Road trips are a true American pastime and something everyone has, had or should have on their bucket list. Hitting the open road lends a certain sense of freedom that leads to adventure in itself. The American landscape is rich with sights and sounds that make the country great, and travelers gain a greater respect and understanding of American culture than what is usually found near home.
There are lucky folks who have turned their road-tripping dreams into a near-constant reality. Courtney Barber has an adventurous spirit and a one-of-a-kind ’65 Mustang to carry her on her travels, and there have been many. As the head of Team Mustang Girls, Barber has immersed herself into the Mustang lifestyle, spending countless hours transforming her own into a true rally road warrior and daily driver. She does her own repairs and possesses a steadfast resolve that her automotive sidekick will never, ever be hauled around as a trailer queen.
Barber has amassed quite a following of fans and sponsors eager to assist in keeping her on the road and pursuing her passion. AMSOIL INC. is on board as a sponsor, and the full AMSOIL product line will help Barber maintain her engine over the course of thousands of miles in the coming year. She’s currently preparing for the Rally North America, Bullrun and the AMSOIL America Adventure road tour events. As they say, life’s a journey, not a destination. Barber is in the thick of it now and collecting irreplaceable memories and experiences that most only dream about. AMSOIL Racing caught up with Barber to learn who she is and how she brought the idea of Team Mustang Girls to reality.
Talk about your automotive background and what ignited your passion for Mustangs.
My father has always been a Ford guy and I definitely got my passion for Mustangs and cars from him. He actually has a 2007 Mustang, but my love is for the classics. Next I want to get a 70s Bronco or Stingray. I didn’t start working on cars until I bought my ’65 Mustang. I’ve always been a “Mr. Fix It”-type person. I love to take things apart and try to fix them. The Internet is great with all the helpful videos. Once I got my car I turned my tinkering on dryer belts and lamps to my Mustang. It started out with rewiring taillights and now has grown into a total rebuild of my car.
I’m one of those people who gets an idea and can’t think about anything else. My lease was coming to an end on my Jeep Cherokee and I decided I wanted to get my dream car, a ’65 Mustang. Two weeks later I was on a plane headed to Wichita, Kan. Very little thought went into my plan! I had never driven a classic car. I had no idea what it meant to not to have power steering and all drum brakes. When I first started the 1,300-mile trek back to South Carolina by myself I passed the first stop sign by four feet, the window dropped down at the first toll booth, the heat wouldn’t work and I had blisters on my hands from clenching the steering wheel on the highway. The first night I stopped at a hotel that wasn’t in the best area and I started second guessing my great plan to have a 50-year-old car as my daily driver. Of course at the time I would never have said that because then I would’ve had to admit my mother was right. Instead I had a talk with God and told him, “If I’m going to die on this road trip home just let someone steal the car.” The next morning I woke up and there she was, right where I parked her so I hopped in and continued my crazy journey home. Looking back now it’s one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. To me life isn’t fun without challenge; it’s what makes us appreciate the good things that happen.
You have worked tirelessly to turn the Mustang into the car it is today. Tell us about the modifications you’ve done so far.
Where do I even start? The first big upgrade I ever did was Steeroids Rack and Pinion. It was amazing the difference it made. I went from feeling like I was ice skating down the highway to being in complete control. Speed Direct also supplied me with their Vortex CoilOver Suspension which made the handling ever better. After that came air conditioning from Old Air Products, which was very necessary living in South Carolina. Then Kicker came along and changed my entire cruising experience with the best-sounding tunes ever. There’s nothing better than driving down the road with Styx singing to you! Two years ago I swapped out the original six-cylinder engine with a 351 Windsor, added BFG T/A Radials, upgraded to power brakes from Scott Drake, JBA Exhaust and a nine-inch rear end and Granada front disc brakes courtesy of craigslist. Now as Mustang Monthly’s project car my whole world has changed. As an avid Craigslister and visitor of LKQ junkyards I don’t know what to do with all these fancy new parts! Ford Racing sent a 347 Stroker Circle Track Motor, Performance Automatic hooked me up with an overdrive transmission, CPP supplied disc brakes for the whole car, YearOne sent new Magnum wheels, Comp 2’s from BFGoodrich, new wiring harness from Painless, a Serpentine belt system from Eddie Motorsports and all new sheet metal from NPD. I’m not sure if I’m even going to recognize my car by the time I’m done.
