Marc Christ
Brand Manager, Modified Mustangs & Fords
April 6, 2012

The first weekend after New Years Day every year, nearly 1,000 Mustangs and other Fords from all over the country gather in Silver Springs, Florida seeking refuge from Old Man Winter. Everything from Model As to new GT-500s grace the grounds of Silver Springs theme park for a two-day, Blue Oval blowout.

For the 18th year running, National Parts Depot held its annual Ford & Mustang Round-up car show at Silver Springs theme park just outside of Ocala, Florida. This former oasis for Native Americans is now the home of alligators, giraffes, bears, panthers, and many other creatures. The park is open to the public during the car show, and two tickets are included with each car entry, thanks to NPD and its generosity.

This year, 973 vehicles were in attendance over the weekend--over 900 on Saturday alone! The cars (and trucks) were broken down into 29 classes, judged by the contestants themselves. There were also 10 vendor awards up for grabs, picked by delegates from the respective vendors represented at the show. And NPD picked two NPD Choice Award recipients, one for Best Mustang and one for Best Ford.

We even had the opportunity to pick MM&FF's Editor's Choice award, which went to Tod Anderson of Palm Coast, Florida, and his '90 Saleen Mustang. His father bought the car new and drove it for a couple of years before selling it. A few years ago, the younger Anderson's found and bought his father's old Stang. It was still in almost-new condition, and the elder Anderson thought his son was crazy for tracking it down and buying it. Not only has he kept it as original as possible, Anderson drove the car nearly 100 miles to the show--awesome car, nice guy, and a cool story to boot.

The Best of Show award went to Ken and Darlene Wallace for their '57 Pro-Street Thunderbird. Best '87-'93 Mustang went to Perry Lewis and his '93 SVT Cobra. The '94-'98 honors went to Jim Pennington and his slick Candy Apple Red '95 GT. Duane Illingworth's 10th Anniversary '03 Cobra took home the award for Best '99-'04 Mustang; Michael Carralero took home the trophy for best '05-up Mustang with his '08 GT.

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Pony Trails

Kicking off the Round-Up every year is a cruise from NPD headquarters in Ocala to the beautiful nature coast of Cedar Key on Friday called Pony Trails. The day starts with the Schmidt car collection and the NPD showroom is open to visitors, followed by a police-escorted scenic cruise down two-lane roads and four-way stops to the quaint fishing town of Cedar Key for lunch.

We were there this year to take it all in, and NPD owner Rick Schmidt even offered up his supercharged '97 S351 Saleen Mustang convertible for us to drive on the cruise. We, of course, took him up on his offer and drove the 20,000-mile beast on the roughly three-hour excursion. It drove like new, and we were honored to have the opportunity. Thanks again, Rick.

We followed the line of about 75 cars out to the Gulf Coast and crossed the drawbridge onto Cedar Key. The locals seemed to be expecting us, as many were on their front lawns with lawn chairs, beverages, and waving hands. It's probably the nearest thing to a parade that they see all year.

Downtown Cedar Key is far from being a bustling metropolis, but the handful of waterfront dive bars and diners are certainly welcoming, even to a herd of rumbling out-of-towners. Rick and Jim Schmidt, Rick's father and founder of NPD, both joined us on the cruise, each driving Blue Oval products out of their collection.

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