One of life's more gratifying phenomena is how a hobby or shared interest can draw disparate people together. Folks who might seemingly have little in common form lasting bonds in appreciation of music, sports, gardening or some other point of enthusiasm. Car enthusiasts are no exception.
A prime example is Mahoning Valley Mustangs, which celebrated its 16th anniversary as a regional affiliate group of the Mustang Club of America a few months ago. The club is always seeking to increase its ranks, which is the purpose of Mustang Night, its annual membership drive, held this year from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 29 at the Austintown Quaker Steak and Lube, 5800 Interstate Blvd. The event will include door prizes, raffles, a Chinese auction and trophies for best Mustang.
According to club president David Lancaster, membership is open to anyone from the Mahoning Valley or western Pennsylvania who owns a Mustang or who simply has a love for Ford's pony car. All Mustang years and generations are welcome, too. Lancaster says that club members' cars represent the history of the model, from Kathy Miller's 1964 1/2 coupe (which she has owned since new) to Edward Sullivan's 2012 Boss 302.
Photo by Richard Sberna
Members of the Mahoning Valley Mustangs club gathered for a recent meeting of the ponies at Boardman Park. They included, from left: Edward Sullivan of Youngstown with his 2012 Boss 302, Davis Lancaster of Mercer, Pa., and his 2004 convertible, Mary Sheffield of Youngstown with her 2005 convertible, and Jim Pence of Austintown and his 1995 Cobra SVT.
The club actively supports local charities along with in the course of its fun, with more than $60,000 donated over the past 15 years to organizations including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Easter Seals, Second Harvest Food Bank and Tod Children's Hospital.
In addition to monthly meetings and dinners, MVM activities include tours and road trips to places like Virginia Beach, Detroit, Charlotte, N.C., and Nashville. Track events are also on order at facilities like Nelson's Ledges, Quaker City Dragway and BeaveRun in Wampum, Pa.
Ironically for a car club, MVM largely owes its existence to its founding members' distaste for long commutes. As of 1995, the nearest club for local Mustang owners and enthusiasts was the Northeastern Ohio Mustang Club, which is based in Streetsboro, some 50 miles to the northwest. According to Joe Horne, one MVM's cofounders, the monthly trip got to be a source of annoyance to many of the club's Mahoning Valley members, especially during the snowy winter months. "We felt after driving up there for a couple of years that there was enough interest locally to start a new club," he said.
Horne and his wife Dee got together with some other Youngstown-area members (including Robert Macabobby, whose excellent 1971 Mach 1 was the Pit Row feature car in the Dec. 9, 2010, Town Crier) and discussed the idea of creating a local Mustang club. In order to gauge reaction to the idea, the group placed a classified ad announcing a meeting at the Boardman A&W for anyone who might be interested in joining.
The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with 40 people attending and signing inquiry forms. From there, the die was cast, and the new club held its first meeting April 9, 1995. Today, Horne estimates membership at 90 member families, with 140 members total, and nearly 700 cars that have come and gone over the years.
Lancaster says that people tend to join because of the cars, but form friendships that keep them coming back year after year. He hopes that, after Friday night, a new crop of Mustang lovers will soon add their names to that growing list of friends old and new.