The Ford Mustang, America's favorite muscle car, is also the most customized car in the $31.8 billion aftermarket industry, and there will be no shortage of polished-up ponies at this year's SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show, which is being held Nov. 3-6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
"The Mustang is an iconic car," said Melvin Betancourt, Ford SEMA design manager. "People always want to reinvent it, and everybody has an idea about what the next Mustang should be."
According to Allison Revier, Ford Mustang marketing manager, much of Mustang's popularity in the aftermarket is steeped in tradition.
"Many fathers pass down their classic Mustangs to their sons to restore," she said. "They form emotional ties to the car and create special memories."
But what really drives Mustang's success is a universally shared desire among owners to make their steed unique, says Revier. "The Mustang is a 'Look at me' car," she said. "You don't want to have the same Mustang that the guy down the street has. You want to stand apart."
In an effort to feed customization-hungry pony car enthusiasts, Ford recently launched the 2010 Mustang Customizer at www.the2010Mustang.com, a Web site offering an online experience that allows people to create their own virtual Mustangs, choosing colors and decals to complement the all-new design.
"Since we know the first thing customers do when they buy a Mustang is customize it, we wanted to show them everything they could do," explained Revier. "Some of it is concept – changing colors and stripes – but the site also gives us a chance to showcase our Genuine Ford Accessories as well as other aftermarket parts."
The response has been overwhelming. In just two months, more than 1 million custom Mustangs have been built on the site. "The Mustang Customizer allows users to get closer to this new product, as well as connect to the brand in a creative way because they can truly make it their own," said Adam Barrow, Ford digital marketing analyst. "Self-expression is what this brand is about."
Self-expression is evident with the Mustang project vehicles on display at this year's SEMA show, according to Revier. "They all look dramatically different, and that's what I think is so great about it," she said. "Everyone starts out with the same vehicle, but each aftermarket builder turns it into something completely distinctive."
Ernie Bunnell, vice president of sales and marketing for 3dCarbon of Newport Beach, Calif., says his Mustang is unique because it is a modern-day version of 3dCarbon's award-winning 2005 Mustang Boy Racer.
"We are introducing the 2010 Boy Racer – an evolution of styling from the old to the new," said Bunnell. "With its bold, aerodynamic design, this vehicle is sure to turn heads."
In addition to a 3dCarbon Boy Racer body kit, the red Mustang with white racing stripes features a front "E" grille, rear window trim, window louvers with gel decal inserts, headlight splitters and decklid spoiler – all created by 3dCarbon.
The official motto of Steeda Autosports, "Speed matters," is most certainly reflected in the Steeda Mustang that will be on display at SEMA.
"The Steeda Q350 is embodied with the very soul of Mustang performance," said Dario Orlando, president of Steeda Autosports. "It combines the dynamics and agility of a high-performance sports racer with the everyday practicality and comfort of America's original pony car – all in one integrated package."
The Steeda Mustang has an array of modifications, including a functional body kit with unique aerodynamic features, an upgraded street/track suspension system, numerous powertrain enhancements and a top-notch sport interior.
Ford Vehicle Personalization also will have a Mustang on display at SEMA. The vehicle, which features Ford Custom Accessories, sports a unique Carbon Black Metallic custom-colored exterior accented with satin gold 20-inch wheels and gold-tinted headlights and fog lamps. The interior continues the gold theme, with gold leather seat and door trim inserts, seat piping, steering wheel cover and shifter boot.
"Metallic gold is currently very much in fashion throughout the design world," said Mark Conforzi, chief designer, Ford Vehicle Personalization. "There is a wide variety of modern gold finishes that can be seen in fashion apparel designs from Stella McCartney, Dior, Prada and Alexander McQueen. I would like to encourage gold finishes on our future products, in subtle and technical applications presented in a modern way."