ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND - What's the fastest growing social club in Newfoundland? Judging by the explosion of Ford Mustangs in St. John's and the organizational skills and energy of Scott Halliday, it could be NL MUSTANGS. A place where those in Newfoundland with love for the iconic Ford Mustang can gather with the rest of the herd.
Communicating through Halliday's top ranking AllFordMustangs.com website Newfoundland Mustang owners now come together for regular cruises, road trips and charity events such as this past week's Mustangs in The Park Car Show Fund Raiser for the Autism Society of Newfoundland.
More than 115 Mustangs, from all generations, answered the call and were corralled in a sloping meadow at historic Bowring Park in St. John's, Newfoundland. The sprawling park nestled in the Waterford Valley with its gardens, wooded areas and swans is always busy with families on sunny weekends. "It's the perfect setting. Not only for the participants and car enthusiasts but a relaxed event for families enjoying the park," said Halliday. "We have live music and stuff for the kids ...the city even brought over a fire truck from the nearby station for the day. It's very much a public event with lots of community involvement. Everyone loves the Mustangs."
An event of this size also brings out the sponsors. Colonial Garage came onboard as a major sponsor and Avalon Ford brought three 2011 Shelby GT500 from their showroom.
"The Mustang never lost it popularity but when the design changed in 2005 and reflected the original style it peaked interest again and to see all the new models on the street is just fantastic," says Percy. "When you get this many car enthusiasts the social aspect of clubs and gatherings is bound to happen."
Percy has had his classic Mustang fourteen years.
"The California Special was built for six months only in 1968. The idea behind this car is that Ford wanted to keep interest in the Mustang when the competing muscle cars of the era came on the market," said Percy. "Ford already had their 1969 ready to go so didn't want to make too many changes to the '68. What they did was add some Shelby parts to the coupe and named it the California Special. There were only 3867 made and only about 2000 left in existence." He is only the second owner of the car which he bought in California after looking for sometime. "This one was dubbed the ‘Poor Man's Shelby'" said Percy.
The City of St. John's has a special place in the history of the Mustang, although not one that Ford had planned. Special guest at the car show was Harry Philips, the man who sold the very first production Ford Mustang, a beautiful '64 convertible, in Wimbledon White, that was in St. John's on a promotional tour and was supposed to be returned to Ford. Philips sold it to a local airline pilot. Ford eventually bought the car back and it is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan ...still sporting the 1965 Newfoundland and Labrador license plates.
It was also a bit of a reunion for Elaine Dobbin, patron of the autism society, who knew Philips and was also a salesperson at the George G. R Parsons Ford dealership in the 1960's where the car was sold.
St. John's Mayor, Dennis O'Keefe, was on hand to present Philips with an appreciation award in recognition of his significant and historic contribution to the city of St. John's. The Mayor was also there to be a show judge. "When I was a young man the Mustang was the car to have and if you had one you had arrived," said Mayor O'Keefe. Walking with O'Keefe and others in the park it became obvious that your favorite Mustang reflected you age and what generation Mustang was in production when you were a teenager.
O'Keefe put his bias for the classic Mustang behind him in the judging and chose the 2006 convertible of Irene Martin as his Best of Show.
Jokingly, he said he was going to try and get city council to approve a new Mustang convertible like Martin's as the official mayor's car for the rest of his term.
Some Mustang owners got to see this rare pony running on the Trans Canada Highway a week earlier when they were met by Smith for a run to Swift Current for a visit to the Antique Toy Shop, and his unbelievable collection rare antique automobiles spanning 100 years of automotive history.
Smith, who is a leading authority on antique automobile restoration, feels the popularity of the Mustang is unique. "It was a popular car when it came out in the ‘60's. It had a unique style and became an American classic sports car that was within reach of the average guy," said Smith. "Now that Ford has gone back to the old styling it has brought back a lot of memories and people can relate it to the original. It hits the nostalgia chord with the older guys and the new owners love having a piece of history."
So, what was my favourite ride in the corral? An impossible question to answer. Rod and Corina Rideout's Stage 3 Roush is truly an awesome machine and a 2006 in Legend Lime with hydraulic lift doors by Phil Meadus was a crowd favourite. How can you not love John Whitten's iconic '64 red convertible? But the one that stopped me in my tracks was a black '69 Mach 1 by Ryan Gates. A car I loved during the 1970's Trans-Am racing series. Maybe it is that generational thing again.
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Greg Locke is a professional photographer and journalist based in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. He is a correspondent for Reuters, the Halifax Chronicle Herald and contributing editor to NLPress.ca. You can see his personal Mustang Gallery or view his work at www.greglocke.com.
SHOW AWARD WINNERS:
Peoples Choice Awards
Mayors Choice Award
Colonial Auto Parts Choice Award
NL Autism Choice Award
Furthest Travelled Award
SHOW PRIZE WINNERS:
Pre-Registration Drive Prize
FEATURED SHOW CARS:
**SPECIAL THANKS to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for their organization and escort during the post car show Mustang cruise through downtown St. John's.