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Unique approach helps local car club defy the odds and grow membership

Dave Williams, Community Contributor • Aug 23, 2016 at 12:32 PM

Mustang Clubs are located in every imaginable corner of the USA and throughout the world. Clubs vary in size and age groups. Some are extremely active sponsoring a multitude of shows and activities, while many others given advancing membership age tend to focus on limited activities. “Given the graying of membership,” as pointed out in an article by Hagerty Insurance, it is becoming more difficult to attract and retain active members who participate in the life of car clubs.

The Northeast Tennessee Mustang Club is an exception to the rule.

The club was formed in the summer of 2013 by friends Tim Duncan and Allen Houser, both Mustang enthusiasts who wished to sponsor a car show in order to raise money for a veteran’s charity, The American Patriots and Pastimes Inc. (APPI). Since that date, the club has grown by leaps and bounds and now boasts 475-plus members. The club is perhaps the fastest growing and largest independent Mustang Club in the country.

The wide use of social media, word of mouth recruiting and business cards left on Mustang windshields throughout the area spurred the growth, and is helped along by the fact that the club charges no membership dues and donates all the money it raises to charity.

All six generations of Mustangs are welcome and included in membership. A predominant number own fox bodies through S550 models with many being daily drivers. Membership age ranges from teens just obtaining their drivers' license to senior citizens who have had a romance with Mustangs since the 1960s.

Camaraderie within the club is intergenerational and ever apparent as members help each other with technical issues, purchase inspection and show car detailing.

Northeast Tennessee Mustang Club members are family.

Cruise-ins, shows, picnics and parades are routinely attended by a wide percentage of the membership. When the Ford Mustang was honored at a 50th anniversary celebration car show, 74 Mustangs participated. The club fielded 51 Mustangs in this year’s Blountville, Tenn., Fourth of July parade. Over 30 members recently attended Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Car show club participation awards within the Tri-Cities area frequently go home with the Northeast Tennessee Mustang Club.

Members are kept up-to-date on a significant number of club events via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A posting on Saturday afternoon soliciting interest in a possible Sunday afternoon cruise often leads to several members heading out to the nearby “Snake” (Hwy. 421) or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Subgroups of the club who have diverse interests pursue various activities, such as trips to the Thunder Valley dragstrip in Bristol.

The club’s success is realized through a variety of activities that meet individual member needs and availability.

While a significant aspect of the club is fun and fellowship, members provide significant financial support to APPI through routinely purchasing, packaging and mailing personal kits for troops stationed overseas. Proceeds from club shows, club merchandise and activities fund the charitable component.

The Fourth Annual APPI Open Car Show, held recently, attracted 179 entries with 100 percent of all funds ($3,700) raised by the club going toward this 501(c)(3) organization. Personal toiletry supplies and snacks are also purchased for veterans residing at the Mountain Home VA Medical Center residence in nearby Johnson City. Club members take pride in actively demonstrating their patriotism and offering thanks to our nation’s veterans.

The Northeast Tennessee Mustang Club is a successful case study in how to form and maintain a car club. It reflects the power of social media and has shaped what a dynamic car club looks like in the 21st century. To learn more about the Northeast Tennessee Mustang Club, like the club's page on Facebook or visit the club website at www.netnmc.org.

Our monthly Join the Club series is designed to introduce local readers to various clubs and organizations in the region. To suggest an organization for the Join the Club series or to submit an article and photos about your organization for consideration, email Sunday Stories editor Carmen Musick at [email protected]

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