Eleven years ago, Ford designer Melvin Betancourt suffered a serious heart problem and had to undergo intense open-heart surgery at the Henry Ford Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan. The surgery was a total success, with Betancourt crediting Henry Ford's doctors with saving his life. Now, the designer uses his expertise as a way to give back to the medical field that helped give him a second lease on life.

This special edition 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca has been done up as a modern interpretation of the famed coupe Parnelli Jones raced to victory in the 1970 Trans-Am Championship. Painted in School Bus Yellow and complete with black accents and number decals, the Boss will be auctioned off at the Get Your Heart Racing benefit on October 15. The benefit is sponsored by Ford Motor Company and the Henry Ford Health System and raises money for cardiovascular care, research and education. More information is available in Ford's press release after the jump.
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Ford Designer Turns Labor of Love into Show Car for Charity

- Ford Designer Melvin Betancourt suffered a serious heart problem 11 years ago and credits the doctors at Henry Ford Hospital with saving his life. As a way of giving back, Betancourt used his expertise in car customization to create a one-of-a-kind 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca that will be auctioned to benefit cardiovascular care, research and education at Henry Ford Health System.

- Ford Designer Melvin Betancourt suffered a serious heart problem 11 years ago and credits the doctors at Henry Ford Hospital with saving his life

- As a way of giving back, Betancourt used his expertise in car customization to create a one-of-a-kind 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca that will be auctioned to benefit cardiovascular care, research and education at Henry Ford Health System

- The factory-painted School Bus Yellow Boss 302 is a one-of-one vehicle designed to be a modern version of the 1970 Boss 302 that famed race car driver Parnelli Jones drove to victory in the 1970 Trans-Am Championship

- The unique Boss 302 will be sold to the highest bidder during a live auction at the "Get Your Heart Racing" benefit presented by Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford Health System on Saturday, Oct. 15

DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 13, 2011 – When Ford Designer Melvin Betancourt created a one-of-a-kind 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca for auction at an upcoming charity event to benefit cardiovascular care, research and education at Henry Ford Health System, he says it was a labor of love that came straight from the heart.

Betancourt, 49, suffered a serious heart problem 11 years ago, and he credits the doctors at Henry Ford with saving his life.

"I went to the doctor thinking I had a bad cold and the specialists at Henry Ford told me I had what is called an aortic dissection – a tear in the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body," recalled Betancourt. "As a result, my aorta had grown to the size of a softball, and I needed immediate open-heart surgery."

If left undetected, aortic dissections can lead to sudden death.

"The doctors said I could have been straining myself and the aorta could have just popped, or I could have just gone to sleep and never woke up," explained Betancourt.

The high-risk surgery that Betancourt needed to repair his damaged aorta was performed successfully by cardiovascular surgeons at Henry Ford Hospital.

"There are gifted people out there who have been given the ability to do what they do," said Betancourt. "I'm here because of them."

Betancourt says creating the distinctive Mustang for auction at the "Get Your Heart Racing" event – which will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at Ford Motor Company – is his way of using the gifts he's been given to give something back to the doctors and staff at Henry Ford.

"We're all here for a purpose, and maybe my purpose is to help people through my skills," said Betancourt. "One of the things I do very well is vehicle customization – taking a car that already exists and enhancing it to make it a one-of-a-kind vehicle."

2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca: One of a kind
Betancourt says his goal in customizing the 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca was to create a vehicle that would attract the highest bids from car collectors and ultimately the most money for heart research and education at Henry Ford Health System.

"Everybody knows the School Bus Yellow Boss 302 that Parnelli Jones drove to victory in the 1970 Trans-Am Championship, so we decided to pay homage to that vehicle and do a modern version of the 1970 Mustang that he drove," said Betancourt.

The 2012 Boss 302 was painted the iconic yellow color at the AutoAlliance International (AAI) plant in Flat Rock, Mich., where all of Ford's Mustangs are built.

"The fact that the car was built and painted at the AAI plant gives it more credibility as a one-off Ford vehicle," explained Betancourt.

Instead of using decals like they did in 1970, Betancourt painted all of the black Laguna Seca graphics on the car, which include "hockey-stick" stripes along the sides, Parnelli Jones' No. 15 on the doors and Jones' name on the side rails.

"I approached the project from a car collector's perspective," said Betancourt. "I asked myself what would happen if they took me from today, put me back in 1970 and asked me to design a car for Parnelli Jones."

Parnelli Jones will sign the car at the "Get Your Heart Racing" event, enhancing its value even more as a collector's item.

"Get Your Heart Racing" to fight heart disease
Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford Health System are teaming up to fight heart disease by presenting the "Get Your Heart Racing" benefit on Saturday, Oct. 15, on Ford grounds in Dearborn.

The benefit takes place from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Ford test track at the Dearborn Development Center – rarely open to the public – and continues into the evening with the Winner's Circle Afterglow from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ford Conference & Events Center with dinner and entertainment, as well as live and silent auctions.

Tanner Foust, host of Top Gear on the History Channel and an award-winning professional driver – including three X Games gold medals and two Formula Drift national championships – will drive three guests chosen in a drawing on the Ford test track.

Parnelli Jones, winner of dozens of races over more than two decades including the Indianapolis 500, will attend the Winner's Circle Afterglow. Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally also will be on hand to welcome guests.

The highlight of the evening will be the live auction of a one-of-one 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca, designed especially for the event by Ford Designer Melvin Betancourt and signed by Parnelli Jones. It is a modern version of the 1970 Boss 302 that Jones drove to victory in the 1970 Trans-Am race.

Live auction items also include two tickets to the 2012 American Idol finale in April. Hotel and airfare are included. Other items are a Ford Championship Weekend VIP Experience in November, including three races, meeting Ford drivers and a personal garage and pit tour.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Edith and Benson Ford Heart & Vascular Institute at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and the Center for Cardiac Care at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.

Ticket sales are limited. For more information about the "Get Your Heart Racing" event, please visit www.getyourheartracing.org or call (734) 246-9583.