Marc Christ Associate Editor
January 2, 2014
Photos By: Kristian Grimsland

There's something about fraternizing with fellow Blue Oval enthusiasts. It's like a community where everyone knows everyone—a team in the league of automobiles, if you will. Sure, it's fun to show off to Bow Tie and import folk, but bathing in a sea of Mustangs and other Fords evokes a sense of pride that is unmatched by your run-of-the-mill car show or local meet. It's like being on a sports team, where everyone is wearing the same uniform. Like the team, the 1,000-plus Fords gather to celebrate a common interest—Dearborn iron.

Early every January, even before Old Man Winter has dropped the bulk of his precipitation on the northern states, National Parts Depot (NPD) hosts an all-Ford show in the small Florida town of Ocala. This marked the 19th year of the event, which is held at Silver Springs nature park. Thanks to NPD, the first 1,000 cars to pre-register are free, which also gets you admission to the park.

On Saturday, 991 cars and trucks invaded the cozy Silver Springs nature park. We spotted modded Foxes, clean SN-95s, tricked-out S197s, and almost every classic Ford you can think of. Your author loves early Broncos, and there were a couple of super-clean examples on display. On “race car row,” as we call it, we spotted one of the coolest '70 Boss 302s we've every seen. Clean and mean, this Boss was tricked out with Trans Am getup, ready to tear up the street or a road course.

We also snagged a couple of feature-worthy Stangs while we were there. Rob Matuszko's '89 coupe is the quintessential street/strip Fox: a smooth engine bay, blown and polished 347, a clean custom interior, and slick paint. See Rob's notch and a couple of others that were at the show in upcoming MM&FF issues.

In the vendor area, NPD and an array of its suppliers had some of the latest and greatest products on display. As always, TMI offered us a comfy rest stop by way of its Fox-body sport seats. We'll be employing a slew of TMI products on our new 25th Anniversary project car, Hypersilver. BBK Performance had its new Varitune mufflers on display, which are now available in after-cat kits.

On Sunday, many cars from Saturday returned. Those vying for a plaque lingered for the afternoon award ceremony. In the '87-'93 Mustang category, Kyle Kadlub took the plaque with his '93 Cobra. Tiffany Schmidt took the win in the '94-'98 category with her '95 GT. The sweet modded '00 GT owned by Chris Stano took the win in the '99-'04 category. Look for a full feature on Chris' vert soon. The '06 GT of Joe Spiller won the '05-'09 category, and Edward Sobolewski's '11 GT took the '10-up win.

Henry Bozard's '07 Super Snake won the plaque for best '06-up Shelby. The Saleen category winner was Mark Hartwig and his '05 Saleen. The winner in the Roush category was Jesus Garcia and his '11 Roush 5XR. Best Mustang overall was Corey Miller's '69 Boss 429. And the Best Ford award went to Tim Manes and his sick '65 Pro Street Fairlane.

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Pony Trails

The fun kicked off on Friday, with a gathering at the NPD headquarters in Ocala in the morning. Owners Jim and son Rick opened the doors to their 180-plus car collection, located at NPD, which includes a host of Dearborn iron from the '50s and on. Low-mile Cobras, a '79 Pace Car, the last Fox-body ever made, and rare classic Stangs are just a few examples of what the collection offers.

After the open house, local police escorted over 150 participants west from Ocala, toward Cedar Key, a cruise that is affectionately called Pony Trails. The small fishing town offers serene views of the Nature Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. All of the local eateries were fully staffed and stocked with the freshest local catches as the quaint town was transformed into a Mustang and Ford hub. We enjoyed fried fresh grouper on a perfectly toasted ciabatta bun with seasoned fries at Steamers Clam Bar and Grill.

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25. Once in Cedar Key, we pigged out on fresh seafood at a local restaurant called Steamers.