Round up for Mustang birthday party

The purr of the engine, the sleek lines, the general cool factor and the speed – Ohauiti farmer Tony Parkes was impressed by the first Mustang he saw in his teens.

“I can remember thinking it would be great to have one of those,” says Tony, who has been a member of the Bay of Plenty Mustang Owners Club for almost two years.

Tony Parkes with his bags packed, ready to fly to the US to take part in 50th anniversary celebrations of the first Mustang, and then tour America. Photo Bruce Barnard.

“I’ve been interested in them for years. I’ve just always wanted one since my teens,” recalls Tony, who after seriously looking at various classic Mustangs with 40-plus years on them decided to go for a newer model.

“I’m reasonably mechanical – but I wasn’t that keen on doing all of the work on one of the classics,” says the proud owner of a limited release 2008 Shelby ‘King of the Road’.
Brought with only 900 miles on the clock, Tony’s 5.4 litre super-charged Shelby – which is one of only 1000 produced to mark the 40th anniversary of the original King of the Road – is a dream come true for Tony and wife Melissa.

“The power of it is something else, it’s pretty scary. It’s like sitting in a jet plane when it takes off,” says Tony, who likes to take it on club road trips every few weekends. “We absolutely love it.”

Last week the Parkes joined five other Bay of Plenty club couples and another dozen from round the country when they flew out to the US on a pilgrimage to mark the 50th anniversary of the car at a five-day celebration at Las Vegas Speedway, alongside an estimated 10,000 other Mustang-lovers.

“It’s going to be fantastic, we’re really looking forward to it,” says Tony, speaking to The Bay Driver before flying out. Celebrations were held over Easter – beginning 50 years to the day from when the first iconic 1964 ½ original Mustangs were launched.

The rest, as they say, is history. Runaway demand for the stylish and sporty coupe, with its affordable price tag of under US$2500, saw Ford produce one million of the cars within 18 months and launch the ‘pony car’ class while other auto-makers copied its successful design with their coupes with long hoods and short rear decks.

The Las Vegas celebration, which is being mirrored by a similar event in North Carolina, to cater to the demand from Mustang-lovers, offers a chance to get up close with models, with some available to be driven on a track.

Following the anniversary, Tony says he’s looking forward to visiting the Shelby Heritage Centre in Las Vegas, a museum dedicated to legendary automotive designer Carrol Shelby who designed Mustangs since 1965. The group then hits the road for the ultimate road trip in late model Mustangs, following Route 66 across to Chicago for the next three weeks.

“It’s going to be great going to the Grand Canyon and all the bits in between. There will be plenty of surprises along the way.”


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