MATTHEWS, NC – Automotive experts and enthusiasts alike will readily agree that the Ford Mustang has achieved iconic car status over the car’s storied 52-year history. Indeed, the original Pony Car has captured the imagination of owners the world over for all six decades in which it has appeared, selling some 9 million copies in the process. Mustang has played a role in countless songs, movies, TV shows and car-related events as an integral part of the American automotive fabric. But despite Mustang’s fame and ongoing popularity, there’s one part of the enthusiast world that has always escaped the Mustang – and that is the establishment of a comprehensive national museum dedicated to the car, its history and its passionate following.
In an announcement before the May 3rd monthly meeting of the Carolina Regional Mustang Club (CRMC) at a restaurant in suburban Charlotte, North Carolina, two known names in the Mustang loyalist world, Ron Bramlett and Steve Hall, revealed their plan to build and open “The National Mustang Museum.”
The CRMC is one of the nation’s largest and most active Mustang clubs, and as a regional affiliate of the Mustang Club of America, it has been a key player in a couple of mega Mustang anniversary events held the Charlotte Motor Speedway over the years. So it made sense that with a Mustang museum opening up in their backyard, the CRMC would be among the first to know about it.
Bramlett and Hall themselves had been instrumental in putting together the Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration events held simultaneously in Charlotte and Las Vegas back in 2014, with Bramlett serving as executive director and Hall the assistant director – so there is already a working relationship between them. Bramlett, a 10-year MCA Board Member, is perhaps best known in the hobby as the principal behind “Mustangs Plus,” a restoration and restomod-centric aftermarket parts and accessories supplier to the Mustang hobby since the 1980’s. Hall handles much of the MCA’s marketing duties these days, including the “Mustang Express” club email newsletter as director of Down The Road Marketing, but is likely best known for his previous work supplying Ford-approved club tee-shirts under his Acme Apparel Group operation.
The announcement that Bramlett and Hall have been planning The National Mustang Museum in Concord, North Carolina, came as a surprise to many in the hobby. The pair had been working quietly behind the scenes until the project had made enough headway so as not to be brushed off as just another pie-in-the sky dream that gets announced, but nothing beyond that. The National Mustang Museum set to be built in Concord is different than similar efforts, Hall told Ford Performance, in one key aspect: “It is happening as we speak.”
In a letter to a handful of Mustang hobby insiders, Hall and Bramlett said that Concord city officials and those of Cabarrus County, North Carolina, are “extremely excited about Concord being the home of the National Mustang Museum. They have made it very clear to us they will support the museum in every way they possibly can. We already have a location picked out which is about two miles from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. In fact, we are in the planning stages for the building and parking lot. We are very close to being able to place a large sign on the property announcing this will be the future home of The National Mustang Museum with our planned opening in the summer of 2017.”
Before that can happen, however, all the required building permits for that location need to be in hand so that the first shovel of dirt can be turned. Hall said they expect to secure the permits soon.
“One of our biggest concerns before announcing The National Mustang Museum to the public is to make sure we are way ahead in the overall process when compared to the Mustang museum attempt of 15 years ago,” the letter continued. “As we understand it, the people in control of that attempt could not agree on a location or design. Eventually the situation got to a point where their proposed scope and budget was over $30 million and the project was suspended. We, on the other hand have already selected a city, and a location within that city, and are in the building permit stage. This is way ahead of where our predecessors were. We even have the overall dimensions of the building and are currently working on the interior layout.”
Just as was the previous ill-fated Mustang museum attempt from years past, this new initiative is neither linked to the MCA nor Ford – and both Bramlett and Hall wanted to make sure that all know just how this new museum operation will work without the involvement of either.
“It is very important for everyone to understand this is not a Ford Motor Company, Mustang Club of America, or any other Mustang-related business venture,” the letter said. “We have created our own business plan and a model for The National Mustang Museum to be a business – and not a restrictive non-profit organization.”
In a conference call with Ford Performance, Bramlett and Hall felt strongly that the new museum had to be set up and managed like a business, and not a club, corporate or non-profit deal. While the plan is that the museum will be able to choose which charities and organizations it plans to support, it won’t have to be consumed with donations to survive.
“We didn’t want to have to rely on Ford or lean on MCA support for the museum to work,” Bramlett said. “We don’t see continually being in a fundraising mode as the road to success. But if we manage the museum as an entertainment business, our goal will be to have the museum become the “home” for an ongoing series of different attractions for all things Mustang.”
“And not just the cars,” Hall chimed in, “but Mustang people, events, shows – even artifacts and memorabilia. Not as a Mustang ‘experience’ theme park like the previous attempt, but rather an ongoing Mustang celebration by owners and fans alike. Too many museums concentrate on the ‘old stuff,’ but first-time owners like to see the ‘new stuff.’ Owners of the old and new alike need to feel involved, and it’s that involvement that makes a lifelong connection to the museum and passes the torch to the next generation. We want to make this the Mustang headquarters for the Nation.”
The insider’s letter had outlined a plan for just how the museum would generate a loyal following: “It will be an interactive museum, not just a static museum,” the letter said. “We will be encouraging the entire Mustang World to come and be a part of it, not just come and look at it.
“We plan to use Mustang-related driving events all around the country, as well as various events at the museum, to help benefit the museum. We are also planning a couple of yearly Mustang gatherings (to be announced at a later date) at the museum which will also help benefit the museum. We know that these yearly gatherings will grow each year and flow over into the Charlotte Motor Speedway when we exceed the amount of Mustangs we can accommodate on the museum property. We have already talked to CMS officials about this and they are very excited about helping. These various events and the yearly gatherings will do a lot to help with enthusiasm for, and funding of, the museum.”
Hall saw the relationship with the racetrack as a real plus: “Just as we’ve seen a shift in clubs from just cars shows to more driving events, we think the museum needs to offer owners of newer cars the opportunity to not just show them off, but to use them and to drive them. That way they can come back and not only find things to look at, but also things to do!”
When Ford Performance had asked if moving ahead with the museum without yet having any feedback or “blessing” from Ford was a concern, Bramlett explained it this way: “We have approached the museum the same way we did the 50th celebrations. We managed those events as if they were parties for Mustang owners – not just Ford parties. Yes, Ford had a hand in the process, wanted to be involved and mentored us the whole way and supported us with assets. For the museum, our plan is to get it going first, and then Ford will see in what ways it makes sense for them to be involved and then hopefully they will want to work with us in the future.
“We didn’t just go out and find a building and slap a sign on a storefront,” Bramlett continued, “we built this plan from the ground up as lifelong Mustang enthusiasts. I’ve been involved in the Mustang business since I was 27 years old, and the museum would be a great way to give back to the hobby. We can’t wait to get it up and running.”
The letter explained that the museum is “not looking for donations at this time. We will have opportunities for Mustang enthusiasts to become Museum supporters and for businesses to become Museum sponsors in the future. We will put these Supporter Packages and Sponsorship Packages together when the time is right.”
One thing is certain: Mustang fans have felt that the time has been long-past right for a National Mustang Museum that owners can call their own. Bramlett and Hall have promised Ford Performance that we will continue to be an “insider” for information leading up to the opening of the museum, so stay tuned to FordPerformance.com. In the meantime, interested parties can visit http://www.thenationalmustangmuseum.com/ for the latest information and sign up for updates via the museum’s email newsletter. We wish them great progress and success.
COPYRIGHT 2016 FORD PERFORMANCE.COM / JOHN M. CLOR