2015 Silver Springs Ford and Mustang Roundup
Start Me Up: Each January Ford and Mustang fans from all over converge at Silver Springs State Park to start the year’s show season
For diehard car show fans, even the best of shows can get long-in-the-tooth when you go to the same event, at the same location, at the same time each and every year. We know; we’ve felt that way ourselves, and often a change of venue or possibly changing the format of the show brings in a fresh perspective with new attendees and new things to do, revitalizing the show and the venue. That said, after 21 years of attending the Silver Springs Ford and Mustang Roundup in Ocala, Florida, each January we can state most adamantly that the Silver Springs show, as locals refer to it, is just fine—don’t touch a thing!
We figure that the show’s staying power has everything to do with its early time frame and laid-back show style. Let’s face it, for most people north of the Florida state line in January it is darn-right friggin’ cold and most likely even snowing! Car show fans across the Northeast have had their Mustangs carefully packed away in their garage or shop since probably early September or so, meaning their Mustang hasn’t seen the light of day for almost four months (that’s a quarter of the year—gone!) and these owners are itching to get their Mustangs out and enjoy some car show camaraderie, stretch their Pony’s legs, and most importantly, enjoy some nicer weather! Throw in beautiful Ocala horse country and the show’s “no judging, just have fun” atmosphere and we can plainly see why this show’s pre-registration fills up in a matter of days and routinely pulls over 1,000 Ford cars, trucks, and Ford-powered vehicles.
After the Silver Springs attraction, the oldest in the state of Florida, was handed over to the state and converted into a state park facility in late 2013 we were concerned the show would have to find a new venue. Thankfully, due to the many hours of work and dedication of Rick Schmidt and his staff at National Parts Depot, the show did indeed go on for 2014. While some attendees were saddened to see some of the attraction’s rides and features go away, most understand that the main reason people attend is to see their car show friends and enjoy each other’s company and talk Fords/Mustangs. Now in its second year of state management in the park system, the show is still just as big as ever.
On Sunday Rick addressed the crowd, asking everyone, by show of applause, if the time had come to take the two-day event down to one, and with our untrained ears it sounded like keeping it a two-day event was the answer. We’ll see what’s in store for 2016’s 22nd annual show, which is planned for January 8-10, but know we’ll be there co-sponsoring the event and saying hello to old friends as we kick off the show season once again.
Each year a cruise from NPD’s Ocala location out to Cedar Key is attended by well over 100 Mustang owners and their families. We had a great time checking out the Mustangs before the cruise, as well as the shops and restaurants and their great coastal views in Cedar Key. NPD hands out maps and makes sure everyone stays safe, including police escorts through major intersections. We were hoping to utilize a ’15 Mustang from Ford’s press fleet, but the one car allotted to the Southeast was not available. However, Ford’s media fleet coordinators, Prestige Auto, graciously offered a ’14 Fusion Titanium with EcoBoost and AWD. It wasn’t a Mustang, but the EcoBoost driveline with paddle shifters was still a lot of fun on the cruise and the extra doors helped with passengers and camera gear!
Mustang Monthly’s “Best Mustang” Award
Each year we’re asked to pick a “Best Mustang” award from the huge gathering of incredible cars at the Silver Springs show. We’ll tell you right now it is not easy at all. There are so many deserving cars, from concours beauties to tough and ready-to-rock modifieds, the decision has us pacing the showgrounds all weekend going back and forth amongst our top choices. For this year’s event we kept walking back to Stephen Thibodeau’s ’72 Mach 1. Stephan’s Mustang just checked off all the right boxes for us with its superclean exterior, Mach trim package, Cobra Jet Ram Air option, and the stunning red and black interior. We weren’t the only ones, apparently, as Stephan also took class honors in ’71-’73 Mustang as well.
Lee Iacocca Award
As noted in last month’s Pony Tales news column, 2015 marks the end of the Lee Iacocca award. Given to those who go above and beyond in our hobby at several events throughout the year, the first award given each year is right here at Silver Springs. This year’s recipient, Tim Manes, is a good friend of ours and we can state without hesitation that it was an award well deserved. Tim (“Squirrel” to his friends) can be seen at most any automotive venue in central Florida and doesn’t hesitate when someone is needed to tackle a task at an event, put together a meet, or anything else to promote and support our hobby. Known for his Pro Street ’65 Fairlane—which he spent the better part of a decade building—Tim has battled health issues in recent years. As Rick Schmidt choked up announcing the award, we also had a lump in our throat for our good friend Squirrel. In this last year of the Lee Iacocca award we can’t think of anyone more deserving.