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For Fans, a Ford Is a Forever Kind of Thing

Autos: In Buena Park, 20,000 buffs admire 1,800 cars and trucks.

April 15, 2002|CHRISTINE HANLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a celebration of Ford Motor Co.'s history, thousands of automobile enthusiasts flocked to Buena Park on Sunday to show off or gawk at their favorite Ford car or truck, from antique Model Ts to limited-edition Mustangs due out next year.

The 17th annual Fabulous Fords Forever car show, which has become one of the largest events of its kind in the country, drew an estimated crowd of more than 20,000, organizers said.

Held in a dirt-and-grass lot across from Knott's Berry Farm, the free event was a virtual outdoor museum for Ford owners and fans, some of whom traveled from as far as Michigan to check out the display of 1,800 cars and trucks.

Filling the lot were Model Ts, Model A's, early Ford V-8s, 117 Thunderbirds, 737 Mustangs, pickups, Broncos and an assortment of Lincolns and Mercury Cougars. The vehicles came from eight states and Canada.

Among the biggest attractions were 49 Shelby Cobras, including the 1962 original that was designed, built and is still owned by Carroll Shelby, the entrepreneur, auto designer and former racer who was a special guest of the event.

"I try to come to this because it's the biggest Ford event of the year," Shelby said. "All motor-vehicle companies realize events like these are needed to attract younger buyers."

Shelby, 79, of Los Angeles, said he has produced 150,000 cars and 100 models during his career, including the Mustang GT-350 and GT-500. He still makes 200 Cobras a year under his own name. The classic design, which combines a powerful eight-cylinder engine with the body of a British roadster, has not changed much over the years.

A centerpiece of the show was a 2003 Mustang Mach 1, a special edition with upholstery and instrumentation reminiscent of the original Mach 1, built from 1969 to 1973. Compared to the earlier version, the car has more horsepower and a hood that exposes the engine's air scoop. Ford expects to make less than 7,000.

"The Mach 1 was a car legendary in its time," said John Coletti, chief engineer for Ford Special Vehicles and a designer of the latest Mach 1. "Mustangers really connect with the car, and we try to connect with them.... You really feed the psyche of an enthusiast with a specialty car. You keep giving them something to talk about."

For some enthusiasts, like Stan Fuller of Long Beach, the show gave them a chance to connect with the past. Fuller owns a Model T. The retired mechanic restored his and drives it whenever he can. It was made in 1927, the last year the Model T was made and the year Fuller was born.

"It's as old as I am and it's in better condition," he joked.

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