At the GPMC’s invitation, John Clor of Ford Racing visited Pittsburgh in July to participate in Mustang Marque-of-the-Year activities surrounding Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix race weekend. While he was here he invited Ken and Dwight to come to Ford Racing in Dearborn to attend a special “Enthusiast Club Principals Meet with Ford’s Raj Nair” on August 8th. Mr. Nair is Ford Motor’s Group Vice President of Global Product Development. John promised us a once-in-a-lifetime experience and – as we were soon to find out – he didn’t disappoint.
We both jumped at the opportunity to participate. After driving from Pittsburgh the night before, our day in Dearborn began with breakfast at historic Dino’s Lounge on Woodward Avenue – right along the route of the famous Woodward Dream Cruise. After breakfast we drove the entire cruise route from Ferndale to Pontiac, MI and back. As it was only a little over a week before this year’s cruise, we could see that preparations were already being made along the route for the big day. It would be fun to be there on August 17th, but we made much better time not having to deal with over 40,000 muscle cars, street rods and other custom, collector and special interest vehicles and over a million spectators that the cruise draws.
We then proceeded to the Headquarters of Ford Racing for a meet and greet along with the principals from twelve Ford enthusiast organizations:
- Mike Rey – President, Mustang Owners Club of Southeastern Michigan
- Marci Cipriani – Director, SVT Owners Association
- Mark Young – President, Carolina Regional Mustang Club
- Ron Myers – Founder, Focaljet & Fiesta Faction online communities
- Warren Faris – Regional Director, Team Shelby
- Tony Alonzo – Club Liaison, International Mustang Bullitt Owners Club
- Steve White – President, Shelby American Automobile Club / Motor City Region
- Kevin Cluck – President, Yellow Mustang Registry
- Dave Jones – Representative, Red Mustang Registry
- Ken Barker – President, Greater Pittsburgh Mustang Club
- Dave Popovich – President, Motor City Marauders
- Joe Errante – Representative, Mach 1 Registry
- Dwight Hutton – Representative, YMR and GPMC
After introductions and a warm welcome from John Clor, he introduced us to Jamie Allison, Director of Ford Racing. Jamie emphasized the importance of clubs and enthusiasts to Ford Motors. Next, we headed via shuttle to the Ford Dearborn Development Center to meet with Mr. Nair and other members of the Ford Performance Group. Cameras were not permitted while at the Development Center site.
Upon arrival at the Development Center, we were first greeted by key members of the Ford Public Affairs Staff, including Jayson Demchak (Performance), Alan Hall (Mustang 50th) and Said Deep (Product & Technology.) Following lunch, we met with Mr. Nair to discuss Ford’s product philosophy and design strategy, particularly regarding what he called Ford’s “brand DNA” and new vehicles that embody personality and “bold, emotive styling.” Of course, the club leaders kept steering the conversation toward a 2015 Mustang and any info about the car’s 50th anniversary. He was of necessity very guarded in his comments. What we can share is he said that Ford indeed celebrates all Mustang anniversaries and that the 50th would be celebrated, too. He assured us that Ford understands the Mustang brand and its customers well, so we should not worry when we see talk on the internet of a new Mustang.
He likewise emphasized the value to Ford of supporting clubs, when he stated that “While some in the company may see building our relationships with Ford enthusiast clubs as ‘preaching to the choir,’ what needs to be noted is, as Jamie Allison would point out, the choir brings a lot of new members into the church!”
Following a brief Q&A session, we next headed out to the 1.7 mile Steering and Handling course to take “hot laps” with members of their professional testing teams. There were three vehicles we used for doing laps: a soon-to-be-domestically-released Ford Fiesta turbo, a top-of-the-line Ford Focus ST and a new Mustang GT500 Cobra convertible. Needless to say, the track experience was exhilarating.
After a quick stop back at Ford Racing Headquarters to pick up our car, we headed over to tour the private Mike Berardi Mustang collection. Mike is the Director of Service Engineering at Ford Motor. At this point photos were again permitted, so below are some shots of his phenomenal assortment of nearly 50 Mustangs.
It was late that evening before we arrived back in the ‘Burgh, but with many wonderful memories of Dwight & Ken’s Excellent Adventure!
P.S. To see an interview with Mike Berardi where he describes some of the cars in his Mustang collection, click on the image below: