- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

Like every other automaker, Ford strives to keep its products fresh and in the public eye. In 1972, one way to achieve that goal was to offer a “Sprint” version of the regular Mustang.

The limited edition Sprint was popular, with more than 9,000 sold, but was offered only in the hardtop and sports-roof versions of the Mustang. Ford produced 50 extraspecial Sprint Mustangs as convertibles expressly for use in the April 8, 1972, Cherry Blossom Festival parade. The 50 Mustang Sprint convertibles in the red, white and blue motif were identical.

At the conclusion of the festivities, the 50 cars were distributed to local Ford dealers, who spruced them up a bit and then offered them for sale. One of them was purchased from the Dick Herriman Tysons Ford dealership by Col. Lacy Hagood, who took the rare car home to Clifton, Va. For more than 30 years he maintained the car while driving it 93,000 miles.

Rex Turner is especially fond of the Cherry Blossom Mustangs, having owned one years ago. Several times he had approached Col. Hagood about purchasing the car. In November 2003 Mr. Turner got word that the car was available. In no time at all Mr. Turner was being driven by his wife, Maryanne, to go get the Cherry Blossom Mustang.

The car had not be been moved in quite some time but responded eagerly when the ignition key was twisted. “I managed to get to a service station to put air in the tires,” Mr. Turner says. After making the 14-inch tires round again, Mr. Turner fired up the long-dormant V-8 engine and motored home to Oakton.

Once he got the convertible home, he carefully inspected his prize. Records show that the Mustang was built in Dearborn, Mich., in March, 1972, only a month ahead of the Cherry Blossom festivities that year.

“The seat material is unique to these 50 convertibles and the trim code is blank on the VIN decal,” Mr. Turner explains. “All 50 cars came with a 302-cubic-inch engine, automatic transmission, AM radio, deluxe interior and power disc brakes.”

Window stickers on all 50 cars were identical and listed:

• Two-door convertible..$3,101.00.

• Cruise-O-Matic………..203.73.

• Special Sprint package…..169.62.

• Power steering………….102.85.

• Power disc brakes………..62.05.

• AM radio………………..59.17.

• White-sidewall tires……..35.28.

Ford included the following at no charge:

• Knitted vinyl seat trim.

• High-back bucket seats.

• Power top/glass window.

• Molded door trim panels.

• Rocker and wheel moldings.

• Deluxe two-spoke steering wheel.

Out of the goodness of their hearts, most dealers tossed in 13 gallons of gasoline which, at the time, was selling for about 40 cents a gallon and amounted to $5.20 out of pocket.

When the white convertible top is in the lowered position, a white boot can be snapped into place to smooth the lines of the Mustang.

In contrast, the inside of the car is carpeted in blue with equally blue sun visors.

U.S.A. flag emblems dress up the white flanks of the car. Carrying the patriotic theme further, the white upholstery is highlighted by red and blue piping.

The Cherry Blossom Mustangs all had unique engine hoods, with distinctive blue panels outlined in red.

Even the 14-inch wheels were dressed up with flashy beauty trim rings and, although the hubcaps are small, they each have a blue stripe.

The casual observer would never guess that since Mr. Turner has owned the car he has replaced the carpeting, radiator, heater core and two-barrel carburetor.

Mr. Turner strives to maintain his Mustang in original condition.

The odometer has rolled over 100,000 miles and now is approaching 33,000 miles the second time around.

“This two-owner car remains in remarkably well-preserved condition, having been garaged since Day One,” Mr. Turner says.

The car is no garage queen. Mr. Turner drove his convertible in 2004 to Nashville for the 40th anniversary where three other cars identical to his were in attendance.

In 2005 he drove to Youngstown, Ohio, to attend a Grand National gathering.

“I drive in about five parades a year,” Mr. Turner says, “including the Cherry Blossom parade.”

Look for him in his Mustang tomorrow morning on Constitution Avenue between Seventh and 17th streets Northwest, in the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.

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