They say behind every car guy is a very patient and tolerating woman. We need to rethink that somewhat antiquated and chauvinistic saying. The Mustang community and the car enthusiast community need women to be active and viable members. They need to have their own project cars. They need to turn the wrenches. They need to get chills when they hear the growl of a Shelby Mustang go by. There are many women out there who fit that description. One such person is Natasha Marie De Melis better known in the Mustang community and on social media as Mustang Marie.
Mustang Marie’s passion for Mustang is evident from her Instagram account which has more than 18,000 followers. You might be surprised to see such passion and enthusiasm coming from a millennial, especially one who is female. I interviewed Natasha, as I know her, to ask her about the future of Mustang, her love of Mustang and what advice she has for getting women more involved in the community.
How did you get interested in the Mustang and have you always been a car person?
Am I a car person? Well, what I can tell you is what I tell everyone when this question gets asked: I’m pretty sure I was a car in a previous life. It’s the only explanation I have. With no one in my family to influence my love of cars, it’s almost as if cars chose me. Having my older brother around, and my cousin Stephen living with my family and I when I was young, the typical “boy toys” would lay around the house: Transformers, Hot Wheels, LEGO, and more. I went straight for the Hot Wheels. I spent hours upon hours playing on those famous car carpets.
Growing up, I developed a preference when it came to the cars I liked. Exotics didn’t really interest me, but when a classic car pulled up, did I ever suffer some serious whiplash! My head would turn, my eyes would widen, and my mouth would drop. I was in love, and that feeling has never faded, almost 30 years later. There was something about classic cars. Their lines, their beauty, their soul: every body panel, every seam, every scratch told a story. It’s what I admire most about classic cars: they’re rolling art.
But, what was it about the Mustang that topped everything else on the road? How does this car overshadow everything else? Not only is the Ford Mustang one of the greatest all-American muscle cars the world has ever seen, but the 50+ year legacy this car possesses and the community of car lovers it has single-handedly brought together, is absolutely mind-blowing. Back in 1964, this car was made for the people, and we have never forgotten about that.
Mustang is more than a car. It’s a lifestyle. It’s imagination. It’s motivation. It’s power. It’s community. It’s everything you hope to be and more… and that’s what makes it special. That’s why millions of people love this car. For a car to be able to get to a point where you can simply say “because Mustang” and everyone seems to understand, you’ve done something right in the world. Reminds me of when people try to explain love. They’ll say, “Love is just love,” or “when you know, you know.” I can easily say the same for Mustang and everyone just sort of understands. “Well, Mustang is Mustang,” and “when you know, you know.” And that is a pretty incredible accomplishment.
Tell me about your Mustang. What year is it? What are you doing to it or plan to do it?
My beautiful blackbird, Raven. She’s a 1967 Raven Black Ford Mustang GT Fastback with red vinyl interior and a powerful S-Code 390ci engine as her heart. Original engine, original transmission, original body panels, original paint, 30,000 miles, matching numbers—she is one of the greatest examples of a survivor car I have ever laid eyes on. Her features include:
• GT Equipment Group
• Four-Speed Manual Transmission
• Equa-Lock Differential
• F70-14 Wide Oval Tires
• White Sidewall Nylon Tires
• Sport Deck Rear Seat
• AM Radio
• Exterior Decor Group
• Interior Decor Group
• Deluxe Seat Belts
• Heavy Duty Battery
My father and I brought her to Autobahn Auto Salon in Concord, Ontario to undergo a professional detail: the two tears in her vinyl were repaired, the swirls in her paint removed, and the dents in her body panels vanished. Applying a ceramic wax to protect her original paint and a ceramic coat to let her chrome shine, this was all we did. She deserved the royal treatment.
Other than that, what do I plan on doing to her? Absolutely nothing. I am a purist at heart, and she will remain unmodified because she is literally the definition of perfection.
How did you become such a social media star and how did that change your life?
In 2012, I downloaded something called, “Instagram.” I posted once and didn’t post again until a year later. Like most people, I had no idea how to use it. It was only when I was working on an advertising campaign at the end of 2013 when I started to understand how to use the platform and how beneficial it could be.
