By SERINA MARSHALL
Not many people can say they are able to see their art pass them at 70 mph on a highway. However, Tusculum University Assistant Professor of Art and Design, William “Bill” Bledsoe, sure can.
Bledsoe, along with Tusculum junior and senior design students, decided they wanted to make a unique mark on not only the world of Mustangs, but the world as a whole.
“We put together a design package and each student were designated a job,” Bledsoe said. “They were either website, photography or layout.”
Then 2020 happened, and COVID-19 stopped the project in its tracks.
“I didn’t want to continue doing it without the kids,” Bledsoe said. “But once we were back, we worked and made a presentation to show to the owner of Gateway Ford (in Greeneville), Lenny Lawson.”
The brochure showed the base car and then what it would look like once the package details were applied. The brochure was marketable and showed a Mustang that would be affordable and could be applied to any model, with only a 48-hour turnaround time.
Once Lawson had the presentation in his hands, he was impressed and wanted to help.
“(Bledsoe) needed a vehicle to get the project going. When he first came in, I was skeptical,” Lawson said. “But then I saw the package for the model car and looked at the brochure they had created. I was like ‘Whoa! This is unbelievable.’ Bill drew it himself. It was his interpretation of the car he wanted. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll provide you with a Mustang.’”
The Mustang Bledsoe and his students received was a late 2018 model. The prototype took about two months.
“We went to Foster Signs and I was blown away with the quality,” Bledsoe said. “The balance of the stripe (on the car) with the contouring of the car, you don’t realize the artistry involved.”
Bledsoe is hopeful they can get the package copyrighted and trademarked.
“It is an American Touring Series (ATS), and the renderings are excellent,” Lawson said. “It presents different price points at different levels, so it is customizable.”
The love Bledsoe has for the Mustang isn’t new — it goes back many years, his son recalls.
“Dad has always been a fan of Mustangs. His first car was a 1967 Mustang,” Will Bledsoe said. “He followed the evolution of the Mustang from the genesis. He tracked the changes and revisions done by Ford, and how they would change the look and appeal to fans. I grew up with the fantasy of the Ford Mustang and grew to love it on my own.”
Will is one of five students that worked on the project with Bledsoe. The other designers involved are Kaitlin Irvin, Riley Burns, Emilie Hansen and Daniel Gongora.
“I am currently getting a minor in Web Design and for one of my IT courses, I had to make a website from scratch,” Hansen said. Since I am an art major, it made perfect sense to help Mr. Bledsoe and the Tusculum Art Department
with the project and become a part of the team as the website developer.”
Gongora was considered an important part of the team as Bledsoe would go to him for international insight.
“I would ask him about the production and what he likes or not and to explain,” Bledsoe said. “He would say ‘Beautiful!’ He was elated over it.”
Bledsoe came into the project with no expectations. But when Mike Burleson of Quality Trophy and Engraving took a picture of the seal and put it on Instagram, it blew up.
“I made the identification tags for the car,” Burleson said. “I put it on social media and it got a lot of attention. I do the engraving for the awards for the Mustang Club, so I was hooked up with them. It looks like a brand-new car. It is just a beautiful automobile.”
Nearly everything for the car package was made locally.
Salesman at Gateway Ford, Blake Higgins, made it his goal to gauge customer interest as he showed the car off.
“I understand customers and appeal,” Higgins said. “Impression is as important as anything.”
According to Bledsoe, those first impressions were exactly what he hoped.
“Everyone wanted it,” Bledsoe said. “When it was towed in off the line for the first time, everyone was trying to see it. People were beeping and looking.”
And the student designers that helped on the project were excited to see the final project they helped create.
“My favorite part was probably being able to see the car in person for the first time. Normally as a graphic design student you don’t always get to see an end product of your work,” Burns said. “It almost always just stays on the computer in 2D format. But, when I first saw the car, I was speechless. Seeing something that you spend hours on coming to fruition is a feeling that I can’t describe.”
The feeling of accomplishment doesn’t stop there.
“I’m most excited about getting to see the end product and what exactly others think about it and have to say about it,” Irvin said. “That’s what I’m interested to know. My first impression was honestly astonishment. The fact that (Bledsoe) was including certain students in on the project was interesting to me.”
The basic package for the Mustang will come with hood treatment, full spare tire, C-stripe and leather case tucked under the car seat with all the specifics for your customized car.
“When you get into your car for the first time, there will be a polo shirt with the color of your choice with the ATS emblem and matching hat,” Bledsoe said. “And there will be a certification number where you can find your car
on the ATS website. Your car, date, colors, package, everything.”
With the package accessible to everyone, it makes the project even more special.
“It was a great project, and it is nice to see it come to fruition,” Bledsoe said. “It is a snippet of history.”