OK, we'll admit it. The Fabulous Fords Forever car show at Knott's Berry Farm just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and I've only been covering it for 18 years. That's not to say I've been to every one-years ago, the date typically conflicted with the Indy car race at nearby Long Beach, and I'd go there to document Scott Pruett, Dorsey Schroeder, or Tommy Kendall knocking them dead, or maybe just Robby Gordon knocking into them in the Trans-Am series. But it's safe to say I've been to Knott's 15 times, so it's starting to feel like home.
Home is supposed to be a comfy place, and Knott's always is. My favorite part is the variety. The car club council, and Ford, that put the show together, ensure the widest possible spectrum of Fords are at Knott's, so there is always something interesting to look at. Even if you glanced at the ancient non-Mustang Fords years ago, the breadth of Ford's involvement means you could spend a lifetime learning the stories behind all those vehicles and still hardly know it all.
And the show itself has a personality. At the dawn of the modern era, the Total Performance Years were still mainstream by default of nothing new and exciting, and those knuckle-dragging Bosses and Shelbys were revered as the greatest ever into the late '80s. Those cars are still honored, but today's Mustangs are so quick that while the old iron rates a respectful glance as it rumbles by, it's not really considered hot stuff by the young turks. Today, a Mach 1 is a 2-year-old car, not a 30-year reunion attendee.
Naturally, we spend most of our Knott's time in the late-model Mustang section, where the trends evolve about every two years. When it was a Fox world, hot performance was the rage. "Have blower, will attend" was the mantra. When the SN-95 and especially the New Edge cars showed up, the interest turned to show. Big stereos and more purple nitrous bottles than a Cousteau expedition were what it took to draw a crowd. And then, the retro Bullitts and Machs arrived, and now the '05. Their rear-vision styling seems to have drawn a performance resurgence, for this year, we pleasantly noted more hot, clean Fox cars than we've seen in a while. Of course, the tuners are all agog with 20-inch Warlock wheels on the '05s, and that sexy street chic thing will filter down to the private late-model owners eventually, but for now the newest Mustangs belonging to real people at Knott's are stone-stock and hoods down at the show. That'll change next year.
Themes are selected each year for Knott's, not that it really matters. This year the Thunderbird was the featured car, and there were enough pastel portholes on hand to fill a good-sized marina. T-Birds of every type were well represented, actually, including a white example claiming to be the one in which Suzanne Somers glided noiselessly through American Graffiti. Like the other past champions and featured individuals, it was displayed on the special grassy area (green grass is a highly valued commodity in the parched Southwest, and to drive on it is heady stuff for a SoCal native).
Making a repeat this year was the Snake Walk, a meandering path around Knott's reproduction Independence Hall. A well-groomed garden, complete with willowy trees, pond, and patrolling ducks, this is where all the SVT Cobras coiled. Likewise, the huge herd of Broncos were way out in the north forty, some even in the dirt where the massive Knott's parking lots fade before blending into the surrounding streets.
Some of the expansiveness this year was due to a new parking scheme initiated with mixed results last year, but brought to fruition this year. Instead of following the usual painted stripes in the parking lot, the cars were spaced out one and a half stalls per car. This was a major improvement, as it allows seeing much more of the side of each car. And with well over 1,800 Fords on hand, there was no danger of things looking sparse.
As always, the weather was perfect (how this happens in April is anyone's guess, but we're not complaining), and everyone seemed relaxed and enjoying life. It made for a great start to the show season, and, yes, I'll visit home again next year. Hope to see you there.