It’s horrible to say and I think most people will think I’m nuts, but my wish list is an old beater. The more new fancy stuff I put in the car the more I know I have to take care of it. I fell in love with my car because I could park it in the bushes, sit on it, do donuts in the mud and never lock the doors. Now I have this nice shiny new thing and I’m almost scared to drive it. But the key word is almost. It will never be a trailer queen. She will always be a driver.
Your first rally/road trip experience was Bullrun, in 2010. How many have you participated in since then?
Right now the count is at 10. It all started with Bullrun, and this year will be my fifth. But I’ve also done two trips with Rally North America, the Pony Drive for the 50th Mustang Anniversary, America Adventure and the GoodGuys tour. Last summer alone I crossed the country eight times and drove over 50,000 miles. My father always told me I should be a truck driver because I love to drive so much. I just managed to figure out a way to do it with four wheels.
Which rally or event do you look forward to most each year?
Bullrun will always be a part of my life. It started this crazy adventure I’m on and the minute it ends I start looking forward to the next year. I love it because you have no idea where you will end up each day, and as much as we all try to guess and predict the route, the organizers always manage to throw us for a loop. Rally North America is also a favorite of mine. It’s all for charity and the first year the benefactor was Camp Sunshine. I will never forget visiting the camp in Maine. It was a great experience and showed all of us what driving for a cause really means. And the people are now some of my best friends, so I look forward to drinking beers at the parking lot parties with them every July.
They are countless, but whenever someone asks that, one story always pops into my head. The first Bullrun we did in 2011 was from Las Vegas to Miami. My friend Lori and I had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into and my car was nowhere near ready for the trip. But that didn’t stop us! One night in particular the hotel checkpoint was in Lajitas, N.M. As usual we were hours behind everyone else and we were putting around stopping at anything interesting that caught our eye. Next thing we know it’s dark and we start getting messages telling us to watch out for animals. The producer, Andy Duncan, even told us to take a different route than everyone else, but the GPS said there was a shorter way, so we went with it. All of a sudden we found ourselves climbing up the side of a mountain on a narrow, curvy road in absolute darkness. Our top speed was 15 mph on the winding road with nothing to stop us from falling off the cliff if any error was made. We didn’t reach the hotel until 4 a.m., and by the end I was whistling so Lori would know if I fell asleep. Both of us thought we were going to die at least five times that night, but we made it and now any time I have a hard time with something, I just think back to that night and anything seems easier.
If you were given the choice of any Mustang model and unlimited funds for any mods you wanted, what would the end result be?
Ha, I think I’m building it right now! I will always be a classic-car fan. There’s just something about them that makes me happy. I love the classic lines and colors. New cars bore me because they all look the same.
Do you have a favorite quote or motto that describes you?
“Keep on truckin’!” No matter what hurdle, mistake, disappointment or roadblock life throws your way, you’ve got to keep moving. Yes, I like to reflect and not just ignore things that happen, but after that time is over you got to throw on the flip flops and get your butt back in motion.
Where can we look for Team Mustang Girl appearances in 2015?
Keep your eye out on the road because we will be there. This month Rally North America is going from Knoxville, Tenn., to Savannah, Ga., and Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Then comes Bullrun from Los Angeles to Chicago, then America Adventure from Deadwood, S.D. to Las Vegas, and then SEMA. That’s the list for now, but I’m sure there will be more thrown into the mix. Last year I decided to do the GoodGuys tour five days before I was on the road to California to the start line. If there’s a road trip I want to be there!