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Mustang Santa spreading joy, one car ride at a time

Vancouver Islander’s 1966 Ford Mustang Sally transforms for the holiday
Mustang Sally and her owner John Ludlow will be seen driving throughout the Comox Valley this Christmas season (and beyond). Photo by Erin Haluschak

John Ludlow took a leap of faith last year, and not only has it paid off, but he’s spreading joy wherever he goes throughout Vancouver Island.

Ludlow moved to the Comox Valley from Winnipeg last summer, and he brought with him only a few possessions - one of which was his beloved 1966 yellow Ford Mustang convertible.

The car is catching the eyes of residents for a few reasons. In addition to its pristine condition, Ludlow has topped it with a bright yellow kayak filled with Mustang Sally - a smiling homemade figure resting atop the kayak.

The Mustang can be seen around the Valley, now decorated for Christmas, even decked out with lights for the holiday season. Ludlow said the car is turning heads, for good reason.

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“I drove downtown Courtenay a few weeks ago. I literally had people dancing on Fifth Street. People stop — it’s wonderful. I rarely drive it now without the kayak … it’s part of me.”

The idea to spread joy with his car came about this summer. Ludlow found himself homeless, so he took his tent trailer and camped at Kin Beach Provincial Park for about three weeks until he found a permanent home. During that time, he wanted to make the best of his situation and attempted to beautify his campsite with flowers.

“I went (to a grocery store) and bought a hanging basket of flowers. I thought ‘how am I going to get it back to the campground without it tipping over and spilling earth all over the carpet?’ “

With his convertible top down, Ludlow decided to make the most of the space. Using two holes in the window frame, he hung the basket and drove back to the beach “with the flowers swinging like a pendulum the whole way home.”

“People were going ‘great flowers!’ ‘I love that air freshener!’ They loved it (and) they never made it to my picnic table - they stayed in my car. I decided everywhere I go in this town I will have those hanging baskets in the car with the top down, so if I go to downtown Courtenay, Cumberland, Comox, anybody can take those flowers if they really wanted them.”

He created signs for his vehicle which read: ‘if you choose - not steal - to take these flowers, you need more joy, please pay it forward. If you wish to meet more like-minded people like myself, please join my Facebook page - Comox Valley Social Experiment.’

The page has more than 250 members and Ludlow noted it is used to spread love, kindness, connection and ‘paying it forward’ throughout the Valley.

As for the flowers, one person did end up eventually taking them.

“I was coming out (of a store) and there were about 10 people around the car and were chatting and I told them what it was all about. One person said, ‘Well, I need more joy,’ and he took the flowers and I said that’s great. I posted it on my Facebook page and I went .. and got more flowers.”

As for the kayak that is now a fixture atop of the car, Ludlow explained he always wanted a kayak and found one at the Habitat ReStore. Initially, he thought to place an oversized stuffed bear inside, but couldn’t find one in the Valley. As a soapstone carver, he got creative and made his own sculpture - Mustang Sally.

During the holiday season, Sally has transformed into Mustang Santa, dressed in a white beard, Santa costume and hat. In truly Canadian fashion and as an homage to his hometown Winnipeg Jets, she carries hockey sticks in both of her ‘hands’ and is flanked by reindeer. Of course, at the front of the kayak is Rudolph, whose red nose flashes brightly. A Bluetooth stereo blasts Christmas music as Ludlow drives through the Valley.

Not only has his car caught the attention of people locally, but also that of The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. It is set to be in their showcase at the museum next year — yellow kayak and all.

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Erin Haluschak

About the Author: Erin Haluschak

Erin Haluschak is a journalist with the Comox Valley Record since 2008. She is also the editor of Trio Magazine...
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