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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 21, 2011
For these men, a Mustang is more than just a car, it’s about hard work, pride, friendship, travel and fun
By Jordan J. Michael
Late Monday afternoon, Rich Loya rolled into Altamont behind the wheel of a massive yellow-orange and black hauler that he made from a 1980 Ford C8000 fire truck. On the back was Loya’s 2007 Saleen 302 Mustang, which matched the colors of the hauler. Both the hauler and the car were labeled with the number 15.
Richie Sanderson, of Altamont, and Walt Dugan, president of the Adirondack Shelby Mustang Club, had been eagerly awaiting Loya’s arrival. Sanderson, Dugan, and The Enterprise stood and watched as Loya approached in his pride and joy.
“Isn’t this something?” asked Sanderson.
Indeed, it was.
“Is this authorized?” asked a neighbor.
Loya, and his friend, Carl Arciprete, spent 700 hours building the hauler. It was finished in May 2010 and has won numerous awards since, including at the All Ford Show in Carlisle, Pa. a few weeks ago.
“People think I own a race team or something,” said Loya. “That’s why I made the numbers on the truck detachable.”
Loya bought the fire truck from the Stillwater Fire Department for $1,500 after a faulty water pump left it out of service. The 700 hours of work was spread out over a year, starting with removing the water tanks, and plasma cutting one-and-a-half inches off the doors.
Every metal piece came from existing fire trucks, and 17 inches was added to the back. Everything was sand blasted and the doors were hand built. The wheel wells in the back were carved from the leftover water tank.
“It’s an arsenal,” Loya said. “I had this idea forever.”
Dugan, Sanderson, and Loya have become friends through the Adirondack Shelby Mustang Club. They share a passion for automobiles in general, and Ford Mustangs in particular. They have 130 other friends, members of the club, who feel the same way.
Over a period of up to five months each year, Mustang Club members cruise around and make trips to local, national, and Grand National car shows. Members meet, greet, and raise over $10,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation.
“Some car clubs are very elite, but we’re out here to have fun,” Dugan said, mentioning that it’s the clubs 30th anniversary. “We’ll do anything to have fun. I don’t tell my members what to do; I ask them what we should do.”
Sanderson, on Monday, was driving his 2004 Mystic Chrome Cobra Mustang, one of 495 in the world that changes four different colors both inside and outside. The paint on the car, which had hints of blue, purple, and green, is the same paint used for the $20 bill, Sanderson said. The car is supercharged with a Terminator motor and runs at 390 horsepower.
“It’s a collectible that wins wherever we go,” Sanderson said of the car. “The lower the number, the better. It’s a remarkable find.”
Dugan was driving a 1989 Ford Thunderbird on Monday, but he has two Mustangs sitting in his garage in Cropseyville. First, a 2011 Mustang GT/CS California Special Edition with 415 horsepower, custom interior, and Special Package ground effects. Second, a 1966 Mustang V8 with Santana Gold color, 64,000 original miles, and a Pony interior.
Loya owns three other Mustangs besides the 2007 Saleen as well as a 1972 Ranchero 429 AC. He has a 1994 Mustang pace car, a 1970 Mustang Parnelli Jones that is in the process of being rebuilt, and a 2010 Mustang comfortable for his wife, Theresa.
“Mustangs were made for the average guy that wants a little more,” Dugan said.
The Ford Mustang, named after the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter plane, was introduced in 1964, initially based on the second generation North American Ford Falcon, a compact car.
The 1965 Mustang was Ford’s most successful launch since the Model A. The Mustang has gone through five generations and comes in many different styles.
What’s the best generation? Sanderson pulled out a book, stating that the 1965 Mustang sold for $2,614 and 101,945 cars were sold. Now, a 2012 Mustang starts at $22,310.
“In the beginning, Mustangs were raced on the weekends and sold during weekdays,” said Sanderson. “Fords kept on getting bigger until the fuel economy hit in 1979. The cars started losing horsepower and the competition started heating up.”
Sanderson, who also owns a 1988 Foy Body Notch, told The Enterprise that older Mustangs from the 1960s and ‘70s got saved and collected for their “radical” look. Sanderson believes that today’s Mustangs look “boxy” and have “no character.”
Loya prefers Mustangs from 1967 to 1970 and from 2005 to 2009. “The reflection of the 2007 and the 1970 models blew my mind,” he said.
“The first generation wasn’t into speed, really,” Dugan said. “It was the look.”
The Adirondack Shelby Mustang Club was founded in 1980 as a Shelby and Mustang only club. Now, Dugan says that the club is open to anyone, even if that person doesn’t own a Ford. “This club is pure,” he said.
Loya, Dugan, and Sanderson are all past middle age, but driving Mustangs makes them feel young again. Loya started working on cars when he was 12 years old and he eventually opened up his own shop in Malta, Rich’s Service Center, which still operates today.
“There’s something very special and emotional about driving,” said Sanderson, who has a granddaughter in the club. “It’s a feeling of happiness and fun. The wind is blowing.”
“I feel extremely excited behind the wheel,” said Loya, who looked many years for the right hauler before deciding to build his own. “I’m really glad that we have these cars. We worked hard for them.”
“Driving brings me back to my teenage years,” Dugan said. “A feeling of respect and accomplishment. We work our butts off to do all these car shows, but we look back on the rewards.”
Nice cars. True friends. A family who loves automobiles.
“We clean each others cars,” Loya said.
“It doesn’t matter what car you drive as long as you love driving it,” Sanderson said. “It’s a wonderful time.”