Charlie Watson was up late one night watching the old Burt Reynolds classic Smokey and the Bandit. His employer, Lebanon Ford in Ohio, was planning to screen the film for its performance customers, and Watson wanted to give it a preview.
Watching Reynolds' character wheel his 1977 Pontiac Trans Am during wild chases took Watson back to a time when old-school muscle cars were powerful without a lot of added flash or technology.
"Back in the day, it was just a man and his car," Watson said. "It had a big engine, it had tons of power and it was all fun. It wasn't about the fancy body kits, the heated seats and the touch screens and all this other craziness. It was just a lot of power and a lot of fun."
That night, as he lay awake in bed, a thought struck him, an idea for a marketing promotion that would end up turning a small dealership in southwestern Ohio into a destination for performance enthusiasts around the country.
The deal, announced in a Jan. 30 blog post, was simple: a base 2016 Mustang GT -- fitted with a Roush Phase 2 supercharger that gives its 5.0-liter V-8 727 hp -- for $39,995. Yes, including the car.
"The idea came to me in the middle of the night after watching the movie," says Watson, Lebanon Ford's Roush Performance manager. "I sat down and started doing the math. I didn't believe it."
He could hardly believe what happened next, either.
News of the $39,995 deal went viral online. The online publication The Drive posted a story on May 9 detailing the offer.
The news was quickly picked up that day by Yahoo and Road & Track. And now, Lebanon Ford, a dealership that was once happy getting 20 sales calls a day from its territory between Dayton and Cincinnati, isn't surprised to get 1,000 calls a day, and is shipping supercharged pony cars to buyers as far away as Florida and Texas.