Michelle De La Hoz, 20, knew she wanted a Ford Mustang since she was 9, when her uncle bought a Mustang GT.
“That’s when I realized, ‘Oh, my God! This car is amazing. I want it,’” she said.
At 16, De La Hoz’s parents gave her their 1998 Mustang convertible. But a year later, her parents said a Mustang was too much for a girl to handle and bought her a Scion tC. They believed she needed a safer car.
But De La Hoz is already saving for her next Mustang.
“Once you have a Mustang, it’s hard to go anything but Mustang,” said De La Hoz, adding that the Scion can’t compete with the American muscle car. “I miss it.”
But until she can afford a new car, De La Hoz enjoys attending local Mustang meetings, often called “meets,” at North Kendall Drive and Southwest 127th Avenue in West Kendall.
The meetings are organized by Ryan Klimoski, 26, a technician at a Lexus dealership and a longtime admirer of the car.
He owns a 2010 Mustang GT.
“It’s a gathering of car enthusiasts. People hang out, they talk, they look at other cars, they get ideas for modifications they want to do,” Klimoski said. “It’s just a big family meet. Like a family barbecue.”
Klimoski modified the fuel pumps, rims, hood and numerous other parts in his own car, and shows it off at the meets.
His love of Mustangs inspired him to attend meets all over South Florida in 2006, when he got his first Mustang. But during the recession, attendance began to dwindle.
Then, in August this year, he decided to launch his own, new “meets,” which have been popular with the help of social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram.
The meets are held the first and third Thursday of every month. About 60 people attended a recent one.
David Cordero, 20, was one of them.
He has been attending Klimoski’s meets since they started, and said the atmosphere is why he goes.
“This meet specifically is very chill,” Cordero said. “I love the people here, and you get to see pretty much everything — cars that are similar to mine but completely modified.”
Cordero got a Mustang three months ago after the truck he owned, a 2008 Chevrolet Duramax, proved to be too expensive to modify. He found that the muscle car was cheaper to personalize.
“You can make it go very fast with very little money. With $4,000, you can make it into a rocket,” Cordero said.
At these meets, Cordero said, he learns from Mustang veterans like Derek Montanez, 26, who has owned different versions of the car since he was 15.
Mustangs are a Montanez family tradition.
“These are cars that my uncles and my family have grown up with,” Montanez said. “When they were my age, they were doing the same thing with the same cars. They were customizing theirs and then they passed that knowledge down to me.”
The meets are free, and participants are not required to own a Mustang, Klimoski said. Like De La Hoz, they just need to be passionate about the cars.
“For me, it’s just fun. It’s as close as I’m going to get to a Mustang for now,” De La Hoz said. “I already have a list of things that I want to do once I get another one.”