Tom Wilson
September 1, 2002

Step By Step

Cobras in front and V-6 cars to the right string off into the early morning mist as the ’02 Knott’s Berry Farm show revs up.
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Knott’s officially opens at 10 a.m., but the cars are streaming in three hours earlier. It’s a good time to stand near the gate and watch the incredible diversity of Ford vehicles rumble and glide their way in. Silver and Saleen body panels always look good as demonstrated by this relatively late arrival.
P157792_large 1998_Ford_Mustang_Cobra Rear_Passenger_Side_View
Get 1,750 cars together and somebody is bound to have a mechanical glitch—no matter that all that’s necessary is getting there. Adrian Setyadi of Stallion Auto Concepts drove his ’98 Cobra two hours from Poway, California, only to have a coolant leak upon reaching Knott’s. With the big horse graphics, polished engine, and killer stereo, there was still plenty of eyeball action as Adrian waited for things to cool off.
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Just in case you figured Anthony Favata’s V-6 was a fluke, this Venom-car-alarm–sponsored convertible looked positively ready to strike.

Thanks to the vibrancy and excitement drawing them there, Californians immigrate into the state one week, then complain about growth the following Monday. At the recent Knott's Berry Farm car show, that meant show entries reached the 1,750-car capacity two weeks before the one-day event, with predictable belly-aching from a few late, would-be entrants on show day.

That's the price of progress, however, since Knott's, as the locals say, has become the premier Ford-event on the West Coast. In a region where the racetracks are few, the smog checks inescapable, and the traffic suffocating, owning street cars and showing street cars have become the dominant forms of automotive expression. And for Ford lovers, the place to express is Knott's.

In reality, Knott's is two parallel shows. Held in a pair of large parking lots at the Knott's Berry Farm theme park, everything not a Mustang is in one lot, while the horses corral in an adjacent lot. The two venues are approximately equal size, but the tone of the two has grown increasingly distant in the last several years. Show organizers-Ford Motor Company and various local Ford car clubs-provide a central grassy area with club displays and a live band playing surf and oldies' hot-rod tunes, the latter broadcast over the show area by large speakers.

Stick in the truck, Focus, Model A, Bronco, Cobra, Torino, Tractor, military vehicle, Fairlane, Lincoln, and what-have-you lot, and that's what you hear. Wander around the corner into the Mustang lot and you'll find 600-plus Mustangs. The hot-rod flathead music reaches the front rows of restored '60s ponycars and V-6 late models. Stroll down the line, however, and you'll encounter more and more late-model GTs and Cobras. You'll then enter the tattooed and exotically pierced land of subwoofers and chrome, dash-mount PS2s and polished centrifugals, high-volume Disturbed, and flip-flop paint. Profiling is the game, and big-money late-models are the dice the high rollers roll to strut their stuff.

While a few reach the late-model spotlight at Knott's, the show is still a treasure trove of Mustangs for the regular enthusiast. Endless customizing ideas are free for the looking, and there are still a few horsepower junkies to talk to as well. Furthermore, while the bar on detailing, flash, and hip is definitely high, the swollen rows of Mustangs at Knott's are still mainly warmed-up daily drivers, which ought to feel familiar to anyone.

As usual, we aimed a camera at the eye candy at Knott's. Enjoy the pics and we'll see you there next spring.

Horse Sense:

Knott's has a theme each year. For 2002, Cobras were the honored vehicles. Carroll Shelby himself was on hand to sign autographs, and the long line queued up hours before he sat down to sign.