained.
There are probably more pristine 1993 Cobra Rs today than there are standard 1993 Mustang GTs and LXs. That’s because, much to the chagrin of SVT engineers, most of these cars saw more of the inside of a garage than they did the surface of a racetrack. No matter, it is still cool to see one in like-new condition, even if someone walks a shadow in your shot. Seeing cars like this was pretty common at the Mustang 50th Celebration.
This is where it all began for your SVTP editor. Seeing a 1982 GT while I was in middle school started my path down the road to Mustang fandom.
This stock example brought me all the way back to those formative years. Eventually I owned a black ’82 GT, but this car is in much better shape than my car ever was.
Roush Performance had an expansive display of its Mustang offerings, but this top-of-the-line, Aluminator-optioned Roush Stage 3 racer was a real attention grabber.
Some people own trailer queens that are rarely driven, but Michael Clark describes his Sage Green Four-Eye Fox as his Trailer Park Queen. Sure it’s not a perfect showpiece, but Michael loves his ride, loves driving it, and he had it looking good at the 50th. Moreover, he is one of the most passionate Fox enthusiasts that we have met. Were they awarded, Michael would have his Melvin PhD in Fox Mustangs.
We loved Nitto’s 2013 Mustang at last year’s SEMA show and it made the trip to Charlotte to represent the tire brand. The car obviously wears Nitto NT-05s on Niche Vecenza wheels and rides on a Steeda suspension. However, it has plenty of performance to back up its striking, 3D Carbon-enhanced black and red visage. Under the hood it’s upgraded with an ultra-rare, SEMA Show-logo’d FRPP Cobra Jet intake, an FRPP twin 67mm throttle body, and an FRPP CJ cold-air intake.
The 2012-2013 Boss 302s are some of the best Mustangs ever built. How could these handling machines get any better?
Well, how about with an Armageddon twin-turbo kit? This School Bus yellow example held court in the Kooks Custom Headers both, as Kooks bends up the tubing for the Armageddon kits, which promise to take a stock Mustang to 650 horsepower.
Who doesn’t love a Grabber Blue Coyote? These cars are definitely great eye candy for a display, and this example was part of Pro Dyno’s indoor display in the midway. This one is upgraded with a Whipple supercharger. That’s obviously a potent performance combo, but we really loved the Grabber Blue treatment on the supercharger.[
Showing off its hood lifts and other gear at the 50th, Redline Tuning had a GT500 on display. The car wore a standard hood lift on one side and an Elite hood lift on the other to give potential customers an easy way to choose. As is standard practice at events, the company also offered on-site installations of the lifts.
As great as the first two days of the Mustang 50th celebration were, the weather just didn’t want to cooperate on Saturday. If you’ve ever been to an event, you know that Saturday is always the day with the most spectators. Obviously the rain cut down on attendance, but there were still lots of hardcore Mustang fans determined to brave the rain and celebrate the Mustang’s birthday.
We weren’t willing to risk our expensive camera gear in the rain, so we stuck close to the indoor venues on Saturday. Fortunately the Ford display was covered, so we could enjoy the line of older display ’Stangs. Better yet, there were some great presentations by legendary members of the Mustang family, including Jack Telnak, the father of the Fox, and Neil Ressler the co-founder of Ford SVT. Be sure to check out our video coverage of these presentations.
Drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. took an overnight flight from the heat of Vegas to the rain of Charlotte to celebrate the Mustang’s birthday in both spots. It seemed like everyone that braved the rain was in line to meet Vaughn and fellow drifter Ryan Tuerck. The pair signed autographs, took photos, and handed out plenty of Team RTR swag.
Scheduled to drift for the crowds, Vaughn did brave the wet surface and sling some water. A few lucky passengers were able to ride along with him, however both Vaughn and his co-pilots got soaked in his open-cockpit drifter. Though the rain really saved the tires during the few runs he did make, the team finally decided that parking the car and saving his equipment for better conditions was the better part of valor.
Finally, your author has to give a big shout out to friend, former co-worker, and outgoing editor of the Mustang Club of America’s Mustang Times magazine—Mary Jean Wesche. She is a great lady and a true Mustang enthusiast. Before she retired from her post at the Mustang Times Mary Jean was bestowed with the Lee Iacocca Award by Edsel Ford himself. That’s a great way to ride off into the sunset. Congrats MJ!