As I drove my 1998 Mustang GT out of the garage, it started raining. Pulling into the street, the engine got louder, a sound I’d only heard a few times this year. The radio tried to compete with the loud V8 and played Coldplay’s Hurts Like Heaven: ‘On every street, every car, every surface a name. Tonight the streets are ours.’ I knew today would be an awesome day.
Except for a few years in the 60s, Ford did not sell the Mustang in Europe for 50 years. If you wanted one, you had to import one yourself and get it approved by the authorities. This changed in 2015, when Ford started selling a Euro-spec Mustang via its dealers. The new Mustang sold like hot cakes in Germany and France, but nowhere it was more popular than in Belgium. In this small country the number of Mustangs per 1000 people is the highest in the world – higher than in the US.
It is no surprise Ford Belgium came up with the idea to break the world record: the most Mustangs at one place at the same time. In previous record was from December 2017, when the Mustang Club of Mexico got 960 Mustangs together. Ford Belgium reached out to the biggest Mustang specialist in Belgium, the Mustang Garage, and arranged the Ford Lommel Proving Grounds as location. The Ford Mustang 1001 Event was born.
Driving towards Belgium, I passed a yellow 1968 Mustang. We waved at each other, both knowing where the other was going. In the little town of Lommel, I spotted a classic Mustang parked at the other side of an intersection. Another Mustang came from the right. Two other Mustangs came from the left. The parking lot of the local McDonalds was filled with Mustangs. Locals by the side of the road watched as the running horses took over the town.
Strictly organized the Mustangs were allowed to enter holy ground: the Ford test facility. All Mustangs were meticulously parked on a grid. Already there were too many to see. Although the majority of the Mustangs were Euro-spec models less than 4 years old, all model years were present.
It was clear the Mustang was perfect for customization: no Mustang was the same. Some utterly beautiful, some not so much, but all loved by its owner. All individuals, all the same. A black widebody 2015 GT next to a stock 1965 Convertible, a 1969 Mach1 next to a modern GT wrapped as the American flag: a Mustang for everybody.
The first thing the presenter said, was: do not forget where you parked your car. And although there weren’t a lot of 90s Mustangs, and mine is very bright blue, I too did have to look around to find it. Most of the cars came from Belgium or the Netherlands, but also multiple clubs from Germany and France were present. There were cars from Luxembourg, Switzerland and Monaco. From the UK about 50 Mustangs attended. I talked to William, owner of gorgeous Terminator Cobra Mustang, who came all the way from Scotland just to attend this event.
At 1PM, most Mustangs were parked. The presenter said about 1300 Mustangs were already here. He also told us about the choreography we would be doing: at exactly the same time we had to do things like open our doors, get in the car, turn on the lights and honk the horn. As a last step, we all had to run towards the front. A rather large German man looked worried.
The Mustang’s creator Lee Iacocca, who died last July, was honored by a minute of silence and a P-51 Mustang fighter plane from 1944 flew over. After all the Ford Mustang was named after the plane, not the horse. The crowd enjoyed a concert by a Belgian singer who I’d never heard of but who took himself very seriously. Then it was time for the choreography. We all did it so well, we didn’t have to do it over. Even the running went well, except for the guy hitting the pavement.
After a group photo and a fly-over of the Belgian Red Devils everybody had to listen carefully to the instructions for the parade. Only if the parade went well, we would have a world record. Parades fail because people do not follow instructions, the presenter said. In the crowd people whispered about an attempt by an American Mustang club who tried last year but failed. Stay focused, follow instructions and keep close to the car in front of you. When the presenter made a mistake himself, a guy in the crowd yelled “stay focused!”. We got it.
While the first cars left for the parade, the others had to wait until it was their turn. People got nervous. As more and more cars started their engines, the scent of gasoline filled the air. The guy next to me didn’t start. Then it was my turn. Slowly the cars moved forwards, forming two lines. We passed a small tent but it was unclear if that was the measuring point. We followed the track, a huge Mustang traffic jams on roads normally used for testing Fords. We didn’t know if we actually had the world record.
But we did. No less than 1326 Ford Mustangs attended the parade: a new world record!
As we were all guided towards the exit, the Mustangs once more took over the town of Lommel. Many people lined the streets. Fathers showed cardboards with “vroom” on it, the drivers happily revving their engine. No crowds were harmed because hey, this is not America. Kids were smiling. For me, this was the perfect ending to a perfect day. No kid forgets the day he/she saw and heard 1326 Mustangs pass by. A new generation of Mustang lovers is created.