THE YELLOW STAMPEDE: Mustang fans bond through favorite color
August 19, 2004
BY JOE GUY COLLIER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
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Jay Hayden of Clawson first fell for a blue 1984 Ford Mustang LX; he briefly romanced a yellow 1990 Chevy Beretta and he's still seeing a green 1991 Mustang 5.0 . . . on the side.
But it wasn't until last summer that Hayden found his perfect match: A yellow 2003 Mustang GT.
Photos by FABRIZIO COSTANTINI/Driving a 1993 zinc yellow Ford Mustang adorned with a custom flaming horse on the grill, Jay Hayden of Clawson leads a line of Mustangs to the 16th annual Mustang Memories Rally in Livonia.
Special to the Free Press
"Everybody says it fits my personality," says Hayden, a boisterous 36-year-old firefighter. "I'm loud and the color is loud."
In the world of car enthusiasts, Hayden and his fellow yellow Mustang owners have carved out their own sunny niche.
More than 3,500 yellow Mustang owners such as Hayden keep the Yellow Mustang Registry, www.yellowmustangregistry.com, revved up. The registry doesn't have dues, formal officers or competitions, but members post pictures of their cars on the site and chat about their autos on the message board. They gather regularly for shows across the United States.
This week, more than 50 members of the registry will park and drive together at the Woodward Dream Cruise.
COLORFUL TRANSPORT IS PART OF THE CULTURE
Rolls-Royce SILVER Ghost: Early 20th-Century auto hailed as "best car in the world" by its British makers.|
Little RED Corvette: Prince song immortalized this classic car.
PINK Cadillac: It's big, old and uses too much gas, but great for a party, or so Bruce Springsteen says.
Huffy GREEN Machine: With joystick controls for tight turns and spin-outs, it's the best Big Wheel any kid could own.
Radio Flyer, the "original RED wagon." A purple wagon just wouldn't be the same.
Jet BLUE: (Well we know it's not a car, but it's got a color in the name.) This air carrier followed Southwest into the low-fare.
IF YOU GO
What: 10th annual Woodward Dream Cruise|
When: All day Saturday
Where: Woodward, from Ferndale to Pontiac
While the Dream Cruise is filled with eye-catching autos, the yellow Mustang owners say they'll be among the standouts.
"When 45 or 50 of them are going down the road together, it's totally insane," Hayden says.
Yellow cars should stand out. Only about 5 percent of Ford's overall lineup consists of yellow vehicles, says Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Flake.
Although still lagging behind the ever-popular silver, yellow is up from 1 percent 5 years ago. The color has found a toehold with the Ford Escape, Explorer Sport Trac, Focus and Mustang.
"For a nameplate like Mustang, which is all about swagger and attitude, yellow makes an outstanding fit," Flake says. "You have it for the people who want to be on the cutting edge."
In fact, yellow -- one of the most vibrant colors -- is popping up all over, says Leatrice Eiseman, a color psychologist and director of the Pantone Color Institute, a New Jersey color company.
Eiseman says designers are increasingly offering yellow as a color option for common household items, including toasters, smoothie machines and vacuum cleaners. It's a color du jour because it attracts attention. But unlike red which shouts aggressive, yellow is warm and friendly.
"In almost every culture, yellow represents sunshine, happiness and a cheerful attitude," Eiseman says. "It's a fun color."
Steve Masko of Rochester Hills, his 6-year-old son, Danny, Scott Hoag of Northville and Jay Hayden meet for
breakfast at a Ram's Horn in Livonia before traveling together in the procession to the rally at Wilson Barn.
A cult following
Steve Shrader, founder of the Yellow Mustang Registry, tapped into this yellow vein unintentionally.
A 28-year-old information security analyst for Wachovia, Shrader put up a Web site in late 2000 in honor of his yellow 1999 Mustang GT. He created a form on the site where other owners of yellow Mustangs could register their cars.
The form received such a strong response that Shrader built a site the following year just for yellow Mustang owners.
The registry has members from the United States, Australia, Qatar, Mexico, New Zealand and Venezuela. Yellow Mustang meet-ups have been held in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.
For the second straight year, Shrader and registry members will drive in the Woodward Dream Cruise. Yellow Mustang owners come from different professions and age groups, but they share several characteristics.
