Three Days on the Road to the Mustang 50th Celebration

Tuesday, April 15, was not just Tax Day, but also day three of the Pony Drive, and it started at the Holiday Inn near Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. At 9:00 a.m. the cars gathered single file and pulled out of the hotel with a police escort, en route to the Lance Cunningham Ford dealership in Knoxville for lunch. Owner Lance Cunningham greeted the Mustang owners while his staff supplied lunch, and later they were awarded prizes based on tickets that were handed out while participants were in the lunch line. Outside the front door of the dealership was a 2014 Ford Mustang that is part of the Wounded Warriors Project®. All donations are sent straight to the Wounded Warrior Foundation to help wounded soldiers and their families get through their life changes. Pony Drive participants were invited to sign the car.

When we left Norman, Oklahoma, on Sunday morning, we had roughly 80 cars, but with participants joining in during other parts of the tour, we had 200 Mustangs pulling into the dealership. They filled the dealership’s lot, which made a great sight. After lunch the group hit the road for the 100-mile drive to the night stop in Asheville, North Carolina.

Along the way, we hitched a ride with Ernesto Perez of Jacksonville, Florida, in his 2014 Mustang GT. Ernesto was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and grew up adoring his father’s 1966 Mustang, hoping that it would someday be his. But that didn’t come to pass, so Ernesto waited patiently until he could get a Mustang of his own. The trip from Jacksonville to Norman was quite eventful but that wasn’t due to the car – Ernesto got lost and had a few adventures finding his way. He said, “One of the most fun things about this is to be with the other Mustang people, get their history and see their passion for Mustangs. They sometimes tear up when they talk about their cars. That happened to my dad, actually, when I pulled my new Mustang into his driveway. It reminded him of his and he got emotional thinking about it.” In the photos, you can see Ernesto thanking Lance Cunningham for his dealership’s hospitality.

At Cunningham Ford, we also met Dan and Lori Aiken who joined the Pony

Drive in their home in Bloomington, Indiana, driving their 1979 Mustang Indianapolis Pace Car. The impeccably restored car, which represented the historic pace duty of the Mustang at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Dan had one of these cars years ago, but sold it to put his kids through college. And while he didn’t regret the college education, he wished he wouldn’t have had to sell his dream car to facilitate it. When he found this car, his wife graciously put her 1999 Saleen Mustang up for sale so they could get the 1979 pace car. While polishing the grille and wheels before hitting the road, Dan told us, “I drive it as often as I can. This is the longest trip it’s been on, so far. It’s nice enough to take to shows, but it’s not perfect enough to put on a trailer.”

The Ford Mustang is recognized around the world, and if you don’t believe that all you have to do is look at the cars in the Pony Drive. We have several people and cars from Australia, Italy and Brazil, making this truly an international event. On Wednesday, we hit the road to our final destination, Charlotte Motor Speedway for the big Mustang 50th Celebration!

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