Technically, he drives cars. But, in essence, cars drive him.

Look at how Rick Mackey’s body reacts when he grows animated and excited discussing everything from the Mustangs to GTOs to GTXs to you-name-it. Goosebumps pop up not just on his arms but on his legs.

Plus, emotion wells in the voice and in the eyes of the man clad in a 50-year anniversary Ford Mustang T-shirt.

“You’re going to make me cry,” he said at one point as he reminisced about the cars he grew up with in his hometown of Laurel in the 1960s.

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The 66-year-old resident of near Petersville is among the local Hoosier Mustang Club members supporting in the organization’s upcoming Hoosier Summer Slam Car Show Aug. 12 at Master Power Transmission, 3300 10th St. in Columbus. The expected 110-plus-vehicle event serves as a fundraiser for the Love Chapel food pantry, which currently feeds about 1,200 needy families monthly.

Joyce Artis, club president, mentioned that the new location could bring them a new audience. Shows the past few years unfolded on the other side of town at the now-closed Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

“I think we’re going to have a little more visibility now,” Artis said.

Too bad Mackey can’t quite have his current project done in time for the show: restoring a champagne gold 1969 Mach 1 Mustang that he bought in August 2012 from his sister-in-law’s husband with 284,000 miles on it. He is only its third owner.

Before he began his reconstruction of sorts, he drove it to the local Mustang Club’s Christmas dinner that year.

“It was a crowd-pleaser even then,” Mackey said.

It seems he was destined for such work. At age 11, he mowed lawns and redeemed pop bottles for money to buy and build model cars. Then, he worked at McPherson’s DX-Sunoco in Laurel, where his boss taught him car repair fine points that he still uses today.

“I’ve literally had every nut and bolt off that car at one point,” he said of the Mustang.

His specially-built, oversized garage gives him plenty of room to operate with surgical precision on his business at hand. He has rebuilt five vehicles with his son Jason, who lives just a quick squeal around the corner. The son owns a 2004 Mustang, and dad drives a 2013 bright blue Mustang as his regular car.

But this 1969 shiny beauty? Once it is finished, it will take Mackey to car shows throughout Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, probably.

“And I’ll enjoy it on cruises with the local club,” he said.

Plus, he may race it at nearby tracks such as Ohio Valley Dragway in West Point, Kentucky, where he can let its 500-horsepower engine run aggressively.

Yet, with no windows and no interior in the vehicle yet, he has miles to go before he sleeps.

His restoration is so painstakingly loyal to the factory version of the vehicle that he is using 90 percent of the original cap screws on his effort, the original power steering, the original engine block and the original brakes, refurbished.

He bemoans part of the antiseptic state of current new vehicles that nearly drive themselves. He would prefer to interact with a classic vehicle that makes him matter a little more.

“You have to make these (classics) do what you want,” Mackey said. “You know what the traction control is on this car? Your right foot.

“You buy a new car today, and you get in it — and you can’t even hear the engine running.”

Which explains why he skips expensive sound equipment in refurbished vehicles.

“I don’t need a stereo in there,” he said of the Mach 1. “I have the pipes (from the exhaust I built).”

He sees his passion as more than a mere hobby in a city built on engines. He himself worked for Cummins for 40 years before retiring last year as a senior technical advisor.

“This is the home of horsepower,” he said. “I’m just trying to perpetuate the love of these older cars — cars that made this country.”

And cars that made Rick Mackey a driven man.

They've got the horses

What: Local Hoosier Mustang Club’s Hoosier Summer Slam Car Show to raise money for the nonprofit Love Chapel food pantry for needy families.

When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 12, rain or shine. Car registration for participants is 8 a.m. to noon.

Where: Master Power Transmission, 3300 10th St. in Columbus.

To register a vehicle (eligible to all): $20.

Admission for viewers: Free.


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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.