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Magic of the Mustang : About 500 of the Ford sports cars will be on display Sunday in Valencia.

October 07, 1994|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Beatlemania rocked the United States in 1964. So did Mustang mania.

In fact, the unveiling that year of Ford's sporty new model at the New York World's Fair made automobile lovers twist and shout.

A Chicago showroom overwhelmed by would-be buyers was forced to summon police. In Garland, Tex., the winner among 15 customers who bid on the same Mustang insisted on spending the night in the car until he knew that his check had cleared. One restaurant owner advertised that his hot cakes were selling like Mustangs.

Proof of the car's enduring popularity will be on display with about 500 vintage Mustangs on Sunday at Six Flags Magic Mountain. "Mustang Magic," as the show is billed, is sponsored by the Pacific Mustang Club, one of two San Fernando Valley-based groups whose members share a passion for the Mustang.

Car owners from as far away as Bellevue, Wash., are expected to motor to the show.

But, clearly, the star of this show is a car.

"I've always loved Mustangs," said Terry Pottratz, vice president of the Pacific Mustang Club and the show's organizer. "The very first car I ever owned was a Mustang. Everyone has a theory about Mustangs and why they're drawn to them. For me, I think it's just that style and character that no other car could have."

Love your Mustang? Join the club.

There are an estimated 450 Mustang clubs in 16 countries. In the United States, there are 301 Mustang clubs and membership exceeds 100,000, the largest organized following of any car.

The Pacific Mustang Club and the Mustang Owners Club of California have a combined membership of about 800. Both meet monthly so that owners can share information and plan shows in which cars are judged on authenticity of restoration or their mechanical and aesthetic modifications.

Weekend rides are another popular club activity. On Oct. 28, members of the Mustang Owners Club plan to caravan to Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

Shows and sojourns aside, the clubs' common mission is the preservation and restoration of the Mustang, one of the most popular cars in automotive history.

"I think the Mustang's appeal is that it is America's first affordable, true sports car," said Paul Croswhite of Lake View Terrace, president of Pacific Mustang Club and owner of 10 Mustangs, most in near-mint condition. "It is versatility and economy, a combination of raw power and luxury."

Automotive aficionados have long heralded Ford's creation for its ability to suit a variety of tastes and pocketbooks. During the 1960s, the Mustang triggered the so-called "pony-car" craze that led to the creation of the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird--sporty vehicles designed to provide more bang for the buck.

But none has equaled the Mustang's impact. Nearly 6.8 million Mustangs have rolled off assembly lines, and the car's popularity remains strong.

"There's no denying that there is a mystique about the Mustang," Ford spokesman John Clinard said. "For all its flair, it is a very practical car."

Most club members own a Mustang at least 20 years old, Pottratz said. Nostalgia and a taste for older body styles are the reasons. Moreover, fully restored vintage Mustangs retain their value.

Craig Cunningham of Van Nuys, chairman of the Mustang Owners Club of California, is an impassioned owner of two mint-condition models: a 1966 dark blue coupe and a 1966 candy-apple red convertible. Cunningham estimates the value of the convertible at $25,000. The car's sticker price was about $2,600.

"The Mustang came along as a fresh, new, forward-looking, forward-thinking design," Cunningham said. "It just had a look to it, like it was raring to go. I love that sporty look of the car."

Even Mustangs in less-than-pristine condition can have a hold on their owners.

Delores Laing and her husband, Bob, of Van Nuys own three Mustangs and belong to both clubs. She learned on their 25th wedding anniversary just how much the family Mustangs mean to him.

"I made the mistake of asking him, 'If you could do anything all over again, would you do anything differently?' " she said. "He said, 'Yes. I'd have bought a Mustang brand-new.' "

Where and When

What: "Mustang Magic."

Location: Magic Mountain parking lot, 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Price: Free.

Call: (310) 327-8714.

Club Information

* For information on the Mustang Owners Club of California, call Craig Cunningham, chairman, at (818) 991-6937. Annual membership is $25. Club members receive copy of a quarterly newsletter and discounts on parts and labor at some Ford dealerships. The club has monthly meetings.

* For information on Pacific Mustang Club, call Paul Croswhite, president, at (818) 899-1637. Annual membership is $20. Club members receive a copy of a bimonthly newsletter. The club has monthly meetings.

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