By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno
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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Ethan Edwards
Takiyah Middleton, 41, customized the 2006 convertible by adding Hello Kitty decals and pink interior decorations alongside eight speakers, seven TVs, and a full LED light setup.
The Milwaukee-native now lives in Nashville and says she put all her efforts into her own quirky version of the iconic Ford for her two children.
She told Barcroft TV: “I wanted to pull up at my daughters’ school and be like super mum , the cool mum so that’s what made me start building the car.
“This is the first car I have ever customized and I did it in my driveway with my own bare hands. I never got anyone to help me with my vehicle because I wanted it to be something that I created.
“In the city of Nashville the car is very, very popular. When I go through downtown people scream, they take pictures, they ask me multiple questions, they even want to sit on the car.
“Everybody loves the car. This car changes people’s lives and put smiles on people’s faces.”
Daughter, Akiva, said: “I think the car is really beautiful. Getting picked up at school is fun because everyone makes jokes saying it’s their car and my friends think it’s amazing. They think my mum is rich.”
Takiyah is the founder of the ‘Rychus Rydz’ car club, which aside from working on cars, helps feed and clothe the homeless and organize blood drives.
She has been working on her “drop top” Mustang, which she bought on Craigslist for $8,000, for the last eight years, and has managed to completely overhaul its original appearance.
Alongside the LED lights and TVs, Takiyah has installed 26-inch rims, which she naturally wrapped in Hello Kitty decals herself.
She even painted the custom dash, which she says was the hardest part of bringing her vision to life due to having to freehand most parts after the tape she was using kept coming off.
Of course the theme that ties the ostentatious convertible together is the Hello Kitty brand, which Takiyah says immediately stood out to her.
“Growing up, my mum always decorated her car with cherries and things of that sort,” she said.
“So I wanted to decorate mine and I didn’t wanted to use Barbie so I thought of Hello Kitty.
“I decided to go with Hello Kitty because I really thought the little character was cute. She speaks from the heart. She doesn’t have a mouth. And a lot of people don’t really know that.
“The original Hello Kitty is red, black, and white. I wanted to go with pink so it could be a more girly colour.”
And it’s not just the car’s appearance Takiyah has changed. Performance-wise, the Mustang runs on a customized V6 engine, fittingly painted with pink highlights, and can reach up to 120mph.
Overall, Takiyah estimates she’s spent around $30,000 on her Mustang, having bought it for $8,000 and carrying out the customization herself.
She says it’s all been worth it as the car brings joy to people wherever she goes: “The greatest reaction I ever had with this vehicle was when I was in a parade and a guy literally jumped on the hood and started hugging the car.”
But Takiyah’s Hello Kitty creation represents more than just a way to attract attention. Fellow car club member and friend Christopher Adams explained how Takiyah has a larger vision.
“She is the hardest working woman I have ever met in my life,” he said. “That is no exaggeration. I know if had a need or anything I can go to her, so from my perspective it’s more than a car club, it’s a family.
“On the surface, all you see is cool tricked-out vehicles but it’s so much deeper than that because when you understand who Takiyah is, you understand she is really doing some political things.
“I see someone who actually cares about the community and actually tries to help.”
Takiyah now uses her Hello Kitty masterpiece to promote her work with the homeless, to compete in car shows (which she rarely loses), as a music video prop, and even for kids’ birthday parties.
And she still isn’t finished finessing the Mustang. Next year, she plans to add Lamborghini-style doors and 30-inch rims to the already impressive convertible.
“I am still building it. I have a lot more to go,” she said. “It may not look like it but I really do. I am looking for probably about five more years until I’m complete.”
In the mean time, the inventive Nashville mum says she would only consider selling her creation for at least $30,000 and has already turned down several offers.
For now, she’s happy to use the car to promote her good deeds and spread joy throughout Nashville, and even has plans to possibly customize more cars in the future. Whether the next ones will be Hello Kitty-themed remains to be seen.