As the Mustangs rumbled into the Baymont Inn on Thursday, a passenger in a vehicle on South Range Line Road couldn’t help but notice.
Hanging from a car window, he yelled: “Man, I love your Mustang.”
And then the man saw the bigger picture and yelled again: “Oh my God, look at all of the Mustangs.”
It was a priceless moment for the owners of the Mustangs who had their cars lined up near the inn’s front door.
The Mustang enthusiasts were spending the night in Joplin while en route to Norman, Okla., where they will participate in the Great American Pony Drive. The event will mark the Mustang’s 50th birthday next week. Two groups will depart from Norman to Las Vegas, Nev., and Charlotte, N.C.
The first Ford Mustang was unveiled on April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair. Ford is planning to repeat the 1964 stunt in which a Mustang was taken to the roof of the Empire State Building.
Joining the travelers on Thursday were members of the Southwest Missouri Stang Gang, which has about 25 members in the Joplin area.
“Some of our gang will meet up with these people from Illinois and who knows where else for a little cruise on the original Route 66,” said Jane Ballard, a member of the Stang Gang and the proud owner of a black and gold 2007 Hertz edition of the Mustang.
“We’ll go through Webb City and Carterville, and end up at the Carthage Ford dealership for a little birthday party,” she said.
Among them was Brett Butler, of Webb City, who drove a 1969 Mach I with a louvered fastback and a 428 Cobra Jet engine. When Butler pushed on the throttle, the engine roared to life.
“With a car like this, you don’t think about the gas you use,” he said. “I may get 6 to 8 miles to the gallon, but it’s worth it.”
Butler said that if someone were to offer him $90,000 or more, he might sell it.
“There’s only three of these cars in the dark maroon with this combination of features,” he said. “It’s a rare car, but we still drive it. It’s got 64,300 miles on it.”
Bob Johnson, of Joplin, brought his red and black Jack Roush Roadster. The car took first place at the Sturgis Mustang Rally in South Dakota last year. There were 100 of them built in 2007.
“This is No. 8. It’s autographed by Jack Roush,” he said. “It’s supercharged and can deliver 500 horsepower. It’ll get up and run.”
Scott Van Hoose, of Joplin, is lucky that he and his 2005 Saleen edition survived to see Mustang’s 50th birthday.
“It was in bad shape for a while,” he said. “It was in a garage at 2002 S. Ozark when the tornado hit. I was there too.”
The tornado in May 2011 lifted up the car and funneled about two feet of debris underneath it. Both of the car’s rear panels were destroyed, along with its rare glass roof.
“It took one year and two months, and $21,000 to restore it,” he said. “Cook’s Body Shop at Carterville did a great job.”
Van Hoose said 504 of the 2005 Saleens were created using a glass roof. After an exhaustive search, he found two in storage and bought them both.
“One of them is on the car, and the other is protected in the basement of a 104-year-old house,” he said.
When the hood is opened on the car, one can see an image of a tornado painted on the radiator cover.
“On one side, I had them draw this evil skull because of the bad things it did. On this side, I had them draw an angel,” Van Hoose said. “That’s how I feel about the tornado.”
Down the road
JOPLIN WILL BE THE HOST for the Mustang Mother Road Weekend on July 10-12. Plans call for a car show and shine, a Route 66 cruise, a poker run, and races on the quarter-mile track at Mo-Kan Dragway.