Mustangs at Daytona Returns for a Week of Fun in the Florida Sun

While many car shows remain one-day static events, some have evolved into multi-day destination events. Naturally, Mustang events are at the forefront of that movement with events popping up in many parts of the country. One of the latest to join that fray is the passion project of someone who is relatively new to the Mustang fold.

I go to all these shows, and they’re all pretty much the same. I wanted something different. — Jeff Dixon, Mustangs at Daytona

“I’ve only been in the Mustang world, the Mustang community since like, 2017. Oh, wow, you’re rolling a limo business for 20 years. The saying was if the car didn’t make money, I couldn’t own one, so everything I owned was black and luxury,” Mustangs at Daytona main man, Jeff Dixon, explained. “So when I got out, I sold my limo business in 2017 and I sold on my last toy Excursion, I said, ‘You know what? I need a sports car.’”

After falling in love with Ford’s pony car just a few years ago, Jeff Dixon set out to create a family friendly event for Mustang enthusiasts. Launched in 2019 and paused for the pandemic last year, his creation, Mustangs at Daytona, flourished in Florida this year.

That car was a 2007 Mustang GT. A friend invited Jeff to a local show, and he scored a trophy right off the bat. That sent him down the rabbit hole of attending shows and modding his car. Recently he moved on to a 2014 Mustang with a 3.7-liter V6 engine and kept on attending shows. Along the way, however, he took his fresh perspective on the show scene and decided to put together an event of his own. 

“The vision started late, probably September or October of 2018. I put the show together in like seven months,” Jeff said. “For the first year it drew 165 cars. It was a great turnout for what we threw together so quick. I go to all these shows, and they’re all pretty much the same. I wanted something different.”

That vision became a reality with the first Mustangs at Daytona event in 2019. With a solid foundation, Jeff was ready for the show to grow in 2020, but the pandemic put a damper on his plans. He pulled the plug, but in deference to the difficult times many experienced over the past year and a half he carried over the registrations from last year’s event to this year’s show.

The show definitely grew this year, culminating in about 300 cars entering the show on Saturday. However, leading into the event, a tragic event inspired Jeff to use some proceeds from the event.

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“I got wind of the officer here who was shot in the head,” Jeff explained. “So we’re gonna donate probably about two-thirds of the proceeds from the raffle in the poker run and stuff to the officer.”

This year the show generated $1,400 to help Daytona Beach Police Department officer Jason Raynor, who was shot in the line of duty. He was still in critical condition at the time of the event, and faced a long path to recovery.

Monday: Meet ’N Greet 

The festivities kicked off at the Saints & Sinners pub inside the Destination Daytona complex on the evening of Monday, July 12. Participants picked up registration packets and got into the show spirit.

Events like this one are a gradual build with the hardcore group showing up early on and more participants joining the fun as the week goes on. Mustangs at Daytona started within the Destination Daytona complex in Ormond Beach, Florida. Jeff and his crew set up show at the Saints & Sinners pub there and handed out registration packets, sold T-shirts and generally got the party started for the week. It also marked the first stop on the event’s poker run for those collecting chips.

Tuesday: Kickoff Party

At the Kickoff Party on Tuesday a bunch of Mustangs rolled into the Shoebox Saloon and Aaron Bickel of ClearShine was there to showoff his detailing wares on an envy-inducing ride, his 2020 Shelby GT500.

The following day was an easy start allowing attendees to take advantage of all there is to do in the area before heading to the Kickoff Party at the Shoebox Saloon in South Daytona. There Mustangs at Daytona participants got warmed up with a cruise-in and enjoyed some drink and food specials at the establishment. 

Shane Nye brought his 2017 Mustang GT all the way down to MAD from North Carolina. His car sports a full Steeda suspension, which comes in handy planting the 734 rear-wheel horsepower produced by the Gen 5 Whipple supercharger paired with its Coyote 5.0-liter engine. Fitted with a 6R80 six-speed automatic from the factory, Shane’s S550 benefits from a digital dash transplant and howls through a Corsa exhaust.

From just up the road in Port Orange, Florida, James Hagan rolled into the event with his customized 2015 Mustang GT. Featuring air-brush art by Chris Cruz and customized lighting from Cruisin’ Concepts, this S550 is all about the show scene.

