Many, Many Mustangs: Country’s Largest Mustang Club Celebrates Iconic Car’s 60th Anniversary in Dearborn

Apr 29, 2024

It’s not easy remembering the countless variations of the Ford Mustang that have been produced, but a large swath of them were represented recently at Gateway Classic Cars in Dearborn, where the Mustang Owners Club of Southeastern Michigan (MOCSEM) held a 60th anniversary celebration for Ford’s iconic Pony car.

The club’s nearly 900 members count some 1,600 Mustangs – many of which were on display at the event – among their collective fleet. Nearly 400 Mustangs were shown throughout the afternoon. Several former Ford executives who were influential to the Mustang program during their careers, including “Mr. Mustang,” former Mustang chief program engineer Art Hyde, and former Ford chief designer Doug Gaffka, as well as former Flat Rock Assembly Plant Manager and later Ford Global Manufacturing Chief John Savona, were also in attendance. The event also included Buck Mook, designer of the second-generation 1974 Mustang II, Bud Magaldi, design chief for the fourth-generation 1994 Mustang, and Ford designer Bob Aikins, who designed the 1984 Mustang SVO. Ford Mustang Brand Manager Joe Bellino and Ford Performance Communications Manager, club outreach director and author John Clor were also on hand to support the event. The Mustang milestone also called for the live music of Hot Wired, the bassist of which is Bill Draper, a retired Ford Global Vehicle Architecture and SVT engineer. 

Other notable attendees included club founder James Egyed, noted Mustang collector and enthusiast Paul Rocha, MOCSEM Youth Ambassador and YouTube creator Quinntyn Gothard, and Richard Blomberg of the YouTube series “Dad’s Foxbody Garage.”

Consistency fuels passion for Mustang

The club, which hosts its signature event, Mustang Memories, each summer at Ford World Headquarters, is the largest Mustang organization in the country and will mark its 50th anniversary next year. President Mike Rey called Mustang the most iconic vehicle Ford has ever made and said he’s happy Ford is showing no signs of slowing down as its competitors pump the brakes.

“It’s the longest-running sports car ever,” Rey said. “It started out as an affordable car, it’s cool, it’s the most modified car in the world, and everybody has a Mustang story – whether you’ve ever owned one or not.”

Jim Owens, Mustang GTD Brand Manager, enjoys visiting Mustang shows such as MOCSEM’s birthday celebration to learn more about those stories.

“Everybody has at least one,” he said. “And they’re all different. The car is part of their family. It’s not just a car. It’s part of their lives, and I enjoy getting to see that at each and every event.” 

Owens added that Mustang’s continued success and popularity stems from how it represents freedom, as well as its 60 years of continuous production. He said those factors have helped make it “a cultural icon beyond a vehicle,” which is “woven into the fabric of life.”

Passion for Mustang leads to dream job

As a child, Joe Keethler dreamed of owning a Mustang. Over the years, he managed to save up enough money to buy his first, a 1980 Mustang notchback, when he was 16. Years later, the allure of Mustang led him from his native St. Louis to the Detroit area. Keethler transferred from Ford’s St. Louis plant upon its closing in 2004 to what is now known as Flat Rock Assembly Plant, where he has been part of the Mustang launch team for the past five years. 

“They gave us some options for where we wanted to go, and they said they were bringing Mustang to Flat Rock,” he said. “I told them as long as I was a Ford employee and I got to build Mustang, that was exactly what I wanted to do. My job is my dream job and everybody I talk to says it’s their dream job, too. I hold that in high regard.” 

Keethler brought his Orange Fury 2019 Mustang Performance Pack 1 to the MOCSEM show (The car is also part of our Ultimate Ford Team Mustang Bracket). He and his wife also own a 2002 Mustang. Keethler said the car’s continuity is key to its popularity.

“It’s never had a pause,” he said. “It’s always been there year after year. There’s always been a Mustang. Ford has done a really good job of keeping it fresh.”

A good day for ‘Bad Penny’

Ford retiree Lang Ware brought his custom 2014 Mustang GT-based model, which was originally built for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) convention in Las Vegas and nicknamed “Bad Penny.” The car reportedly derives its name from the black-and-copper color scheme created by its designer. Other Mustang fans often recognize the car and talk with Ware about it.  

“It’s just an infectious vehicle,” said Ware, who bought the car in 2017 after selling his 2007 Mustang. “No matter what I’ve seen as a sales manager or a service rep, all of the positions I’ve held – people are just fascinated by it, and I have also been fascinated since day 1.” 

“Aside from the 1949 Ford, the Model T, and the Model A, it means everything,” Ware said. “This car has been running for 60 years now – continuously. The other muscle cars have not been there...and some of the fancier European models still fashion themselves after the Mustang in some ways.”

How Mustang benefits Ford’s lineup

Rey, a Dearborn native whose garage includes a 2005 Mustang and 1993 Mustang GT convertible, noted Mustang often serves as a halo product for the Ford lineup, getting customers into other vehicles, too. He drives a Bronco as an everyday vehicle. 

“Mustang owners don’t just drive Mustangs,” he said. “They might have two or three other Ford vehicles in the driveway, as well,” such as a Ford Edge or Ford Explorer. “It’s all Ford Family.”

Keethler, also a Bronco owner, added that Mustang, along with Ford’s F-Series pickup trucks, have a fan base that is unrivaled by other automakers.

“I was a little kid who wanted to have a Mustang, and because of that, I got a job at Ford and then I bought other Fords,” he said. “That’s all we own.”