Carlisle Nationals Ford
MUSTANG PUTS THE ‘CAR’ IN CARLISLE
Carlisle, PA – Henry Ford would have loved Carlisle, PA. Born on a Michigan farm in 1863, Ford could appreciate the rolling topography of Central Pennsylvania and, as a history buff, would have been impressed by its adjacency to the Gettysburg battlefield. Also an inveterate tinkerer, I’ll guess Ford would have found the acres of car parts at Carlisle right up his ‘what can I do with that?’ alley. Some 120 years after the founding of Ford Motor Company, the Ford Faithful had gathered to celebrate Carroll Shelby’s centennial and anticipate the 60th birthday of the Mustang, commemorated in its 2024 redesign. Even the vast acreage in Carlisle had a hard time putting all of that into one weekend.
For the record, Car-ED co-founder Kevin Joostema and I had a hard time putting all of that into a day trip. Leaving Kevin’s Northern Virginia zip code at 7:00 on a Saturday morning, we arrived – via Jetta GLI – at the Carlisle Fairgrounds shortly after 9:00. Of course, we entered thru Gate 7 and the media passes would be found at Gate 3, but no matter; the gate personnel were friendly, allowed us to pass through and provided approximate directions to the Will Call window. Of course, if there’s a book vendor to your immediate left you don’t take the shortest route, but then, facing a morning with a jillion steps, neither do you buy a book. Or the Schwinn Stingray, offered by another vendor.
Despite the amount of acreage devoted to the parts of a car (great for my next restoration, details TBD), there were also new Fords to see, with a special emphasis on the Mustang. Ford Performance’s display featured various iterations of the new coupe and convertible, including the ‘Dark Horse’ halo and – for any environmental enthusiasts in attendance – a Mustang Mach-E. Further support was provided by teams from Shelby American, Roush, Saleen, RTR and Gateway Mustang; all of those builders would happily provide you a new car…or another t-shirt.
With the assist of Ford Marketing VP Jim Owens, Kevin and I were able to capture some 15 minutes of Mustang perspective. Jim’s enthusiasm for the Mustang is contagious; if he weren’t part of Ford’s executive team, he could make a good living selling Mustangs on a showroom. Of course, with the ’24 Mustang there’s a lot to be excited about, beginning with its expansive footprint. My take on the sheetmetal is wholly subjective, but I like the changes, while wishing the Mustang wasn’t so fully realized as a now-midsize car.
And while I’m wishing, note that the EcoBoost 4-cylinder has lost its manual trans, while the GT and new Dark Horse continue to offer it. This seems totally counterintuitive, as small displacement engines scream (literally!) for the control offered by a manual, while a V8 rarely screams; it may bellow, but it doesn’t scream. I’m all about manuals in most applications, and wish it had stayed in the base Mustang.
Of course, amidst the Carlisle Fairgrounds acreage there was more than just new Fords from Ford Performance. The highlights in our random search included – but were not limited to! – the Saleen S1, a mid-engined 4-cylinder sports car that looks somewhat like Alfa’s 4C, if the 4C had been given better proportions. And if talking Saleen, you’d soon be talking Shelby; Shelby’s Sebring Edition Cobra looked to be just the thing if your automotive clock stops in 1966. And if that clock stopped in 1956, you’d enjoy the 2-door Ranch Wagon, with its age-appropriate topper – and, of course, age-appropriate owner.
Splitting the difference between Sebring and ‘the Ranch’ was what I’ll assume was a Bud Moore Mustang tribute, which was impossibly well represented, and apparently well driven. On another day, with a real level of energy, I would have enjoyed learning more – but then, I would have had less time discussing with its owner a ’71 Cougar convertible.
As you’d guess, the above is just a snapshot. But if charging stations aren’t yet part of your lifestyle (and none were spotted on our route around Carlisle) and you still have a Shell card, Ford is right there with you. Until – of course – it’s not…