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America's No. 1 best-selling muscle car still going strong

By Greg Gelpi

One rev of the engine and you can just feel the muscle under the hood, Ryan McWilliams said, looking over his ?65 Ford Mustang.

It may have turned 40 this year, but the classic muscle car still holds the mystique it held when first released.

"A lot of people want us to sell it, but that won't happen anytime soon," McWilliams of Jonesboro said. "I don't want to sound proud, but it's fun to drive around."

From looks to comments, the classic Mustang draws attention, he said. The ?65 was restored by his father and passed from sibling to sibling until it got to him.

"It is tough (not to flex the car's muscle)," McWilliams said. "That is probably how I got into trouble."

About six weeks after being given the car, he "totaled" it, he said. He and his father spent a year repairing and restoring the classic back to its original grandeur down to the original silver blue color paint.

No air conditioning, no power windows, not even power steering. It's a registered antique, but McWilliams doesn't mind.

"It doesn't have some of those modern features," he said. "To me, it's worth it. I'd rather have this."

Sitting behind the wheel and hearing the sound of the muscle car engine is like no other car's engine, McWilliams said.

"It's the sound I like to hear," he said. "It lets you know what car you're behind."

That signature sound is a bond between Mustang enthusiasts.

"I sit here in the shop and I hear them going up and down (Ga. Highway) 42 just by the sound," said Randy Whyte, the owner of Autostar Repair in Stockbridge.

Whyte, who soups up Mustangs and other cars for drag racing, said the cars have a unique "deep-throated grunt."

"Other than being the No. 1 American muscle car, I've just been a diehard Ford fan from the time I was growing up," the former Ford line technician said.

Drag racing is a "rush, just a rush," Whyte said. "There's nothing like it."

He performs everything from regular maintenance to outfitting cars for drag racing for the National Mustang Racing Association.

Cranking the engine of the black ?66 Mustang he was working on, the ground in his shop vibrated from the power of the engine.

It "feels like thunder," he said.

Jonathan LaPointe of Jonesboro said Mustangs are both his hobby and his passion and shares the "rush" of the power and speed.

"I have worked in several shops building them into race cars and am currently working on my own race project," LaPointe, 22, said. "I feel that in this day it is difficult to find young persons who are still enamored by the sight and sound of American muscle. While all of the other young people are buying Honda Civics and slapping stickers and wings all over them, I take pride in building streetable Viper and Corvette killers in the old- school American fashion. Lots of cubic inches and lots of torque."

He owns two Mustangs now and has owned four in his lifetime.

"I like to say everybody has a Mustang story," Miles Johnson, a Ford spokesman, said.

He told of pulling up to a stoplight in his ?98 Mustang Cobra. A man in another sports car pulled up along side him.

"He leaned over and said is that fast, and I said I guess we'll find out," Miles said.

The Mustang has always been about speed, fun and affordability, Miles said. The Mustang has evolved through five generations, and Ford is redesigning the Mustang in 2005.

"Every time we redesign the Mustang we always have a huge spike in sales," he said. "It's an American icon. It's an all-American car. Your car says something about you. It's like wearing a new suit, but this suit is made out of sheet metal."

Miles said he came across an advertisement for the U.S. Army. The ad showed the Beach Boys, an apple pie and a ?67 Mustang. A caption said all three are things worth fighting for.