x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Adding personality to a Mustang in just seven minutes

Ivan Copeland heads a team that will give the personal touch to your Mustang in record time.

Ivan Copeland is a third-generation Ford man.
Ivan Copeland is a third-generation Ford man.

Ivan Copeland wants to go fast at the Abu Dhabi International Motor Show.

But he wasn't involved with the attempts at the world indoor speed record scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Instead, he and a team of technicians from Premier Motors in Abu Dhabi were customising a Mustang every hour at the Ford stand in the evenings. The thing is, the team were doing it in under seven minutes.

Just a short conversation with Copeland will tell you he's a car guy, through and through. The 55-year-old, dressed in a blue Ford work shirt, opens up warmly in his relaxed Detroit accent about anything related to cars, racing and the Ford Mustang. It's easy to see he likes to get his hands dirty.

"We're presenting Mustang Alley, which shows you the different products you can get to personalise your Mustang through your Ford dealer," says Copeland. "If you go over there and pick it out, and you say I want these wheels and this hood scoop, or this stripe kit, you can have everything done before you pick it up. And that way, everything is warrantied."

Copeland doesn't actually work for Ford; the company he works for, DST [Distribution Service Technologies], is in charge of preparing cars for car shows and advertising for the car maker, and Copeland leads the programme. But the company - and Copeland himself - have a long history with the Blue Oval.

"I go back a long way with Ford; my grandfather retired from Ford, and my father-in-law retired as an engineer from Ford. And the company I work for has been doing work for Ford since 1954 [Copeland joined DST in the early 1980s]. We originally started with the performance program for Ford - we started with the original Thunderbird in 1955. Because Ford didn't have the money to pay their own people for the job, they hired my company to do all the speed records and some racing teams.

"As far as that goes, we have a great history with Ford; we like to think we're as much a part of the Ford family as the dealers are."

The conversation with Copeland flows from DST's history with Ford drag racing in the 1960s to how he still works on a local Michigan racer's car today as a hobby. Finding out I'm Canadian, he goes on in detail about the country's winningest race driver - Junior Hanley, who I learn for the first time had more than 600 victories. Talking cars obviously puts a twinkle in Copeland's eye.

He is off next to Kuwait to prepare for another show. Copeland has been enjoying coming to the Middle East for the job, but his enthusiasm isn't contained to just his travels.

"I enjoy being here. Our community at home, we have a very large Middle East community [in his home state of Michigan]. Travelling is just a bonus for me.

"This started last year as an international thing for the Middle East; the rest of the world really doesn't get the Mustang, but the Ford product has really taken off here in the last few years. So Ford wanted to offer to them the same thing that the US has."

It's almost time for another presentation, so our conversation begins to wind down. But Copeland's warmth and easy conversation are enjoyable, and his love and knowledge of cars and racing contagious.

"I wake up every morning loving my job," he says with a firm handshake, "whether I'm at home or in Abu Dhabi."