If you ask someone to name one of the biggest, most impressive all-Ford events in the country and “Carlisle” isn’t one of the possible answers, they have clearly been hiding their head under a big-block Ford. Carlisle Events hosts the Carlisle All-Ford Nationals every year during the first weekend in June and it truly is the mecca of the Ford world.
Swap meet, car show, car corral, vendor’s midway, special displays and much more make up what is the best collection of everything Ford in the country. We were able lucky enough to be able to make the trip up to Pennsylvania last weekend to take in all the fun!
Going to a Carlisle event is all about the experience. The fairgrounds are so large, it is hard if not impossible to really see everything in one day. Honestly, you need two or three days to really take it all in. We could only make it on Saturday so we had to absorb as much of the event as possible.
After getting our stomachs full, we headed over to Building T where we knew from experience in years past we would find the best of the best. This is where the invitational display is housed and always features some of the coolest cars of the show. This years featured cars were Mercury Cougars, Shelbys and the E- and F-code Fords of the mid-’50s.
While all of them are worthy of special mention, the one that really caught our eye was a 1968 dubbed the Cougar Jet. It is the 1969 Super Stock NHRA Champion and dominated at Atco Raceway where it was undefeated in 1969. The car still features its correct race livery and only has 151 original miles on it.
This year marked the 50th Anniversary of the Mercury Cougar and the show included an impressive collection of Cougars was put together for the event. From the first production Cougar ever to come off the assembly line to a late-model, special-edition Roush Cougar and a little bit of everything in between, this had to be the greatest collection of Cougars to ever be housed under one roof.
Twenty seventeen also marked the 50th Anniversary for the Shelby GT500 and there was an impressive collection of GT500s on hand inside Building T as well. From the modern Super Snakes to some of Carroll Shelby’s original 1967s still in survivor condition, the GT500 was well represented. Out of all the GT500s on display, our favorite was the 50,000 mile unrestored 1967.
While this car was not the most original Shelby in the building, it had a great history to it. The car had been drag raced and had the original 428 replaced with a 427 side oiler. The car still appears just as it was in the 1970s.
Also on display in Building T was the E- and F-Code Thunderbird Engine Reunion. E-code indicates the 312-cubic-inch Thunderbird engines that came with two four-barrel carbs. F-code denotes for 312s that came with a factory supercharger. Both are rare and collectible. The Thunderbird engine could obviously be obtained in the Ford Thunderbird, but also full-size passenger cars as well. Most people are lucky if they get to see a few of these cars in their lifetimes, but this display featured dozen of these rare cars!
Reunited for the first time since 1957, this Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Mermaid last saw each other at the Daytona Speed Trials in Daytona Beach, Florida.
After touring this awesome collection we were all fired up to head over to the massive car corral and hunt out a barn find of our own to bring back next year for display. There had to be something out there for us right?
Well it did not take long until we came across a red fastback Mustang sitting on a trailer. Upon closer inspection, we realized this wasn’t just any Mustang, this was a 1969 Boss 429 project car. A 19,000-original-mile car at that. Unfortunately, this one was a little out of our price range! What an awesome chance though for someone to own a piece of Ford history!
Even if you are like us and could not scrape up enough spare change for the Boss, there are still plenty of chances at great deals in the car corral. We saw at least a dozen good buys and about three dozen cars we would have loved to have taken home with us! You can see the entire gallery below!
From rare cars to one of nones, you never know what you will see at Carlisle. This Fox was a mix of SVO parts on an 1988 convertible chassis making it an SVO convertible that never was!
Since we could not afford the Boss, we figured the next best thing would be to head over to the acres and acres of swap meet that Carlisle has to offer and start building our own Mustang one piece at a time. There had to be enough rare parts over there to put something special together? Wouldn’t you know it, one of the first booths we stopped at had just what we were looking for to start our build, an NOS 1970 Boss 429 hood!
Seemed like a fair price for someone in need of hood for a special car!
A few spaces down, we found the engine for our project, the rare and legendary 427 Side-Oiler. Probably most commonly known for powering some of the original Shelby Cobras. To see one in a car is special, to see one for sale is rare.
All kidding aside, if you are looking for something for your Ford muscle car, chances are you will find it at Ford Carlisle. They have one of if not the best swap meets around. It features a little bit of everything from common to the ultra rare we mentioned above and everything in between!
Not to be outdone by the Mercury fans, the Lincoln owners had their own special display at the event.
The vendor base is strong at our shows, we’re really quite proud of it. It’s our backbone and we’re fortunate to have so many long-time vendors support us. — Lance Miller, Carlisle Events
After finishing up our tour of the swap meet, we decided to head over to the vendor’s midway. There we would find the biggest names in the industry all with the red carpet rolled out and their best cars and products on display for everyone to look at. We had a chance to chat with Carlisle Events Co-Owner Lance Miller and one of the things he was most proud of was the vendor support the event has.
“The vendor base is strong at our shows, we’re really quite proud of it. It’s our backbone and we’re fortunate to have so many long-time vendors support us,” he said. “With online sales growing daily we’re grateful they come out and support the core hobby. We’ll continue to strive to bring in strong car enthusiasts to purchase products from our wide array of vendors.”
Some of the biggest names in the business made up the vendor midway at Carlisle.
As you would expect, Ford had the biggest presence of anyone in the midway. They really pulled out all the stops for the event. They had just about everything you could want to look at on display from the new 2018 Mustang to a basic Focus and everything in between. They had two lifts set up to facilitate installs on customer vehicles. The official Ford merchandise trailer was also on hand supplying everyone with all the latest Ford gear. It felt like a scaled down Ford dealership right the on the grounds!
Why wait until you get home to install your new Ford Performance parts? They can do it on site for you at Carlisle!
One of our favorite vendor display cars was Petty Garage's MAHLE Ford Mustang. This bad boy had twin turbos stuffed under the hood, which boosted this Coyote’s output to 1,000 horsepower!
Former Top Gear US co-host Rutledge Wood was on hand talking about the fastback Mustang he is building with eBay Motors.
From the midway we made our way over the bread and butter of the Carlisle Ford Nationals — the car show. Just over 3,000 cars lined the show field this year in what made for one impressive sight! Rows of Shelbys, Cobras, Saleens, Foxes, and more lined the rolling hills of Carlisle Fairgrounds.