BROOKLYN, MI – Early on this cloudless, sunny and 70-degree July morning, a line of Mustangs – most belonging to members of the Mustang Owners Club of South Eastern Michigan (MOCSEM) – began rolling through the gates of the Michigan International Speedway. They were coming from near and far to participate in the “Mustang 50th Anniversary Celebration @ MIS,” a special event prior to this year’s Onsted Show Car Nationals.
The Kiwanis Club in the nearby village of Onsted, MI, and the Michigan International Speedway have hosted the Show Car Nationals on the infield of MIS for more than a decade, but due to the withdrawal by several major corporate sponsors, this would be the final year for the show. Perhaps it was fitting that this unique event went out with a bang, thanks to Onsted Kiwanis working with MOCSEM to mark Mustang’s memorable birthday with “Mustangs @ MIS.”
Soon Mustangs rumbled onto the MIS infield a dozen or more at a time until more than 200 Ford pony cars from all five generations had gathered at the famed speedway. With their paint representing nearly every color in the rainbow gleaming in the summer sun, it was a truly pleasing sight for the eyes. And for the ears, the exhaust notes from the multitude of Mustang engines broke the morning silence in a rousing tone as they jockeyed for a parking spot on the show field.
“This event not only helps the Kiwanis Club of Onsted, but allows members from the community and surrounding areas the chance to see what Michigan International Speedway has to offer besides great racing,” said Alisha Cottrell, director of community and government affairs for MIS. For Ford Racing, it was a chance for us to share a unique opportunity with MOCSEM and the Mustang faithful: to cruise the high banks of Michigan’s historic two-mile oval.
We joined in with the events of the day, chatting with owners at our Ford Racing Meet-and-Greet tent, handing out Mustang posters and Ford Racing Performance Parts CD catalogs, and then helping MOCSEM president Mike Rey by handling the judging duties for the end-of-day awards ceremony. Walking among the prized ponies and talking to the proud participants, you could sense the love, heart and passion that these Mustang fans have for their cars, plus the camaraderie and friendships these enthusiasts have with one another.
They were all sharing stories of barn finds, restorations, project builds, parts upgrades, special modifications and even of Mustangs themselves being passed down from generation to generation. Entire multi-generational families came to this event, and everyone from the grandparents to the grandchildren spent the morning together to make new family memories around their Mustangs. It’s easy to see why Mustang enthusiasts are truly the most passionate car owners in the world.
The most exciting part of the day came in the afternoon. Any Mustang driver who made a $5 charity donation while registering for the event was allowed to drive their car on the racetrack! Excitement filled the air when the show field was staged by rows to line up and head out to drive a few laps on the storied NASCAR speedway. Many participants actually ran to their cars when they saw their row being staged so that they wouldn’t miss their once-in-a lifetime chance to drive their very own Mustang on the MIS banked oval. No matter if they had a highly modified V-8 or a pure stock V-6 or even a four, it was a thrill for them to pilot their daily driver on the same track as their NASCAR heroes.
Consider the diversity of just two of the Mustangs at the show that had both taken a few laps around the track: The first is a 1984 Ford Mustang SVO, the actual #6 Mac Tools factory road racer built and raced by Bob Fehan with his brother, Doug, in the SCCA-GT Class in the mid to late ’80s. This famed Mustang race car is owned by Mark Haas, an avid SVO collector from Brighton, MI. Mark gave us the honor of riding shotgun in his SVO racer around the MIS oval – what a memorable way to experience a Mustang with Ford Racing heritage!
Second is a 1968 Ford Shelby GT500KR owned by Sarah Cassette, a nurse from Newport, MI. This gorgeous and super-rare Shelby Mustang is finished in Highland Green exterior paint and features a 428CJ with factory A/C. Sarah met a new friend at the show, Bob Shrader. Bob is a WWII vet born in 1926 who had worked for Ford for most of his adult life. Bob owns an award-winning, all-original 1964½ Mustang, and was pleased to have spent the day next to Sarah’s Shelby at the “Mustangs @ MIS” event. Their newfound friendship serves as yet another wonderful example of the personal connections that Mustang owners share.
Sarah’s story of how she came to own a magnificent GT500KR is a special one. The car was purchased by her father, Bill, back in 1999, who plucked it from the deserts of southern Arizona. Sarah grew up in the garage, and in the passenger seat of this Shelby, with her father by her side. She and her father worked countless hours on the car together, using it as a father-and-daughter restoration project. Sarah said she was the perfect shop-mate for her dad, because anytime he needed her small hands to reach into some of the tight places on the Mustang, she was always there to lend a helping hand.
As the years passed by, the two both worked on and showed that car together every time they could. Taking the GT500 to all the local car shows always seemed to draw lots of attention. And then there came that one unforgettable day three years ago. After washing and waxing the Shelby together on her father’s birthday, Sarah took a ride with him. He drove her to a local Secretary of State’s office and told her he was signing the car over to her!
Standing in line together to get the title transferred, Sarah remembers tears streaming down her face. Her father signed off on the rare, 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500KR and put ownership in her name – an amazing gesture to demonstrate the love that a father has for his daughter.
Sarah and her father still go to car shows together every chance they get. The car is still at the center of their relationship, and she plans to keep it a running and driving car instead of squirreling it away for safe keeping. Sarah says she wants to share this beautiful Shelby with as many Mustang fans as she can. It’s truly a great ride … and a beautiful story!