This is it, the main day, when all the biggest and best things go down at the 2011 Ford Nationals. I’m lucky enough to still have my youth, and so running across the 150 acre Carlisle Fairgrounds wasn’t nearly as taxing on me as some of my more distinguished colleagues in the automotive journalism field.
Unfortunately, I forgot to bring sunscreen, and with youth comes a feeling of invincibility. Alas, my face is not invincible to sunburn, as it turns out. But not even that could deter me from diving in and enjoying everything that the Ford Nationals at Carlisle had to owe.
Without further adieu, here’s another taste of today’s action, and boy was there a lot of it.
10 AM: The Mustang Garage
There’s a huge alley of big-name manufacturers here at Carlisle, including Trickflow, RoushYates, Evolution Motorsports and many, many more names well known to Blue Oval fans. Since so many people are coming from many miles away though, it isn’t always practical to pick up a brand new exhaust system and have to haul it all the way home just to install it.
Luckily, there is the Mustang Garage and Installation Alley, where A &A Auto Stores and Classic Design Conceptsset up shop and have spent the past two days lining up customers and installing a whole assortment of motorsports parts on customers’ cars, right here, right now. Even better, the parts are being sold at a discount, and the installation is free.
Yes, free. On tap are a variety of exhaust systems, engine intakes (including the new Boss intake from the Boss 302 Mustang) and plenty of parts for your Mustang. And every time I walked past, there seemed to be another Mustang up on the lift, getting something done. It’s a great idea, and I hope they bring it back for 2012.
11 AM: Rock Crawling 101
You can’t be blamed for hearing “rock crawler” and instantly thinking “Jeep,” and I wasn’t too surprised to see a handful of the iconic off-roaders crawling across the rock field at the top of the fairgrounds. However, the Blue Oval was also very well represented among the off-roaders, with Explorers and Rangers making up a bulk of the participants (though there were a few custom Ford-powered rigs in there too.)
I’ll admit that I probably enjoyed watching the Jeeps get stuck a little too much. Later on, professional rock crawlers from Raush Creek demonstrated how to navigate the rocky course, proving once and for all that Ford fans and Jeep fans can (sort of) coexist peacefully.
Noon: Dyno Testing
The whole purpose of wrenching is to compete, often just for bragging rights. And while the number of drag strips has been dwindling in the past few decades, the number of dyno-equipped shops only seems to be on the rise. This has given rise to mobile dynamometers, and no huge car show is without them. I tried not to spend too long hanging around the dyno, though I saw some pretty big numbers go up, and they only seemed to get higher every time I walked by. I think the biggest number that I saw myself was well over the 700 mark, though I’m sure there were cars there with way more power than that.
1 PM: Coyote Countdown Complete
The guys at Kurgan Motorsports really know what they are doing, and by the time I managed to wander back into the building where the Coyote 5.0 into a Fox-body Mustang was happening, the whole swap was completed. Guess how long it took. No, seriously, guess.
It only took Kurgan Motorsports four hours and fifty-two minutes to install the Coyote 5.0 engine. According to one of the techs who worked on the car, they actually made an effort to go slow, so the whole thing wouldn’t be over too quick. The only real issue they ran into was the transmission being stubborn for about 30 minutes. And before you ask, yes, it runs and drives and sounds awesome. They even brought the car out for the burnout competition, more on that in a second.
2PM: And then the rain…
Mother Nature is a bitch sometimes, and right around 2 PM or so, the rain started falling. While a few people headed home, most just headed for shelter. I myself snagged a pretty sweet spot on the stage in front of the grandstands, where I hung around, watching people get soaked and waiting for the rain to let up.
3PM: A Coyote Engine and a Pinto Stampede
Which it did, though no before Jesse Kershaw trotted out the new Coyote 5.0 V8 engine on an engine stand, and gave the audience a little what-for, revving the engine and the crowd up for the burnout contest. After the Mustang engine was put away, Norm “The Trail Boss” of the Pinto Stampede came out, and discussed a giveaway him and The Pinto Stampede are doing for the Wounded Warriors Project. In case you’ve not heard of the Wounded Warriors, it’s an organization dedicated to helping out our brave men and women who return from battle with the physical and mental scars that combat has left them with.
The Pinto Stampede is raffling off a Ted Nugent-signed guitar, and I did my part, picking up a ticket and support the cause. And I pledge here and now in front of all of you, that if I win, I will sell the guitar and give the proceeds right back to the Wounded Warrior foundation. It’s a damn noble cause, and just because you’re not part of the raffle, doesn’t mean you can’t donate. Hop to it.
4PM: The Burnout Competition
Finally, the highlight of the day. The grand stands were packed (possibly because the overhang provided shelter from the rain) and by the time the burnout competition was ready to get underway everybody was ready and raring to go. And just like that, the skies cleared, the rain stopped, and the conditions were ripe for shredding tires.
