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Need proof that millennials are carrying on the traditions of car enthusiasts and Ford fans? Look no further than Bradley Belcher of Jonesboro, Indiana. He’s not only a hardcore Ford Mustang fan, but the 21-year-old has already restored a 1965 Mustang – a project that he began when he was just 13 years old! And, he has launched a club dedicated to bringing together young Mustang owners called the Millennial Mustang Registry. He was also a fan favorite in the 2019 SEMA Battle of the Builders Young Guns, an initiative that spotlights up-and-coming car builders under the age of 27.
Where did all this enthusiasm come from? It’s pretty easy to trace. There was the Mustang pedal car purchased by his father, Michael, before Bradley was even born. There was the red 1969 Mustang owned by Michael, in which a young Bradley went for many rides. There were the numerous car shows they attended together. “I practically grew up in Dad’s ’69, and a Mustang is what I wanted to drive when I grew up.” So when he was 12 years old, Bradley asked his father a very important question. He said, “Dad, what’s my Mustang going to be?” They didn’t know it then, but it would be a 1965 Mustang Fastback, which was a barn find.
Michael made a deal with Bradley: He’d buy his son’s car as long as they could restore it together, and Bradley would do as much of the work as possible and pay for half the car and half of everything they did together. “For me, it was always the experience, always the journey,” Michael explained. “For a long time, he just wanted his car done! But it was an amazing opportunity to spend every waking moment with my son.”
Things Michael had a say in: No big-block. And there would be a four-speed manual transmission. The duo enlisted friends, shops and even retirees to help with the buildup.
The Fastback was completed about a year after the endeavor began. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” Bradley said. “My Mustang made its public debut at a little car show in Wabash, Indiana.” The best part about his first time? “I loved seeing the reaction of people who were amazed to hear that it was mine, and not my dad’s car. And that I actually did a lot of the work on it.” More car shows came, as did the awards and trophies. Building the Mustang was “a great opportunity and he learned a lot in the process,” said Michael of Bradley. “Not only about cars, but about life and money and organization and process. And patience.”
Bradley is now a student at Indiana Wesleyan University, studying to become an athletic trainer, but still finds time to nurture his other baby, the Millennial Mustang Registry (millennialmustangregistry.com). Its mission is to “unite millennials who have a passion for their Mustang, to make new acquaintances and to share the joy that Mustang brings to our lives.” Bradley is member #001, as you’d expect for someone who seemingly became a Mustang fan .001 seconds after being born.