At the start of every summer, Ford owners from around the country converge on the small town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania for the annual Ford Nationals show. Though this is the 17th running of the show, it is my first personal trip out here. To say that the amount of cars to see and events to do is overwhelming is an understatement. I drove into the Carlisle fairgrounds, trying to cover everything a single person could possibly hope to cover after a five hour car drive from Connecticut to central Pennsylvania.
This year Carlisle celebrates both the 40th anniversary of the Ford Pinto, and the 50th anniversary of the Ford Galaxie Starliner, so there are plenty of these cars in attendance this weekend. There is literally an entire section of nothing but Pintos, but obviously Mustangs are the main attraction here. With row upon row of America’s favorite Mustang (divided by model, year, and sometimes even color in the case of the Yellow Mustang Registry) there’s something for everyone, from Pro-touring to Pro Stock to cars that has never seen any sort of professional restoration.
Enough of my blathering though. Here is a quick recap of everything that went on at the first official day of the 2011 Ford Nationals at Carlisle, as well as a quick mini-feature of the day.
1:00 to 1:30 PM: Seminar on Old Cars and Ethanol
There is a lot of talk about ethanol these days, and a lot if mis-information as well. Mark Dunbar of Envirotek hosted a seminar next to the Ford Midway to dispel some of the myths regarding ethanol, as well as helping those in attendance prep their car for this sometimes-corrosive fuel.
As long as your car is newer than 1980 though, you’ve got nothing to worry about, as the 10% ethanol content will have no negative affect on either the seals or rubber gas lines of these cars. Anything older than 1980 though, and you would be wise to replace any old seals or lines you’ve got lying around. Same deal if you’ve got a fiberglass gas tank made before 1990. At the end of the seminar, Mark presented a list of DO’s and DON’T’s when it comes to ethanol and classic cars.
DON’T Fill the Tank: Ethanol fuels only last about 90 days.
DON’T add Isopropyl: It does not react well with ethanol.
DO Replace lines and seals
DO Adjust the Carburetor: the lower BTU of ethanol means more fuel is required to run the proper air/fuel ratio.
DO Use a fuel additive: these additives boost power, clean the engine, and allow for running ethanol in classic cars without headaches.
1:30 to 2:00 PM: 2012 Boss 302 Mustang Walkaround
This event was pretty self explanatory, as Ford executives trotted out to talk about not just the 2012 Boss 302 Mustang, but the brand new F-150 as well. This was a chance for anybody who hasn’t seen the new Boss 302 up-close-and-personal a chance to do so.
Ford execs went over all the differences between standard Mustangs and the Boss 302, and at the end of the event Ford executives were on hand for a meet-and-greet with fans. Since we’ve already gone in-depth into the 2012 Boss 302 Mustang, I’ll spare you a repeat since nothing too exciting happened. Then again, we’ve still got the rest of the weekend, so who knows what might happen?
2:00 to 2:45 PM: Wandering the Swap Meet
The swap meet is arguably the biggest draw of the Ford Nationals at Carlisle show. When I say you can find damn near anything Ford-related at this huge swap meet, I mean it. There are literally acres of car parts from every era in Ford muscle car history. If you’re looking for seats, chances are, you can find them (unless it’s a grey leather back seat for a late ‘80’s Fox-body Mustang…I couldn’t find a single set.)
Between the professional pickers and the guys just looking to offload some extra parts, there’s pretty much any and everything here. I saw whole crate engines (including a Hi-Po 289…not sure if its real or not) as well as whole cars. Where else can you buy a (mostly rusted) 1969 Mustang for under $2,000? Carlisle had a half-dozen such vehicles, as well as every other classic Ford you can imagine, ranging in price from $1,200 to over $60,000. It’s weird seeing such huge numbers on a 50-cent For Sale sign. Wander around long enough though, and you’ll see plenty of them, often next to some rag tag rat trap that’s worth less than the trailer it was hauled in on.
2:45 to 3:00 PM: Start of the Fox/Coyote Swap
One of the most-talked about events going on all weekend is the Fox-body Mustang/Coyote 5.0 engine swap that Kurgan Motorsports is performing live, in front of everyone. Contestants submitted estimates of how many hours and minutes it would take Kurgan to perform the whole swap, and the winner gets $1,500 in Ford Racing performance Parts.
When I stopped by they were just an hour and eighteen minutes in, and had already removed the old engine, transmission, and exhaust system. The Coyote engine is sitting in a corner, just waiting to be stuffed under the hood of that sort-of-restored Fox-body Mustang. I’ll be checking in with them regularly tomorrow to keep tabs on their progress.
3:00 to 4:00 PM: Rare Finds with Jerry Heasley
One of my favorite websites to waste time on (when I should be working) is CarsinBarns.com. Reputed auto journalist Jerry Heasley has made something of a career out of uncovering rare, old, and odd car finds in the least likely location. He has a new book coming out this June, called “Jerry Heasley’s Rare Finds,” and in this book (complete with many pictures) as some of his prize finds.
During his hour-long seminar, Heasley regaled the crowd with stories about uncovering a Le Mans-winning Ford GT buried in the dirt outside of a garage and about the million-dollar Ferrari found in a Texas field. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Heasley will be on hand all weekend to discuss some of his most memorable car finds. The book hits shelves in June, and I know I’m looking forward to picking up my copy.
4:00 to 9:00 PM: Drag Racing
With the show winding down, but the sun still up, what are a bunch of gearheads to do? Simple; head a few miles down the road to the Quarter Aces 1/8th mile drag strip, as many Ford owners did. By the time I got there around 5:00, there was already a huge crowd of spectators, and a long line of would-be drag racers. There are both Exhibition and Elimination rounds, and the racing will go on well into the night. Worry not rock crawling and autocross fans; you’ll get your chance all day tomorrow to showcase your crawling and turning prowess.
But tonight, the drag racers reign supreme.
Mini-Feature: Pro-Street Pinto Wagon
That’s it for Day One coverage. Come back tomorrow night for a recap of Saturday’s events, and plenty more pictures. But before I go, I found this amazing 1973 Pinto Wagon Prostreet car, owned by Tom Brett of Irvin, Pennsylvania. Packing a 523 cubic-inch Ford big-block V8, backed by a C6 automatic transmission and a 9” rear-end.
Stuffing this huge engine into a Pinto required setting the engine back about 10 inches. It also sits on an Art Morrision tube chassis, and with 600 horsepower on tap, it is pretty much a Pro Street Pinto…sans a rollcage, which is why Tom has yet to take it down the track. “They’d kick me out after one pass,” he says, which is probably true. But that doesn’t stop him from driving it on the street on a regular basis. It’s one pretty Pinto wagon, that’s for sure, and just a small taste of what is on tap here at the 2011 Ford Nationals at Carlisle.
Make sure to check out the picture gallery below for plenty more pics of everything Carlisle has to offer, and come back tomorrow for my recap of day two!