30 June 2016

This little girl is in love with a different kind of pony

On a warm sunny-skied Sunday in spring, seven-year old Delfine Beauregard of Terrebonne, Qué., travelled more than 20 miles alongside her mom and chauffer, Julie, for her very first taste of an antique car show. The pair’s overflowing expectation would soon lead to a singular experience best described as magical, one loaded with multiple firsts, transformative for both Delfine herself and Canada's hobby as a whole, from the unexpected to the uncanny.

This story begins when little Delfine, hand in hand with Julie and stylishly garbed for the occasion, arrived at the Saint-Lambert autofest, an annual Victoria Day outdoor season-opener in the greater Montreal area. Thing is that Delfine is seriously in love with Mustangs, particularly the mid-to-late sixties editions. In fact, it is reported that whenever she sees one while riding in mom's car, she abruptly screams out of her desire for an instant halt. She’d like time to inspect it.

Yes, it nearly provokes heart attacks. This intriguing attachment to the quintessential pony car, which Delfine has displayed since age four, remains, however, a complete mystery to all including those closest to her. “She even shows a predilection for the early Shelbys”, says her mother, adding that there is no precedent whatsoever for the legendary brand having been part of the family history.

The Mustang Club of Montreal, whose beauts Delfine spotted almost immediately, was out in full force on that glorious morning – also their first time at this car show. As Canada's largest Mustang gang with 600 active members and over 5,200 international subscribers, the Club's vehicles, both contemporary and antique, are among the finest in the country. One of the Club’s leaders, Normand Slobodian, invited the two ladies for their first-ever Mustang spin in his customized (or “personalized”, as he puts it) 2014 convertible. It was a proposition that couldn't be refused. And as Delfine and Julie's initiatory joyride came to a thunderous close, the ample smiles and abundant giggles filling the air spoke volumes.

News quickly spread among other Mustang aficionados of little Delfine's presence and love, with more offers of power runs rolling in. Richard Vilandré proudly owns a Marti-certified 1968 Mustang Fastback GT equipped with a 390-ci V-8 in Sea Foam Green. Vilandré was so taken by Delfine's keen interest in his one-of-one GT that, barely minutes later, he whisked Delfine and Julie away for yet another rubber-burning, roaring road test, with yet wider smiles resulting. Proof positive that the young lady fancies the vintage especially.

Delfine even met with celebrity that day. Melanie Villeneuve, daughter of the late Formula 1 icon, Gilles Villeneuve, was in attendance. “My dad was a Ford guy”, said Villeneuve, “an aspect of his illustrious career which few, it seems, remember. Much is known about his extraordinary relationship with Ferrari, but the Mustang played an important role in his life too.

During the late sixties, Gilles modified a 1967 Mustang GT notchback, replacing its original 289-ci block with a whopping 427-ci mill. “He even borrowed a friend’s 1970 Boss 429 for his wedding with my mom Joann”, she added. Given this historical Villeneuve-Mustang connection, Melanie was asked to present Delfine with a rare memento: the Hagerty Mustang 50th Anniversary Youth Judge's cap, now being donned for a gallery of new-found fans to admire. Yet, all of these thrilling moments were only a prelude for young Delfine.

Shortly after the Saint-Lambert meet, Julie's phone rang. Word about the wonder child had spread far and wide, even up the chain of command at the Montreal Mustang Club office. Their President, Jean-Pol Ravert, had been informed of the girl's fondness for his organization's cherished marque. An amazed Julie was told that the Club's Board of Directors had just voted unanimously to enlist her daughter as their latest member. There was, however, one rather serious obstacle. Ravert explained that the Club's established by-laws permitted only full-fledged owners to become members, a condition set in stone dating back several decades. “But not to worry, that's getting fixed”, he assured.

So to overcome this hurdle, the Club took action. First, Delfine would receive a 1967 Mustang Fastback GTA in Forest Green – die-cast model, that is – thus making her a bona fide “car owner.” And second, the group's executive decided that a Junior Club would be created. Delfine would lead the pack, bearing membership number one.

It was further agreed that the Montreal Mustang Junior Club launch would take place two weeks hence at a major meet, north of Montreal, near the recipient's home. “By spearheading this initiative and providing a special place for youngsters within our organization, we want to perpetuate the passion for a celebrated Ford product and symbol which we, as older collectors, share unconditionally. We even encourage other car clubs of every stripe to follow our lead across Canada. All thanks to our paths having crossed Delfine's, whose fervor has touched many hearts”, added Ravert.

Two weeks later and more firsts. This is when the Montreal Mustang Junior Club’s Founding Member was asked to take the stage at her inaugural all-Mustang show to be duly honored by fans and well-wishers. Along with the official presentation of her membership card came many gifts and invitations to more forthcoming Mustang events for Delfine as the group's newly appointed youth ambassador. All of which left the grateful recipient somewhat speechless, though beaming with joy, as was Julie whose immediate concern was to ensure that the many new artifacts would find their proper place as part of the existing, rapidly growing, collection in her daughter's bedroom.

In July, Miss Delfine Beauregard will reach the old age of eight, exactly half-way to that life-changing, liberating rite of passage: the driver's license. Given her boundless and, as of yet, unexplained obsession for the genre-establishing car, one can only surmise that by then, she will have had plenty of time to find her dream model. And, most of all, hopefully, enough money to shift from fantasy to reality, at the wheel of her very first, very own, real-life Mustang.

Six decades after the beloved model’s birth, 2024 promises to be a banner year indeed, comprising, with any luck, a healthy dose of plain horsing around for Mustang Delfine. It may well be that, according to one Wilson Pickett, all she'll want to do is ride around. “Ride, Delfine, Ride”. May this inspiring child's nascent journey prove a long, safe and exciting one. And may the sacred fire of passion continue fueling her story along the adventurous road of life.

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