By JAMIE NULL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD,Va. — Randy Rose’s first car ride was in 1966 Ford Mustang. It was April of 1973. Rose, now 41, was a baby, riding home from the hospital. The Mustang was his parents’ car.
“I probably took many rides as a baby. It was the first car I remember riding in,’ Rose said.
A resident of Bluefield, Va., Rose said his first tangible memory was riding in the car to a small grocery store in Tazewell with his mom and grandma.
When the car started to show some wear and tear, Rose begged his dad to keep the ’66 model.
“It had high miles, but he kept it for me. In my middle school years, we pulled it in the garage and restored it. I spent my high school years in the garage working with my dad,” Rose said,
He even wrote his term paper about the classic car. His teacher wasn’t sure if his topic would render a high grade, but Rose ended up getting an A plus. The red Mustang, with white interior, became Rose’s pride and joy in high school and in his early 20s. He experienced a lot of firsts in the car — prom, graduation and his first date with his wife Stacy.
“The car is tied into the family,” he said.
Since those early years, Rose has owned five Mustangs. He had to sell a few along the way. But he still has two — the family ’66 and a special edition Cobra. On his wish list is a 1967 Mustang Shelby GT350.
This year, Ford Mustang celebrates 50 years. In April, the company debuted the 2015 Mustang. Celebrations were held in Las Vegas, N.V., and Charlotte, N.C.
Richard Smith, 38, of Bluefield, said the anniversary is important because the Mustang has been in production for 50 continuous years while other sports cars have seen their production stopped by manufactures.
“Besides the Corvette, the Mustang is probably one of the most American cars on the road and being able to say it has been on the road for 50 years is something special,” Smith said.
Ford released the Mustang on April 17, 1964, for $2,368. On the first day, dealers took 22,000 orders. It was a win for Ford.
“The car was developed by Lee Laccocca, as a sporty car for the baby boomers,” Smith said. “It was actually based off European designs from the Ferrari and Jacquar. The car was built off the Ford Falcon chassis and redesigned as the Mustang. The name came from the P-51 Mustang fighter plane from WWII,” Smith said.
An avid Mustang fan, he fell in love with the car in his early teens. His first car was the ’66 coupe. Then, he wanted a 1967-1968 Mustang Fastback. It took three years of work and a lot of time to get the car ready. Smith, his dad and brother built the car. His aunt’s husband painted the car and his best friend’s dad from high school built the engine. Nicknamed “Old Red”, Smith takes that Mustang to car shows and cruise-ins.
“I am currently working on a 1967 Fastback Mustang that I am building into a Shelby GT-500 replica. When completed the car will look like the one from the move ‘Gone in 60 seconds,’ which is known as ‘Eleanor,’ probably one of the most famous Mustangs ever built ... It will be pepper gray metallic with black stripes and should be a blast to drive,” he said.
Both Smith and Rose attended the April 17 anniversary celebration in Charlotte.
For Rose, the highlight of the event was the special edition 2015. Thousands of Mustang fans attended the celebration.
Smith said, “It was a neat experience.”
“You got to see all those Mustangs in the same location. It was a lifetime experience,” Smith said.
Rose believes the Mustang won’t be forgotten in the years to come. With so many different models and packages, the car is obtainable to folks in the middle to upper income levels. Not to mention it is iconic and part of America’s culture.
For his family, it is a car full of personal history.
“Even my son learned to drive in the Mustang,” Rose said. “One day it will be his.”