Another flashy show machine made the trek down from North Carolina. Owned by Romus “Hollywood” Lee, this 2018 Mustang GT is fitted with the factory Performance Pack and augmented by a slew of upgrades, which Hollywood, who is an admitted perfectionist, selected after trying other pieces and changing his mind. Currently it rides on Ford Performance springs, and breathes in and out via an Airaid cold air intake and MagnaFlow Outlaw exhaust, respectively.

Wednesday: Daytona International Speedway Fun Runs

Hitting hump day, the event really picked up steam. The early birds headed to Simply Ginas for a breakfast Meet ’N Shine. There they could get fueled up and talk about how excited they were for the evening’s big event. That would be fun runs around the historic Daytona International Speedway. About 60 cars signed up for this opportunity and those who went around the oval really seemed to love it.  

“The guys at Daytona International Speedway were really good to us and we, you know, the pace car, ran about 75 [mph],” Jeff said. “I heard there were a lot of triple digits reached out there on the track. In all it was a great experience. I mean my wife, who said she was worried that she was gonna be bored and originally didn’t want to go, she rode, and she was blown away.”

Capping off the day, Mustangs at Daytona participants could attend the local baseball team’s game at a discounted price. Kicking off the game by throwing out the first pitch was none other than event organizer Jeff Dixon, who put his fastball right over home plate. 

Thursday: Cruise-In

What better place to host a cruise-in than a huge Ford dealership. Gary Yeomans Ford rolled out the blue carpet for MAD attendees, catering breakfast, donating raffle prizes, and putting the event logo on its digital sign.

There was a two-fer on Thursday beginning with a cruise-in at Gary Yeomans Ford in Daytona. The car count continued to grow as participants displayed their rides surrounded by new cars. The show rides were definitely a hit with the dealership sales team, and the dealer really embraced the show by providing catered breakfast and donating some raffle prizes. 

MAD benefitted from several sponsors this year, including Modify My Stang. Owner Jess Paxton’s bagged 2018 Mustang GT stands out from the usual slammed stallions thanks to its drag-race motif. Running on five-spoke Welds and sporting ProCharger boost under the hood, this ride features a Fore fuel system, a TDSS driveshaft and axles, and Anderson Composites carbon bits. With customizable ride height courtesy of the Airlift system, his ride belts out 650 horsepower to the rear wheels through a 10R80 10-speed automatic.

An autocrosser by nature, Bill Cioni brought out his EcoBoost-powered 2019 Mustang to the cruise-in. Notable because he used to own a Camaro, Bill loves the nimble handling of the EcoBoost pony. With just a couple Steeda bits and a Ford Performance tune, his ride is a winner through the cones.

A rare example of the Fox-platform breed, Tom Longerbeam’s 1982 Capri RS is mildly modified, but still gives off those classic vibes. He eventually took home the first place trophy in the 1980-1993 Specialty class, but the car really stood out at the cruise-in.

“Gary Yeomans Ford surprised me. I mean they really did it up, I mean she told me that they were going to have a setup for us,” Jeff said. “I mean they came in huge late, as a sponsor, donated a lot of money to help us out and my sign is up on the board.”

From the dealership, most of the cruise-in cars headed north for an hour-long cruise to the appropriately branded Ford’s Garage restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida.

Friday & Saturday: Car Show

As the title sponsor of Mustangs at Daytona, Jax Wax was on hand with its full repertoire of detailing products at the car show.

With a big buildup, Mustangs at Daytona roared toward the finish line by reconvening in and around the Pavilion at the Destination Daytona complex. On hot summer days, the VIP participants (and this scribe) certainly appreciating being under the cover of the pavilion, but there were certainly plenty of hot cars in the sun as well, which made it a challenge for the judges to pick the winners.

Stan Lee of Ormond Beach, Florida, is understandably proud his 2019 Mustang Bullitt. While most Bullitts you see are painted in the expected Highland Green hue, his ride features the optional Shadow Black paint, which makes it one of the rare examples.

Hailing from nearby Deland, Florida, Jonathan Cushing witnessed his share of Apollo rocket launches, but the automotive rocket of his childhood dreams was a big-body Mach 1. Eventually he scored this 351 Cleveland-powered 1973 example and turned it into a tribute to all Mustang model years. It features nods to every era of Mustang, including more than 36 running horses inside and out.

Friends with the aforementioned Hollywood, Ron Marshall built up his car at the same time as his pal. Ron’s 2018 Mustang GT made the trip down from Tennessee, and it features a long list of mods that he installed on his own. It features a number of carbon fiber-themed upgrades, including carbon-look leather seat covers and a real carbon rear-seat delete. It delivers 727 horsepower thanks to a ROUSH supercharger upgrade.