Initially, I was a little disappointed with the assortment of would-be tire shredders, as just a half-dozen competitors lined up.
But sometimes it is quality, not quantity, that really matters, and in this case the quality of the burnouts more than made up for the few number of them. The first car to roll out was none other than the Kurgan Motorsports-swapped Coyote Fox-body, and they didn’t hesitate to get toasty with those tires.
Then came the real contestants, led by the Trail Boss himself and his Boss 302-powered Pinto (did you expect any less?) He got the group off to a good start, and what followed was a twin-turbo 502-powered four-eyed Mustang, a Thunderbird turbocoupe, and even a Starsky and Hutch-themed Gran Torino (of which there were at least a dozen or more in the show field.)
But the winner would not go to a car…but rather, a truck. Specifically, a 1979 Ford F-250 owned by a young man named Nick, who pledged to either his tires, or his motor. And blow his tires he did, exploding both of the massive 37” tires, and being rewarded a trophy for his efforts. Well down Nick, well done.
5 PM: Coyote Engine and Ford Racing Performance Parts Giveaway
Among the many giveaways going on this year at Carlisle was the Coyote Countdown Contest, where contestants had to guess who long the 5.0 engine swap would take. The winner was Patrick Leftwich, who guessed 4 hours and 50 minutes, taking home $1,500 in Ford Racing Performance Parts.
So what about that Coyote 5.0 engine that Ford pledged to giveaway? Well that went to Keith Smethers of Garden City, Michigan. Neither was present to have a heart attack and pass along their prizes in their dying breath to me. Boo.
5:30 PM: Miss Carlisle Contest
How does one end an awesome day full of amazing Mustangs, fast Fords, and a plethora of performance parts? Simple; bikini contest. Five beautiful women strutted up on stage, but only one could be crowned Miss Carlisle. Her name was Karen, and she’s trying to be a Playboy playmate. Nuff said.
6:45 PM: 1st Annual Parade and Street Party
This is something brand new this year, and the Fords are set to invade downtown Carlisle for a parade and all-night street party. Which sounds awesome if you aren’t starring down the barrel of a deadline and there aren’t thousands of pictures left to sort through. Next year I promise I’ll cover the parade. This year, you’ll just have to make due with the awesome mini-feature I stumbled across.
Carlisle Mini-Feature: Super Green Fox-body Mustang
Seeing as there are over 2,000 cars and literally tens of millions of dollars worth of Ford muscle cars dotting the fairgrounds at Carlisle, finding a car that really jumped out at me wasn’t exactly easy. Sure, I could do something on one of the hundreds of Concours-class mint-condition Mustangs, Fairlanes, and Cougars. But I wanted something different, and I found it in Kevin Hunter’s 1987 Ford Mustang.
I don’t have to explain to you how I found this Mustang, as it stuck out from the crowd like a sore thumb wearing an air raid siren. “I did it for my kids,” Jayden and Declan, and Kevin admits to being “just a big kid myself.” But you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate the fact that Kevin, like most of us, has done what he can, when he can, slowly piecing together a formidable Mustang packing a beefed-up ’93 302 engine with an X303 cam. With 400 dyno-proven horsepower at the wheel, Kevin has been able to take this bright green Mustang down the track to some respectable 12-second runs.
So what is that color anyway? “It’s sort of a Kawasaki green meets an Arctic Cat green, with a lot more yellow mixed in,” explains Kevin. His girlfriend, Nicole, loves it. “It’s such an attention grabber,” she says. “We get so many thumbs up on the highway.
Kevin went with the green theme as his son Jayden is a big fan of the hulk. Kevin even went so far as to have his son’s favorite Hulk image blown up, and then cut it out before sticking it under the hood of the Mustang. “It’s a car for the kids, they come running up to the car because of the color and it makes me feel great seeing how happy my car makes them,” says Kevin. Just for giggles, he also had a General Lee-style airhorn installed.
This car has a lot of history and personal meaning for Kevin, and it carries with it the memories of his previous Mustangs (both of which he crashed.) Even the seats came from previous cars, and he kept them (and the luck, good or bad) in the car.
Among the thousands of awesome Fords, Kevin’s really stuck out, and his story struck me as relatable and genuine.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Kevin is Canadian, and drove over seven hours with a crew of his friends all the way from Prescott, Ontario. He’s been coming to Carlisle for years, and has no intention of slowing down. Kudos Kevin, you and yours are true Mustang fans, and trophy or not, sometimes the best award is just being different. I never thought another Fox-body Mustang could stick out in a field crowded with pony cars, but Kevin proved me wrong.