TIPP CITY, Ohio – It was right around this time two years ago when we first told you about a new and wonderfully unique recognition program for Mustang club members who are deeply involved in the hobby. It’s called the Halderman Museum Mustang Club Member Hall of Fame and it’s the brainchild of none other than the late Gale Halderman – the famed Ford designer who was the principal stylist behind the original Ford Mustang. Like Gale himself, this little Hall of Fame initiative has become near and dear to Mustang club members’ hearts all across the country.
Of all the interaction that Halderman had with Ford and the Mustang world over his lifetime, the part he enjoyed the very most was spending time with Mustang club members. In his retirement, he absolutely loved hopping on a golf cart at a Mustang show to see all of the cars and to stop and chat with owners, pose for a picture, or autograph a car. He loved to hear their Mustang stories and was humbled more by their appreciation for the car than any award he had ever received.
During one club museum visit back in 2019, Gale was sitting in one of the big leather chairs in his museum’s lounge talking about another award plaque that he had just received recognizing his work on the Mustang. While he was deciding on where to put it in the display case there, he said aloud, “You know who really deserves awards but who never gets proper recognition? It’s Mustang club people. If it weren’t for Mustang clubs and their members, the Mustang wouldn’t have become the icon that it is today. But the people who run and volunteer their time in most of these local clubs never get any recognition. I like having them come here to the museum. We should do something for them.”
We agreed – but before we could help put together any sort of program, Gale passed away on April 29, 2020, and never got the chance to see his idea come to fruition. So Gale’s daughter Karen and granddaughter Lauren (with help from Marcie Cipriani of The SVT Store as well as our own Ford Performance Club Connect program) officially launched the Halderman Museum Mustang Club Hall of Fame late in 2021. Mike Rey, the longtime president of the Mustang Owners Club of SouthEastern Michigan (MOCSEM), was inducted as the hall’s inaugural award recipient in a special ceremony during the club’s annual Haldeman Museum tour on September 18, 2021. It was an epic event at the little Halderman Barn Museum, and it has now become a big deal with Mustang clubs nationwide.
Ray was first because, well, Gale had mentioned him first when he began talking about who should qualify for his museum’s Hall of Fame. “I’m not talking about the national leaders – they are already known and recognized,” Halderman had said to us. “I mean the local people, the club presidents and regular members like the ones who come here – the ones who only the members know have made a real difference in their club. People like Mike Rey.”
Some seven months after Rey was inducted and the museum started accepting nominations, the late Bob Coulston of the Mustang Club of Indianapolis was inducted posthumously on April 30th 2022, with his wife Jane receiving the laser-cut award from Gale’s daughter and granddaughter. Fellow club members who made the trip to the museum for the event witnessed the award presentation done by Ford Performance and shared lunch at the barn museum, courtesy of the club.
That summer, yet another inductee was honored with a presentation ceremony at the museum – this time Mike DeLiberto of the Garden State Region Mustang Club. The club had kept the award a secret to Mike, with organizers disguising the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony trip to Ohio as merely a “road trip cruise-in” to the museum. Mike was stunned when the presentation named him a Hall of Fame inductee. Members celebrated Mike’s plaque being unveiled and mounted on the main beam in the museum’s lounge with a lunch and photo shoot at the barn.
The Halderman Museum sits just outside of Dayton, Ohio, founded by Gale Halderman himself. After a decades-long career at Ford, he was inducted into the Mustang Club of America's Mustang Hall of Fame in 2004, and was presented with an Iacocca Award during the Mustang 50th Celebration in Charlotte. He soon became active in Mustang club events and the Ford enthusiast community. In 2014, Gale and his daughter, Karen, converted the barn on his family’s property in his hometown of Tipp City, Ohio, into the Halderman Museum, which holds a collection of artwork and ads, as well as drawings and memorabilia of all things Ford and Mustang. You’ll also see some of Gale’s original sketches, plus a late-model Thunderbird, a Model T and a Model A and, of course, a few Mustangs in his museum (at least one of each generation, including Gale’s own 1965 Mustang Fastback and 1966 Mustang convertible).