Not only was JMS on hand displaying Rick Hernandez’s World’s Fastest Standing-Mile 2008 Cobra Jet, but the company was offering free installations of its PedalMax units, which improve throttle response on modern machines without affecting their warranties.

Game of Thrones fans are definitely enthusiastic, and their ranks include Melissa Blackstock, whose 2020 Mustang GT is dedicated to the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen.

A favorite of your author was this bagged 2010 Shelby GT500 owned by Christopher Manciulea. Riding low over its Shelby forged wheels courtesy of an Air Lift suspension, it features a number of bolt-on upgrades, including an upgraded audio system, exhaust and intake.

One of the coolest aspects of winning Best of Show at Mustangs at Daytona is having your car appear on the event T-shirt the following year. Lorenzo Boemi’s gorgeous 1969 Mustang Mach 1 earned the honors back in 2019, and there it is on this year’s shirt. Restored by Kar Kraft in 2018, this beauty is powered by a 428 Cobra Jet supported by a C-6 auto and a 9-inch rear.

This year’s Best of Show winner was a more modern stallion. Julie Atkinson made the trip down to MAD from Delaware in her 2013 Boss 302 and drove away with the Best of Show award. It is definitely hard to argue with a Gotta Have It Green Boss and it features a host of appearance and performance upgrades. On the show side, wears a number of GHIG accents, including the Braum harness bar, Braum harness belts, cam covers, and CJPP shift knob. On the go side, it benefits from a JLT cold air intake, Kooks long-tube headers, Eibach springs, an MGW shifter, and more. She also nabbed the first-place award for the 2005-2014 Mustang class. Look for her Boss 302 on next year’s event shirt. (Trophy Photo Courtesy of Jeff Dixon/Mustangs at Daytona)

“Thank you everyone for another successful year,” Jeff concluded after the show. “We had 330 total registrations, and while they couldn’t all make it, thank you for supporting and helping grow this show. We do this for you! Congratulations to our Best of Show 2021 winner and her beautiful Boss 302 and thanks for coming down from Delaware.”

If all that sounds like fun, Mustangs at Daytona will return to Florida in July of next year, so start making your plans.

Mustangs at Daytona 2021 Winners

1964 1/2-74, First Place: Lalita Creighton, 1970 coupe

1975-1986, First Place: Mike Platt, 1985 Mustang GT

1987-1993, First Place: Otneil Cruz, 1992 Mustang LX

1980-1993 Specialty, First Place: Tom Longerbeam, 1982 Mercury Capri

1994-1998, First Place: Christopher Steer, 1994 Mustang GT

1999-2004, First Place: Bill Hamby, 2004 Mustang GT

1999-2004, Specialty, First Place: Carlos Canales, 2003 Saleen

2005-2014, First Place: Julie Atkinson, 2013 Boss 302

2005-2014, Specialty, First Place: Christopher Manciulea, 2010 Shelby GT500

2015-2021, First Place: Michelle Scott, 2017 Mustang GT

2015- 2021, Specialty, First Place: Rock Johnston 2020 ROUSH Mustang

Kids’ Choice: Alex Sandor, 2016 Mustang GT

Host Pick:  Nate Taylor, 2019 Shelby GT350R

Host Pick: Romus Lee, 2019 Mustang GT

Nitrous Race Connection Best Modified: Brian Josey, 2014 Mustang GT

Bad Apple Choice: Lalita Creighton 1970 Coupe

Best Interior, Stock: Richard Lyon, 1965 Mustang K-code

Best All-Original: Lorenzo Boemi, 1969 Mustang Mach 1

Best Engine ModifiedPatrick Annis

Best All-Original, Stock: Janet Mills, 1964 1/2 Mustang

Best Engine, Stock: Sergio Rodriguez 2021 Mustang Mach-E

Best Paint, Stock: Otenil Cruz 1992 Mustang LX

Best Paint, Modified: Ruskin Passaro, 1993 Mustang GT

Best Interior, Modified: Charlie Wolfe, 2007 Mustang GT

Farthest Distance: Nate Taylor, 2019 Shelby GT350R (1,163 miles)

Club Participation: Daytona Mustang Club

Best of Show: Julie Atkinson, 2013 Boss 302

About the author

Steve Turner

Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge in the world of Ford performance, having covered it for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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