When Craig Chesley first laid eyes on Scott Drake's tattered and multi-colored Pay It Forward Mustang, there was still no doubt that he and his fellow East Texas Mustang Club members could restore the car within Drake's six-month timeframe and have it ready for auction at Barrett-Jackson. The club had submitted their project proposal based on photos; when the '66 convertible arrived by car hauler at the 45th Mustang Anniversary Celebration, it was club members' first chance to see and touch the car.
"I'd seen worse and I'd seen better," Craig says of his first impression of the car. "I knew if we could get the paint and bodywork done, there wouldn't be a problem. I can put a car together by myself in 30 days."
Obviously, there wasn't a problem. With 30 volunteers from the East Texas Mustang Club working weekends and evenings, the group completely restored the Mustang in three and half months. You'd never know that back on April 19, when club members hauled the project back to Tyler, Texas, the Mustang looked more like a junkyard reject than a show car.
"Wow! They've blown me away!" says Scott Drake, who created the Pay It Forward project as a way to raise money for charity. "I've never seen a group of guys who are so enthusiastic and dedicated. They were able to move forward on that project at record speed. I haven't seen the car in person but in the photos it's beautiful."
Last November at the SEMA Show, Drake introduced the Pay It Forward project by donating the car, obtained from longtime Drake employee Paul Kerner, and $10,000 in parts from Scott Drake Enterprises, a leading Mustang restoration parts manufacturer. Working with the Mustang Club of America, Drake requested that MCA regional chapters submit a presentation about why they should be selected to restore the car, with the proceeds from Barrett-Jackson going to the club's charity of choice.
Of all the presentations, Drake says the one from the East Texas Mustang Club stood out. "They sent their presentation in a hard-bound book," Drake explains. "It even had Excel spreadsheets showing how they were going to meet their deadlines. They were really well-organized so we felt they were the club to use."
Just weeks before the 45th Anniversary Celebration in Birmingham last April, the East Texas Mustang Club received word that they had been chosen to restore the Pay It Forward Mustang. Most members were headed to Birmingham anyway; Drake told them to bring a trailer. A presentation ceremony at the Scott Drake Enterprises' Birmingham display announced the selection to the world but unfortunately the car was missing in action because the car hauler was running behind schedule. It arrived at 10:00 that evening, with East Texas Mustang Club members waiting with their trailer.
The car arrived in Tyler on April 19; less than a week later, on April 25, club members pounced on the car during their designated Disassembly Day. "That was a lot of fun," said Chesley, who helped co-found the club 20 years ago and served as the Pay It Forward project chairman. "We did it at one of our members' shops. Several of us have shops within two or three blocks of each other. We used the one with the most available space. We did the entire disassembly that Saturday."
The East Texas Mustang Club is obviously more than a social organization. These guys enjoy working on Mustangs. During the Pay It Forward project, the club pulled from their collective talents. Chesley says, "Three or four can do engines and drivelines, one guy does carburetors, my expertise is more in the glass, interior, and that kind of stuff. It's a good mix of folks."