Karen and her daughter, Lauren, had decided to keep operating the Halderman Museum after Gale’s passing in 2020 to keep his legacy alive, as long as the Mustang community supports it through donations (there is no admission charge or rental fee) and via the sale of Halderman Museum merchandise. It’s a great, informal place for an interesting look at the Mustang hobby, for a club road-trip getaway tour or even hosting an off-site club meeting. Scheduling a cruise-in to the Halderman Museum barn can include a strolling tour or even lunch from a local food truck that can be arranged on-site.
Once nominees are selected for the museum’s Hall of Fame award, clubs arrange a cruise-in to the museum for a full tour, the induction ceremony by Ford Performance Club Connect, a food-truck lunch and a photo shoot – and sometimes visits to other attractions that are nearby, including the Armstrong Air & Space Museum and the Bicycle Museum of America in Wapakoneta, and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force or the National Packard Museum near Dayton.
This past year, two more inductees were added to the Halderman Museum Mustang Club Member Hall of Fame – bringing the total number to six. In April, the Hoosier Mustang Club out of Elizabethtown, Indiana, pulled off a super surprise to the club’s founder, Lonnie Hembree. With another one of those, “Hey, let’s do a club road trip to Ohio’s Halderman Museum for a tour and a cruise-in” story, Hembree tagged along for the day and nearly fell off his chair when the Ford Performance presentation called out his name to receive the Hall of Fame award. Lonnie was later recognized in his local newspaper for his efforts on behalf of the club and hobby.
The same goes for when the Mustang Club of Mid-Michigan pulled a fast one on longtime club board member Tom Welsh. He at first questioned why the club would schedule a “color tour” to central Ohio in early October but was persuaded by his wife (who was in on secret) to just go with her to have a little fun for the day. The entire board somehow kept Welsh’s induction into the Hall of Fame secret for weeks – and were on hand to witness Tom come to tears when he realized he was being honored on that day. He was all smiles later as the group lunch and cruise-in became an unforgettable experience.
As the museum looks forward to 2024, do you know of a club member who deserves such an honor? Nominees for the Halderman Museum Mustang Club Hall of Fame must be (or have been) an active Mustang club member with a minimum of five years of service to the club and who has made a significant impact on the success of the club and/or the enjoyment of his or her fellow members. Nominations should have the support of a club’s board or membership before submission in the form of a Word Doc with the full name of the club, the nominee (plus any club title or positions held) and a written explanation of the reasons why the nominee deserves inclusion in the hall and what contributions have been made to the club. Clubs can send that Word Doc along with a .jpeg image of the nominee to Ford Performance in an email to ClubHub@Ford.com with “Halderman Museum Mustang Club Hall of Fame Nomination” in the subject line.
Ford Performance has agreed to review all applications with the Halderman family and to help notify the club contact of a determination for acceptance into the Halderman Museum Mustang Club Hall of Fame. There’s only one catch: All induction ceremonies must be done at the Halderman Museum in Tipp City, Ohio, with the nominee and club members present. (The museum asks not to send in a nomination if the nominee or club is unable to make a trip to the museum for the award.) Inductees will receive a custom, laser-cut metal Halderman Museum logo award, with a corresponding metal recognition plaque to be permanently mounted on the support beam in the museum’s lounge. The Haldermans will consider up to three inductees per year (Spring, Summer & Fall) and will work with clubs to set up an induction ceremony date.
It’s likely best to include an induction ceremony during a club road-trip visit to the museum. Tours like the one that so many clubs have enjoyed are set up by appointment only; if you’re not on social media, you can find contact information on the museum’s website, https://haldermanmustang.com. The museum can help with info on securing lunch or a food truck, plus for other area attractions as well as dining and lodging options. So if you know of a fellow Mustang club member who’s accomplished much over the years for your organization, why not work to submit a nomination to the Halderman Museum Mustang Club Hall of Fame for them?
Like the Mustang’s product legacy and Gale Halderman’s own contribution to it, Mustang club members who have worked so hard building the following that we all enjoy truly deserve their own kind of recognition. Even though that old 1968 advertising jingle had said, “Only Mustang Makes It Happen,” now you can make it happen for someone -- with a little help from Ford Performance Club Connect and The Halderman Museum.
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS / JOHN M. CLOR and THE HALDERMAN MUSEUM STAFF