When Ford Designer Melvin Betancourt created a one-of-a-kind 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca for auction at an upcoming charity event to benefit cardiovascular care, research and education at Henry Ford Health System, he says it was a labor of love that came straight from the heart.
Betancourt, 49, suffered a serious heart problem 11 years ago, and he credits the doctors at Henry Ford with saving his life.
“I went to the doctor thinking I had a bad cold and the specialists at Henry Ford told me I had what is called an aortic dissection – a tear in the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body,” recalled Betancourt. “As a result, my aorta had grown to the size of a softball, and I needed immediate open-heart surgery.”
If left undetected, aortic dissections can lead to sudden death.
“The doctors said I could have been straining myself and the aorta could have just popped, or I could have just gone to sleep and never woke up,” explained Betancourt.
The high-risk surgery that Betancourt needed to repair his damaged aorta was performed successfully by cardiovascular surgeons at Henry Ford Hospital.
“There are gifted people out there who have been given the ability to do what they do,” said Betancourt. “I’m here because of them.”
Betancourt says creating the distinctive Mustang for auction at the “Get Your Heart Racing” event – which will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at Ford Motor Company – is his way of using the gifts he’s been given to give something back to the doctors and staff at Henry Ford.
“We’re all here for a purpose, and maybe my purpose is to help people through my skills,” said Betancourt. “One of the things I do very well is vehicle customization – taking a car that already exists and enhancing it to make it a one-of-a-kind vehicle.”
Betancourt says his goal in customizing the 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca was to create a vehicle that would attract the highest bids from car collectors and ultimately the most money for heart research and education at Henry Ford Health System.
“Everybody knows the School Bus Yellow Boss 302 that Parnelli Jones drove to victory in the 1970 Trans-Am Championship, so we decided to pay homage to that vehicle and do a modern version of the 1970 Mustang that he drove,” said Betancourt.
The 2012 Boss 302 was painted the iconic yellow color at the AutoAlliance International (AAI) plant in Flat Rock, Mich., where all of Ford’s Mustangs are built.
“The fact that the car was built and painted at the AAI plant gives it more credibility as a one-off Ford vehicle,” explained Betancourt.
Instead of using decals like they did in 1970, Betancourt painted all of the black Laguna Seca graphics on the car, which include “hockey-stick” stripes along the sides, Parnelli Jones’ No. 15 on the doors and Jones’ name on the side rails.
“I approached the project from a car collector’s perspective,” said Betancourt. “I asked myself what would happen if they took me from today, put me back in 1970 and asked me to design a car for Parnelli Jones.”
Parnelli Jones will sign the car at the “Get Your Heart Racing” event, enhancing its value even more as a collector’s item.
Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford Health System are teaming up to fight heart disease by presenting the “Get Your Heart Racing” benefit on Saturday, Oct. 15, on Ford grounds in Dearborn.
The benefit takes place from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Ford test track at the Dearborn Development Center – rarely open to the public – and continues into the evening with the Winner’s Circle Afterglow from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ford Conference & Events Center with dinner and entertainment, as well as live and silent auctions.
Tanner Foust, host of Top Gear on the History Channel and an award-winning professional driver – including three X Games gold medals and two Formula Drift national championships – will drive three guests chosen in a drawing on the Ford test track.
Parnelli Jones, winner of dozens of races over more than two decades including the Indianapolis 500, will attend the Winner’s Circle Afterglow. Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally also will be on hand to welcome guests.
The highlight of the evening will be the live auction of a one-of-one 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca, designed especially for the event by Ford Designer Melvin Betancourt and signed by Parnelli Jones. It is a modern version of the 1970 Boss 302 that Jones drove to victory in the 1970 Trans-Am race.
Live auction items also include two tickets to the 2012 American Idol finale in April. Hotel and airfare are included. Other items are a Ford Championship Weekend VIP Experience in November, including three races, meeting Ford drivers and a personal garage and pit tour.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Edith and Benson Ford Heart & Vascular Institute at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and the Center for Cardiac Care at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.
Ticket sales are limited. For more information about the “Get Your Heart Racing” event, please visit www.getyourheartracing.org or call (734) 246-9583.