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A drone captures Mustangs write out 10,000,000 in honor of the 10 millionth Ford Mustang at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant
Ford Motor Company

Under a sunny sky after forecasters had predicted rain, Ford Mustangs of every shape and color and design built over the past half century filled the huge parking lot Wednesday outside Ford headquarters in Dearborn.

“Mustang has been part of my life since I was 16,” said Mike Magri, 48, of West Bloomfield, as he walked toward his red 2015 muscle car. “This is my fifth Mustang and my third red one.”

The car parts salesman who grew up in Madison Heights looked around in awe as dozens of collectors gathered to caravan from Dearborn to the Flat Rock Assembly Plant to honor production of the 10 millionth Mustang, which rolled off the line Wednesday.

Workers who build and sell Mustangs gathered with collectors who purchased them. They listened to Michigan State Police Sgt. Steve Borello explain in great detail what was required during the parade to avoid accidents with disruptive drivers, respond to potential road rage and keep motorcycle cops safe. 

The motorcade turned out to be more than twice the size of a presidential escort, blocking intersections and crawling along for 19.7 miles.

“This is 70 cars, including 10 executives plus about 15 law enforcement officers” riding motorcycles and driving in cars, Borello said. “A presidential escort runs only about 20 or 30 vehicles in all. It’s a huge difference. We just want to be safe.”

Ford officials selected Mustang drivers on a first-come, first-chosen team in recent days. Each represented a model year.

“I was surprised it turned out to be so simple, just all within the past week. This was pulled together fast,” said Tom Hague, 57, of Troy.

The sales account manager took aside Borello to ask about speed, concerned about the ability of his 1966 black Mustang to move quickly. Police assured him the caravan would go slowly to keep everyone together. 

“I love my Mustang. It was my favorite car as a kid,” Hague said. “I bought it from a guy who was rebuilding it and couldn’t afford to keep it. I found him when I was getting my son’s car repaired, about five years ago, near Traverse City.”

Peter Dunbar, 63, of Detroit signed up to represent the 2006 Mustang crowd.

“I’m just thrilled to be here,” said the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant repairman, who couldn’t stop smiling as he described his Legend Lime vehicle. “There are so many guys with so many nice cars.”

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Rick Pidsosny, 69, of Canton came with his 2010 Torch Red convertible and said simply, “This is surreal.”

The retired Ford product engineer said he was “Ford blue, through and through.” When asked what that meant, he explained, “I paid my way through school, Wayne State University, working as an auto mechanic. Cars were my life since I was a little kid. And Ford is the only company I interviewed with, the only company I wanted to work for. I spent 30 years here and retired.”

He stepped aside to just take it all in.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett removed a large Panama hat just before making remarks at a podium, surrounded by Ford employees wearing bright orange T-shirts stamped with a black Mustang pony on the front.

Hackett confessed that, shortly after taking the helm at the iconic automaker, he purchased a Mustang convertible for his wife. He said she worried that it was “a little too loud.” Hackett laughed when he recalled telling her, “That’s the point.”

For him, a Mustang GT is “a happy place.”

He gestured toward the workers in the crowd and said, “We’re really proud of our heritage.”

One woman shared a story about how the Mustang feels like a superhero cape, said Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America. “You fire it up and hear the sound of what power sounds like. And you feel unstoppable. How cool is that? One of our cars makes our customer feel like a superhero.”

And this, he said, is why Mustang is the bestselling sports coupe in Germany and the U.S., among other countries.

While many Americans once associated the word “Mustang” with the Wild West and horses grazing the hills, now people associate the word with the famous car.

People on stage with Hackett included Sean Kiernan, owner of the original Steve McQueen “Bullitt” Mustang featured in the classic action film. The car made its public reappearance in January at the Detroit auto show after being out of public view for nearly 50 years. 

“The car is doing what she was built to do, be the star,” Kiernan said, standing back observing dozens and dozens of people taking pictures with his famous car, which his father purchased. “That’s probably what I love the most. It still looks the same, feels the same and smells the same.”

It is rusty. It is not restored but preserved, he explained in response to questions. And why the new front fender? people asked. Because his grandfather damaged the old fender years ago. 

Since unveiling the beloved car earlier this year, Kiernan has taken the Bullitt to London, Dallas, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for public events. In coming weeks, he said, a documentary film about his car will be in final cut.

“We have a call next week. This is all to celebrate the 50th anniversary,” he said. “But right now, I’m looking forward to August 18th, a Saturday. I’ll be driving  the Woodward Dream Cruise.”

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard:phoward@freepress.com or 313-222-6512. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid

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