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Owner: Doctor DeBo
Year: 1992
Model: Mustang LX
Mods: Heavy
State: GA
Type: Nice Weather
ET Range: Unknown
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Lyn & Rob Walter's 2001 Mustang GT
Couples that play together stay together, and this month’s Stang Stud and Mare definitely prove that this is true!  Welcome new members, Rob and Lyn Walter to the Female Power section.  A couple from North Richland Hills, Texas, the two began attending car shows in 2002 but before they knew it... they were HOOKED!  “We had such a good time at our first few shows that now we don’t know what to do on a weekend without one!  And since joining Mustang Works and GC2 [...
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[05/19/2006] Rebels with a Cause

The $32 billion car-customizing industry lets owners have it their way.

Individualized ring tones, lattes your way, Build-a-Bears and the myriad of other products that proclaim, “Hey, this is me!” are oh-so-new-millennial cool. But putting personal stamps on mass-market products started at least a half-century ago, when James Dean played chicken in his dechromed Mercury Coupe in 1955’s “Rebel Without a Cause.”

And today, car and truck customization — making slight alterations to the original designs or enhancing performance — is hotter than ever.

About half of vehicle buyers customize their vehicles, according to Ford Motor Company and the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the trade organization of 6,400 aftermarket companies in 40 countries that represents the $32 billion industry. SEMA members include businesses from Ford Motor Company, with its catalog of product enhancers, to Big Len Enterprises, a one-tricked-out pony that makes high-performance lifters for compact cars.

While it probably began with Dean’s ’49 Mercury, car customization became an American phenomenon in the ’60s, with painted-on flames shooting out of the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe” and race car driver-turned-customizer Carroll Shelby stirring passions with his souped-up Mustangs.

The aftermarket industry has consistently grown between 8 percent and 10 percent for the past 10 years, says Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of Marketing and Communications. Car customization is very American but is shared by consumers in South America, Europe and even Asia, especially China.

The current wave of the car-customization craze has largely been driven by music videos, says MacGillivray, pointing to the 30-something cable TV shows on the subject, from MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” to “American Hot Rod.” But TV is only one of the media catalysts.

“The most popular video games are auto related with a motor sports tie-in, and there’s barely a music video that doesn’t have some kind of customized ride in it,” says MacGillivray. “And movies like this summer’s ‘The Fast and the Furious III’ and Pixar’s animated ‘Cars’ are going to be like infomercials that further fuel the craze.”

The car companies themselves are in the business. Ford is one of the largest Ford Motor Company product accessorizers, selling an array of specialty parts on, and

And Ford doesn’t have a problem with other companies taking its basic designs to an altered state.

“We see it as a great platform — there’s no way an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) can provide all the different variations that people like,” says Warren Nally, business manager for SVT and Aftermarket Equipment, noting that the most popular customized car of them all — the Mustang — often has more than a hundred aftermarket products ready before a new model even hits dealerships.

But the idea isn’t to reinvent the wheels, says FunkMaster Flex, a New York deejay who brings some serious street credibility to the cars and trucks he customizes on ESPN and Spike TV.

“The F-150 is already a hot truck — it’s a 10,” he says. “I’m just adding a little salt and pepper to it to make it a 12.”

He’ll flex his muscle cars this summer on a custom-car and bike show tour.

Most Popular Customizations

  1. Wheels — “A natural first pick because you can buy wheels regardless of budget,” says MacGillivray. “They’re easy to install, and there’s a huge variety of stylings.”
  2. Mobile electronics — from converters that plug into iPods to DVD players, and from global positioning systems (GPS) to satellite radio.
  3. Restyling products — from the functional (a pickup-bed cover to secure tools) to the cosmetic (grille inserts).
  4. Under the hood — from fuel-efficient and performance-enhancing cold-air intake kits to cat-back exhaust systems that personalize the roar.
  5. Suspension pieces — particularly ones that lower the vehicle and make it feel a little sportier on the road.

SOURCE: Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)

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