Along rows of meticulously cleaned Mustangs of every color and model imaginable, judges with clipboards squat as they inspect a 2001 Roush Stage 3 convertible in true blue, a deep shade only used for two years of Mustangs.
Jim Richardson, who drove the car here from St. Louis with his wife, Sharon, said she got him into Mustangs when they started dating in high school — and they’ve been together for more than 40 years.
“Sharon owns the car and I’m the pit crew,” he said. “It gets better taken care of than our kids.”
Their car was one of more than 300 Mustangs at the Mustang Club of America Mustang National Show, hosted by the Capitol City Ford and Mustang Club. The event is being held in and outside Pinnacle Bank Arena, and it's one of three national shows every year. There's also a grand national event.
The Mustang show, which runs through Sunday, was the result of a two-year planning process that involved 75 volunteers, said Marty Rupp, national show chair. It had 72 judging classes and 126 judges. Evaluating each car takes from 45 minutes to six hours.
The cars are parked by category. Mustangs are judged on quality, condition and workmanship, and ones in the concourse classes (more than 10 years old) are also judged on authenticity. Cars receive a certain number of points, with deductions for flaws such as scratches or dust. Car owners will receive judging results Sunday.
The cars in the concourse classes are judged using a score sheet instead of competing against each other. Richardson said he prefers that approach because it’s more collaborative.
“If we can compare notes and go, ‘What’d you get?’ … You can use his stuff to improve your score,” he said. “It’s a friendly rivalry. Nobody’s trying to bump somebody out to move up the ladder.”
Building friendships is something that naturally happens at Mustang shows, he said, because owners see the same people year after year. He was spending Saturday with two friends he met through the Mustang Club, along with their wives and relatives.
Mike Reel, who brought his 2003 Mach 1 from Wisconsin, first met Richardson seven years ago at a Mustang event in Oklahoma. Reel says the car shows are like reunions.
“The car has really brought a lot of people together,” he said.
In addition to bringing people together, shows also help charities, he added, with the proceeds from this show benefiting the TeamMates mentoring program.