"Yellow Mustang owners are usually image-conscious people," he says. "They are a proud bunch and chose their car color for a reason."
Yellow Mustangs have become a defining factor in the life of Katie Drewery, a 23-year-old college student from Shelby, N.C. She joined the registry after buying a yellow 2003 Mustang GT. Not only does Drewery drive a yellow Mustang, her past three boyfriends also had yellow Mustangs.
As a second car, she owns a green Chevy Blazer, but it doesn't draw the same reaction.
"Truckers don't toot at me in the Blazer," Drewery says. "If I'm in the yellow Mustang, it's 'beep, beep, beep' all down the road."
Warm-up for Dream Cruise
The yellow Mustangs attracted plenty of attention at the recent Mustang Memories car show in Livonia. It served as a local warm-up for registry members to the Woodward Dream Cruise.
Before the show, the parking lot of the nearby Ram's Horn restaurant was lined with yellow Mustangs.
Ralph Herwig, 29, and girlfriend Erica Marks, 24, drove from White Cloud, three hours from Livonia. They woke up at 4 a.m. so they could wash Herwig's yellow 2002 Mustang GT and make it in time for breakfast.
Herwig, a technology coordinator for White Cloud Public Schools, bought a yellow Mustang for a simple reason. "I wanted to be seen," he says.
He's grown so fond of the yellow Mustang that he's since bought a yellow 2004 Ford F-150 truck, which he plans to use to haul the Mustang to a Florida car show next year.
"When we tow it down to Orlando, we're going to look like a big yellow banana going down the road," Marks says.
After breakfast, the yellow Mustang owners drive single file, honking and waving, down Middlebelt Road to the Mustang Memories car show.
A few owners have arrived early to save spots. An area is cordoned off with a yellow strand of "Caution, do not enter" tape.
By mid-morning, the Yellow Mustang Registry has 17 yellow Mustangs together in a sea of more than 300 pony cars.
Parked beneath a tree-covered area, the registry Mustangs create a blur of yellow that stretches 50 yards. They have yellow Mustang convertibles, hardtops, classics and late models. They have canary yellow, a bright bold shade, and zinc yellow, a darker variation.
A few tiny insects crawl across the back quarter panel of Gary Kohn's yellow 2003 Mustang Cobra convertible. "Bugs love the yellow," says Kohn, 60, a Ford design leader from Canton.
It has yellow interior highlights, chrome rims and Lamborghini-style doors that swing up like a pair of wings.
Kohn installed the special doors for much the same reason he bought the yellow car. "Just to be different," he says.
Mark Harper's yellow 1969 Mustang Mach I anchors one end of the yellow pack. Harper, 48, of Northville is a health and safety representative at a General Motors plant in Ypsilanti.
The yellow Ford Mustang is his prize possession. He only drives it when the weather is warm and chance of rain 30 percent or less.
"My wife thinks I'm nuts," Harper says. "At 4:58 a.m., I have the Weather Channel on to see if the Mustang is going to work or not."
Hoping to break a record
Hayden's 2003 Mustang GT is near the other end of the yellow pack. Wearing a yellow tank top, the firefighter is dressed to match the car. His 9-year-old daughter, Cheyenne, is dressed in a yellow top and shorts.
Hayden has become the unofficial Michigan recruiter. If he sees a yellow Mustang, he'll slip a business card in the windshield with the Web site for the registry.
He says he keeps coming to Yellow Mustang events because of the people. It's a fun group to hang out with.
Many of the members are car experts, but some know little about working on their own cars. Everyone is welcome, Hayden says.
"I can't completely explain it, but people who own yellow Mustangs have a certain enthusiasm about them," he says.
A year after buying the car and joining the club, he can think of one way he'd get rid of his yellow Mustang. "Only for another yellow Mustang," he says.
As he looks over the yellow group at Mustang Memories, Hayden imagines what this year's gathering at the Woodward Dream Cruise will look like.
The biggest gathering so far of yellow Mustang owners was in March in Orlando. Pictures from the event showed 60 yellow Mustangs lined up in a parking lot lined with palm trees.
Hayden hopes to break that mark at this year's Woodward Dream Cruise.
"The Yellow Mustang Registry is going to take over Woodward at some point during the Dream Cruise," Hayden says.
Contact JOE GUY COLLIER at 313-222-6512 or firstname.lastname@example.org.