Mus­tang sta­ble

Ford’s love af­fair with the Mus­tang goes be­yond its sales suc­cess, as Andrew Ma­cLean learned first hand while in Dear­born

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle News -

As Ford’s Global Di­rec­tor of Ser­vice En­gi­neer­ing Op­er­a­tions, you’d ex­pect Mike Ber­ardi would know a thing or two about the blue oval’s iconic Mus­tang. It’s prob­a­bly no sur­prise that any­one in that po­si­tion, who works hand-in-glove with the global de­vel­op­ment teams to en­sure fu­ture pro­duc­tion cars can be eas­ily ser­viced when they even­tu­ally hit show­rooms, doesn’t mind tin­ker­ing with the odd clas­sic car in his shed.

What is sur­pris­ing though, as we pull up out­side a rather non-de­script fac­tory in an in­dus­trial es­tate within the back blocks of Dear­born, Michi­gan – the home of Ford’s global head­quar­ters – and meet Ber­ardi for the first time, is the size of his garage and the scope of his knowl­edge and pas­sion for the pony car.

You see, not only is work­ing for the blue oval his liveli­hood, but the Mus­tang is his lifeblood.

That much be­comes im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent as the 62-year-old opens the door to re­veal one of the world’s largest col­lec­tions of Mus­tangs, a sta­ble that in­cludes at least one of ev­ery model pony car, in­clud­ing a num­ber of rare pro­mo­tional ma­chines and his own per­sonal drag racer.

Ber­ardi has owned more than 100 Mus­tangs since he bought his first one – a bog-stock four­cylin­der 1977 Mus­tang II – af­ter high school.

“It re­ally started when this kid in school, Ron Len­nox, showed up in a ’73 Mach 1 that was

red with these black stripes on it,” he told AMC. “I loved his car and I wanted it so bad. I said to my­self I am go­ing to have one of those cars some day. That’s what started this whole thing.”

Thirty-five years later, Ber­ardi cur­rently has more than 40 pris­tine Mus­tangs lined up in chrono­log­i­cal or­der within his fac­tory, start­ing with an orig­i­nal 64½ coupe In­di­anapo­lis Pace Car model.

It’s not the real pace car that led the con­tenders around the Brick­yard for the 1964 In­di­anapo­lis 500, as Ber­ardi ex­plains, “That was a con­vert­ible”, but is one of only 110 built by Ford as a sales in­cen­tive for the best car deal­ers. Con­sid­er­ing how quickly the orig­i­nal Mus­tang walked out of show­rooms, the Pace Car pro­mo­tion was a smash hit, and not sur­pris­ingly Ber­ardi also within his collection a 1979 15th an­niver­sary and a 1994 30th an­niver­sary model.

They are, how­ever, not the only pace car Mus­tangs he owns. On the op­po­site side of fac­tory sits a 2013 Roush 25th an­niver­sary model with a su­per­charged al­loy Ford Rac­ing en­gine that is signed by Jack Roush and Ed­sel Ford and was used at Michi­gan Speed­way for a Crafts­man Truck Race that year. Ber­ardi bought it at a char­ity auc­tion com­plete with the light bar across its roof and, like all of his cars, ros­ters it for a week’s driv­ing duty ev­ery year.

“The prob­lem with driv­ing this thing to work is that people think it’s a po­lice car,” he said. “So in­stead of be­ing able to do 75 or 80 [mph] I end up only do­ing 65 be­cause they’re too scared to get out my way. I’ve got all that power and I can never use it…”

He does get his thrills though with his drag car; a Fox Body Mus­tang with a 567ci nat­u­rallyaspi­rated V8 that runs 10-sec­ond quar­ter miles.

“One of these days, when it has an en­gine is­sue and needs re­pair­ing, I’ll make it go faster,” he says rather non­cha­lantly.

Look­ing around his collection it seems as though the heav­ily-re­vised 1971-1973 Mus­tangs are Ber­ardi’s favourite – with a bunch of pris­tine Cobra Jet 429-pow­ered fast­backs lined up next to each other – but he would ideally like a few more of the iconic mus­cle cars from 1969-1970 to com­ple­ment his gor­geous Boss 302.

“Those ’69-70 cars ride the nicest and you can make them loud as hell,” he gleams. “Prob­lem with those cars that I’m miss­ing are all up around the $170,000 or more. I can’t be as im­pul­sive with them or the wife will ask some se­ri­ous ques­tions.”

The one he loves driv­ing the most though is a 2013 Shelby GT 500 be­cause, "It's just a fast car".

With the sixth-gen­er­a­tion Mus­tang com­ing to Aus­tralia next year as a re­place­ment for high-per­for­mance Fal­cons, Ber­ardi says – with a de­gree of in­side knowl­edge – that the next one will be even bet­ter, which is good news for Ford's fast­car fan­base.

Ber­ardi

not only col­lects Mus­tangs, but makes a liv­ing from them too. In what spare time he has, he runs an on­line parts restora­tion busi­ness called Mo­torcity Mus­tangs.

“What you can’t see is there are 28 more cars be­hind the build­ing that are parts cars,” he tells AMC.

“Be­tween mid­night and 5am I ac­tu­ally re­store parts and put them on my eBay store. I have a large data­base of parts and I sell a lot of the stuff over­seas, in­clud­ing to Aus­tralia – they go all over the place.”

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