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The Ford Mustang at 50, Vegas-style

Tue, 29 Apr 2014

The white-and-red-striped 2014 Shelby GT500 had just 29 miles on it when Tina and Jeff left Green Bay, Wisc. "Now, we've got 2,500," said Tina. They left on April 9, one of three in a convoy of couples celebrating the Ford Mustang: Donna and John in a 2009 candy-apple red GT, Missy and Dave in a 2008 California Special. "Fun, a lot of fun," said Donna. "We wanted to get that Americana thing, you know?"

They followed Route 66 as closely as they could. They stopped in Joplin, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff. In St. Louis, the city officials opened up the Chain of Rocks Bridge for them to drive across. In Adrian, Texas -- population 159, the exact center of Route 66 -- they met Jenifer Lewis, who voiced Flo in Cars and owns a flower shop in town. She posed for pictures, signed some autographs. In Winslow, Ariz., they found a corner to stand on, just like the Eagles song.

"Snowed in Amarillo," said Missy. "Who'da thunk it?"

"Our buddy missed an exit and went off the curb at 50 mph," said John.

"Every night," said Tina, "these guys would put their mitts on and buff their cars."

"And every night it'd snow or rain," piped Dave.

"They'd be out there," Tina affirmed, "just buffing."

They rolled into Las Vegas at 2 in the afternoon, seven days and 2,500 miles later. The group made the trip without incident, their bonds cemented, their enthusiasm reinforced. Once Dave got to Las Vegas, he went straight to Count's and got a tattoo of his Mustang on his lower back.

The six were among the estimated 400 Mustang aficionados who drove or flew into either Las Vegas or Charlotte, N.C., to celebrate, for four days, the success of their beloved icon. Overall: 16 countries across four continents, club members proudly wearing matching shirts. Geoff and his friend Dave flew from the North Island of New Zealand, where the Kiwis are allowed to bring in 500 cars per year -- but the cars must be low enough production to merit significance, which is granted at under 20,000 examples. There are no age requirements. There is no need to convert to RHD. That's how Dave picked up his 2012 Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition, because he happened to be in California when it was introduced. "I said, 'I have to have one of these.'"

Richard and Ronald brought their families from the Netherlands, sporting orange shirts and Dutch pride; the two friends split among themselves two late-'60s Mach Is, a 1970 Boss 302, a 1979 pace car and a Parnelli Jones Edition.

Jorgen and Anneli Morrmam flew in from Sweden, where Jorgen's Shelby GT500KR would have belonged if it wasn't 5,000 miles away and a hop over the Arctic. "It's nice," Jorgen chuckled. "If you drive around Stockholm in a Ferrari, people get angry and smash the car. But in a Mustang, people cheer. They give a thumbs up." Jane R

By Blake Z. Rong