Rob Kinnan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
June 7, 2017
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

Of all the car shows we attend every year, perhaps our favorite is the Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Created and still run by the Miller family, who conveniently own the Carlisle Fairgrounds (meaning they have 100% control over all aspects of the event—and it shows, in a very good way), it is a true family event with something for anyone.

The Carlisle Ford Nationals have quickly become THE destination for Ford lovers from around the world. The promoters say it best: “Why would people travel from across the country for the first time or even from around the world from as far away as Australia to enjoy a National Parts Depot showfield laced with nearly 3,100 of Ford’s best? The simple fact is that Carlisle, Pennsylvania and the Carlisle Ford Nationals are a destination for automotive lovers and that was on display during the weekend of June 2-4, 2017.”

The Ford Nats is a three-day show but it could easily host a fourth given the demand and popularity of the Ford brand and dedication of the enthusiasts who attend. Thursday load-in and set up was quickly followed by three days of amazing weather, blue skies, a cool breeze, and 100 years of Ford history.

If it’s a four-wheeled vehicle related to Ford, it’s at Carlisle. The show field is also conveniently laid out with sections for each model and generation of vehicle. The main show field is full of Mustangs, both vintage and late-model, with each generation grouped together. For instance, if you’re only into Fox-bodies you don’t have to walk around the entire show to see them all—they’re all in one enormous group (except for those cars in individual club displays, like the Red Riders and Yellow Mustang Registry, for example) Special displays included ones that honored E and F Code cars, a 50th anniversary celebration of the Cougar, 60 years of the Edsel, 100 Years of Ford Trucks, and so much more. In addition, Shelby American brought a pair of prototype Shelby Super Snakes to Carlisle, while Ford showcased its Roush Nightmare Edition F-150, the 2018 Mustang, and how its performance parts can take an already amazing Raptor and make it even better. Ford also hosted free test drives at the neighboring Carlisle Expo Center while also hosting walk-around sessions on grounds. On the far end of the fairgrounds was an autocross course set up for those that wanted to put their Mustangs to the test against the orange cones, where Gateway Classic Mustang was giving rides in their full-boogie Mustangs.

Another great showcase was one centered around the Ford GT. Not only could you see one of these supercars up close, but on Friday and Saturday a handful of them (including some that were fresh off the race track) made parade laps around the fairgrounds. Spectators were really digging that. One brave (crazy) GT owner even entered his in the burnout contest. After several failed attempts to get the tires roasting and keeping the car stopped, the GT lit ‘em up to the delight of the crowd.

The midway and swap meet areas were booming too, while special guests like Rutledge Wood, Chuck Cantwell, Tom Scarpello, Dean McCann, the Robertson Race Team, and more entertained guests. Rutledge Wood came to Carlisle for the first time ever via eBay Motors to promote a special Mustang build with parts sourced from eBay Motors (see the story we did here).

Finally, the weekend wrapped with the always popular burnout and beauty contests (watch the video until the end!), while cars rolled out of the grounds Saturday night and into downtown Carlisle for the Ford Parade and Street Party—always a great way to relax after a long day at the show. Also in downtown Carlisle on Saturday night, Shelby American hosted a screening of Adam Carolla’s movie The 24 Hour War about the GT40 at LeMans in the 1960s. Sunday hosted the awards parade and saw the last of the participants roll out until next year. Speaking of next year, the 2018 Carlisle Ford Nationals returns June 1-3 so mark your calendars now.

Oh, and hot tip; Try the chicken corn chowder in the “food court” area behind the grandstands. Just trust us on this.

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