I started to post things I was passionate about: cars (and not just specifically Mustang). Shortly after, I moved into a Mustang-specific direction. Come April 2014, Mustang Marie was born.
And why the name? Well, my middle name is Marie. Mustang Natasha? Doesn’t have much of a ring to it, but Mustang Marie seemed to roll off the tongue nicely. Being a graphic designer by trade, I developed a logo for a popular Mustang account (for free). They featured me on their page, and the followers started to roll in.
Before I knew it, car accounts started to feature my photographs as well. At the time, with Instagram’s chronological newsfeed and algorithm, growing followers was a lot easier than it is today. But, I also had to prove myself. Being a woman in the automotive industry is a very tough environment. There is still the stigma that women don’t know much about cars. I wanted to prove that I did. So, with my knowledge on the history of Mustang, and a particular focus on VIN and data plate decoding, I gained a whole new level of respect. Let’s just say, I’ve memorized VIN codes from 1964-1973, so I’m able to identify a Mustang based off numbers and letters. Would some call me a nerd? Yes.
It wasn’t long before I started to gain respect and popularity amongst the Mustang community. 2016 was a big year. I was featured as a “Mustang Girl Monday” on Mustang 360, and later started to write articles for them as well. I was also given the incredible opportunity to be in the March 2016 issue of a Canadian automotive magazine called “Autostrada.” But it was when Ford reached out to me when my whole life changed.
In January 2016, I had an interview with GTB (one of Ford’s marketing agencies), and in April of 2016, I was given the job of a lifetime: to be on Team Mustang. Since then, I have been able to work on something I love more than life itself. I manage all Ford Mustang social content, I write articles for Ford Performance, and I was even able to sit on the Mustang Enthusiast Board: a team at Ford that discusses next generation Mustang. I am 1 of 18 people to sit on that board and the only non-Ford representative allowed. To be given that opportunity is more than I could have ever dreamed possible.
As far as getting women involved in the Mustang community, what advice do you have?
There is an incredibly large community of women involved in Mustang already, and the car industry as a whole. The problem is that people don’t know about them. It takes a very special person, like Courtney Barber of Team Mustang Girls, to write articles specifically focusing on women in automotive. But she can’t do it alone.
Brands need to be more involved. That’s why it was incredibly important for me to pitch the “Women of Woodward” idea for the Woodward Dream Cruise this past August. I wanted to focus on women, their cars, and their stories (Jacquie Marie, Claudette Kaado, and JoAnna Iacobelli were the three stories we featured).
Aimee Shackelford, partner at Exotics on Broadway, GearOne Agency, CEO at SocialBolt, director at Gold Rush Rally, and just overall badass, even started a Facebook group specifically bringing female enthusiasts together to share stories and motivate one another. It takes these types of actions for our voices to be heard.
For those women who are not active in the hobby, I would never force them into it. All I would do is educate them at a very young age that they can be anything they want to be. My nieces, for example, are two of the most important people in my life. Whenever I go to a car show, I’ll always bring them something. When my oldest niece turned 1, I gave her a Mustang pedal car. My intention was never to force them to love cars. It was simply to show them that girls can like cars, too. Whether they grow up to be a mechanic or doctor, it doesn’t matter—whatever makes them happy, makes me happy. If they grow up to love cars just as much as me, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s great, too. But, at least they’ll grow up knowing that they can like “boy toys” or can go into a male-dominated career and be proud of it. I just want them to know that the opportunities and options are endless.
What is the future of Mustang?
Will Mustang be around for another 55 years? Maybe. Maybe not. But whether it is or isn’t, it’ll be remembered. That’s what’s important—it’s to make an impact even long after you’re gone. There will be stories of the great Pony car that took the world by storm, and nothing can ever take that away.
I hope there’s another 55 years, but even if that’s not the case, I’ll always have my Mustang—and she ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’ll just enjoy the time I have with her all the days of my life.
Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. In addition to being a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, Jimmy has been published in a compilation book about children growing up with disabilities, where he shared his own very personal experience. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.