Coming into the second year, big things were expected out of the four days of Mustang event known as Ponies In The Smokies. Despite four seasons worth of weather in the forecast, over 700 Mustangs made the trek in snow, rain and ice to Sevier County, Tennessee to take part in all the festivities.
The schedule called for a few nightly events, lots of mountain-road driving, a car show, an all-Ford cruise-in, and for a lucky few, the surprise chance to race go-karts against a Mustang legend. Even with mixed weather of snow, rain, and sunshine, all four days of events drew numbers that easily doubled last year’s events, making making for a successful second year in spite of the Mother Nature’s bad mood.
(Editor’s Note: Not only is Jeff Southard an esteemed contributor to this site, but he helps put together the PITS show, so he might have enjoyed it more than most. However, according to all the feedback we saw on social media, a good time was had by all.)
Kicking It Off
Starting early Wednesday morning, participants lined up at the Sevierville Convention Center to pick up both their car show and Shine Run registration packets. The Shine Run is a modified poker run that takes participants along various mountain roads to local hot spots including several moonshine distilleries, shops, and the legendary Tail Of The Dragon. The event lets participants enjoy the beauty and great roads of the Smokies while searching for the best poker hand in hopes of winning some of the top prizes. Those included a set of wheels donated by Modify My Stang and an entire table full of parts donated by the presenting sponsor of the event, National Parts Depot.
Wednesday evening the action headed to the Hard Rock Cafe in Pigeon Forge for the Official Kick-Off Party powered by Croftgate USA. As the Mustangs packed the lot, large snow flurries started to fall from the sky, creating some cool photos and snow-covered Mustangs. The snow did not hang around for long though and despite the cold temperatures, over 150 Mustangs filled the parking lot to kick the event off in style. Participants one after another braved the cold to come draw another card in their quest for the best shine run hands!
Frankie, Cale and the guys at Croftgate USA, the kick off party sponsor, did not let a little cold weather and snow slow them down! On the left, Cale finds a funny moment in front of the camera. On the right, lead man Frankie Defeo demonstrates the Croftgate product even in below freezing temperatures. You have got to admire that dedication.
Thursday brought the party to Quaker Steak & Lube in Sevierville, Tennessee, for the Shine Run Party sponsored by Clearshine. The event is held “down under” behind and under the bridge in the back lot of Quaker Steak & Lube. With the Pigeon River and the snow-covered Great Smokey Mountains in the background, it made for a picture-perfect end to two days of excitement-filled driving. Shine run participants turned in their cards in hopes to hear their names called for a top prize during awards on Saturday. The lot soon filled up and overflowed into the grassy fields with over 250 cars coming out for the event, a sign of big things to come Friday and Saturday.
Two of the favorite stops on the 2018 Shine Run were Sevier Distilling Company and Man Cave Metals. The distillery offered tours and a sample taste of some of the area’s finest moonshines. Man Cave Metal offered participants the chance to bring home a cool piece of unique, custom-made Ford memorabilia. In fact, the owners tell us anything Ford or Mustang related sold out by Thursday evening!
The doors opened Friday morning at the Sevierville Convention Center to debut 108,000 square feet of some of the nicest Mustangs on the planet. The inner ring featured three main displays as well as a couple of smaller displays for those cars just too cool to turn down.
The main attraction was “The 55,” a long line of ponies that takes you down memory lane in chronological order. From 1964 and 1/2 to 2018, every year was on display except for 1975. The Ponies In The Smokies staff was the first to admit that filling every spot was no easy task, as last year they missed it by two, and this year by just one. The PITS crew has high hopes for completing “The 56” in 2019.
In front of the stage, The Saleen Club Of America once again set up an impressive mix of Saleen ranging from 1984 all the way to modern day. From early production cars, one of colors, and the ultra cool Saleen pickup trucks, there was a little of everything. Including an rare Saleen Tesla on center display driven to the show by one of Steve Saleen’s personal friends.
Speaking of Mr. Saleen, he was there to enjoy the festivities himself, he signed autographs for several hours each day at the Saleen Club Of America booth as well as various Saleen’s through out the show field. Steve even made a surprise appearance Friday night an an unofficial go-karting event, giving a lucky few the chance to say they actually raced against Steve Saleen.
Steve Saleen was the guest of honor at the 2018 edition of Ponies In The Smokies. Happily signing autographs for several hours each day, everyone had their chance to shake hands and meet Mr. Saleen. One lucky young Mustang enthusiast even got the chance to have their baby Pony autographed.
In the center of the convention center, SVTPerformance put together a collection of Special Vehicle Team and Ford Performance rides for the event. The display featured a half dozen or so Cobras, a couple of Raptors, a Ford GT, two Lightnings and all three years of Cobra R. It was certainly a special treat to see all three R-models represented together, something that rarely ever happens.
Outside, the sunshine provided for a nice backdrop for the car show. The main lot and side lot were both packed as just over 600 cars took placed in the judged portion of the event. Cars would be judged on Friday and then return on Saturday for awards after the “All Ford Cruise-In” portion of the event, which opens the parking lot up to owners of any cool Ford who want to attend.
One of the many unique features of The Ponies In The Smokies event is “The Elite Five.” On Friday evening, the top-five finalists for Best Of Show from the outside car show are brought inside to be on display for everyone to see on Saturday. As the awards ceremony unfolds, it soon becomes apparent who will take home one of the two Best Of Show Awards. This year’s display featured an S281 Saleen, a 1967 Fastback (with a 427 under the hood), a Kenne Bell-boosted 1993 Cobra, an S197 Bullitt, and the eventual Best of Show winner, a 1966 Shelby GT350.
Even with the rain, most all the car show participants, as well as a couple of hundred cruise-in only participants, filled up the parking lot once again on Saturday. Making all four days of the event sizable despite the weather.
If all this sounds like fun, the next year’s dates have already been announced. PITS 2019 will take place from March 20-23, 2019, and if the growth rate continues, it should be even bigger.
In the end, there could only be two Best Of Show cars at the 2018 edition of Ponies In The Smokies. The inside best of show winner and the outside best of show winner: Chris Robbins’ 1966 Shelby GT350 (left) and Jim Simpson’s 1969 Boss 429 (right). These two cars definitely represented two of the nicest cars on the entire property and both took home actual moonshine stills as their rewards!