Tom Wilson
October 19, 2005
Eddie Alvarado's red '95 Cobra frames the right side of this view ofKnott's Berry Farms' signature Independence Hall. Eddie has "the usualbolt-ons": cat-back, pulleys, cold air, Hurst shifter, Fluidyneradiator, and larger brake rotors. He adds one item per year due tocost, and finds he enjoys the car more with the slow steady approach,rather than murdering the credit card and loading the car up right away.

OK, we'll admit it. The Fabulous Fords Forever car show at Knott'sBerry Farm just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and I've only beencovering it for 18 years. That's not to say I've been to everyone--years ago, the date typically conflicted with the Indy car race atnearby Long Beach, and I'd go there to document Scott Pruett, DorseySchroeder, or Tommy Kendall knocking them dead, or maybe just RobbyGordon knocking into them in the Trans-Am series. But it's safe to sayI'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 favoritepart is the variety. The car club council, and Ford, that put the showtogether, ensure the widest possible spectrum of Fords are at Knott's,so there is always something interesting to look at. Even if you glancedat the ancient non-Mustang Fords years ago, the breadth of Ford'sinvolvement means you could spend a lifetime learning the stories behindall those vehicles and still hardly know it all.

The debut of Crazy Horse II by Eric Cheney's XMP and Boyd Coddington wasthe real news at Knott's. Eric says he'll build 1,000 of the cars, ineither Stage 1 or 2 guise. The $23,871 package (not including the base'05 Mustang price) of the Stage 1 car will include suspension mods along withthe bodywork, plus enough bolt-ons to reach 365 hp. The Stage 2 adds ablower, 650 hp, and $60,522 (!). This is the Stage 1 car, which lookedsharp with its custom bodywork and all-Recaro interior.

And the show itself has a personality. At the dawn of the modern era,the Total Performance Years were still mainstream by default of nothingnew and exciting, and those knuckle-dragging Bosses and Shelbys wererevered as the greatest ever into the late '80s. Those cars are stillhonored, but today's Mustangs are so quick that while the old iron ratesa respectful glance as it rumbles by, it's not really considered hotstuff by the young turks. Today, a Mach 1 is a 2-year-old car, not a30-year reunion attendee.

Naturally, we spend most of our Knott's time in the late-model Mustangsection, where the trends evolve about every two years. When it was aFox world, hot performance was the rage. "Have blower, will attend" wasthe mantra. When the SN-95 and especially the New Edge cars showed up,the interest turned to show. Big stereos and more purple nitrous bottlesthan a Cousteau expedition were what it took to draw a crowd. And then,the retro Bullitts and Machs arrived, and now the '05. Theirrear-vision styling seems to have drawn a performance resurgence, forthis year, we pleasantly noted more hot, clean Fox cars than we've seenin a while. Of course, the tuners are all agog with 20-inch Warlockwheels on the '05s, and that sexy street chic thing will filter down tothe private late-model owners eventually, but for now the newest

Mustangs belonging to real people at Knott's are stone-stock and hoodsdown at the show. That'll change next year.

Horse Sense: Knott's Berry Farm is now known as an amusement park,complete with humongous roller coasters, water rides, and such. Itstarted ages ago as a working farm specializing in jams, hence the"Berry" in the title.

This '88 T-top is a poster child for Fox fun/show cars everywhere. Ownedby a youthful Tony and Jamie Tyrrell of Covina, California, the silverstreak runs a GT-40 long-block crate engine and V-1 Vortech forgo-power, along with a never-been-used nitrous system for show. Trickedout front to rear to attract attention, the front-end sports a Cervini'sbumper cap and spoiler, plus APC headlights, and some polished trimaround the radiator. The interior was full-boat as well, and Tony saysthey just can't stop adding parts to it. Welcome to the club.

Themes are selected each year for Knott's, not that it really matters. This year the Thunderbird was the featured car, and there were enoughpastel portholes on hand to fill a good-sized marina. T-Birds of everytype were well represented, actually, including a white example claimingto be the one in which Suzanne Somers glided noiselessly throughAmerican Graffiti. Like the other past champions and featuredindividuals, it was displayed on the special grassy area (green grass isa highly valued commodity in the parched Southwest, and to drive on itis heady stuff for a SoCal native).

Making a repeat this year was the Snake Walk, a meandering path aroundKnott's reproduction Independence Hall. A well-groomed garden, completewith willowy trees, pond, and patrolling ducks, this is where all theSVT Cobras coiled. Likewise, the huge herd of Broncos were way out inthe north forty, some even in the dirt where the massive Knott's parkinglots fade before blending into the surrounding streets.

Some of the expansiveness this year was due to a new parking schemeinitiated with mixed results last year, but brought to fruition thisyear. 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 majorimprovement, as it allows seeing much more of the side of each car. Andwith well over 1,800 Fords on hand, there was no danger of thingslooking sparse.

As always, the weather was perfect (how this happens in April isanyone's guess, but we're not complaining), and everyone seemed relaxedand 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.