Back in the Summer of ’69: Carlisle Ford Nationals Pay Tribute

Each year, thousands of Ford enthusiasts flock to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for a weekend dedicated to Ford vehicles, parts, and legends. This year, the event took place from May 31st to June 2nd, and we were there to witness all of the glory. In total, a whopping 3,200 cars and 60,000 guests occupied the Carlisle Fairgrounds in (you guessed it) Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Carlisle Events holds events just like the Ford Nationals several times a year – they welcome our nemeses, I mean “fellow enthusiasts” for the Chevrolet Nationals, Chrysler Nationals, and Corvettes at Carlisle, as well as the Truck Nationals and several others.

But you aren’t here for all of that! Let’s get into the good stuff.

The Show Field

If you haven’t been to Carlisle, you’re missing out. When we rolled in on Friday, the show field was already packed to the brim, and separated by model and year. Specialty cars were also kept together. Immediately upon entering, we were met by the Fairlane and Torino group. Not far down the line, the Starsky and Hutch Club was situated, and then the Mustangs began – with Bullitt, Shelby, and Roush Mustangs separated. We walked each row, finding our favorites, and taking pictures of each of them for your viewing pleasure.

Up on the fairground’s big hill, we found Raptors, Lightnings, Thunderbirds, Marauders, and more. There was even a spot for Explorers and other SUVs!

We especially enjoyed reading the stories of some cars off of typed up papers on their windshields, or hearing them straight from the horses’ mouth (pun intended). For instance, we found an AWESOME (albeit rough around the edges) 1991 Mustang which still belongs to its original owner. The Mustang has nearly 600,000 miles on its original engine, and is going strong. Unfortunately, the Mustang’s second transmission was blown on VMP’s dyno over the weekend, but the owner is not discouraged. It’s probably being replaced as you read this.

We also found an incredible 1969 Boss 429 that had a great back story. The owner’s father bought it new, and drag raced and drove it back and forth to work for many years before it retired to a barn. There, it encountered a tornado, and was damaged by a falling roof, but it has since been repaired, and continues to be driven and raced. It sat just down the row from a 1970 Boss 429 for sale (in flawless condition) for $250,000, making its story even more impressive.

All day on Saturday, we searched the show field for Ella and her 2012 Mustang. You might remember her from a story we did recently, when a video her mom posted on Facebook went viral. Ella’s grandparents accompanied her from Maryland to Carlisle with her dad’s 2012 Mustang, and we were so excited to meet this young enthusiast and check out her mean Mustang.

Special Displays

With so many milestone birthdays for the Mustang this year, Carlisle set aside several indoor buildings for standout vehicles. There were displays for 50 Years of Mach 1, Boss, Maverick, and Cougar Eliminator, as well as the 40 Years of the Fox Body display. An additional Carlisle Ford Nationals Select Display featured super rare or just super neat Ford vehicles. There was also a separate tent for the Ford GT, featuring the rare Matach Ford GT Prototype car. If seeing Ford GTs sitting still just didn’t do it for you, there was also Ford GT Track Takeover to see them in person on the autocross track.

The Greats & Thrill Rides

Autograph signings and seminars took place all weekend. We were lucky enough to run into Charlie Morris and Al Joniec signing their latest books, as well as Lee Holman just outside the building. Mike Finnegan of Roadkill and Hot Rod Magazine was very busy signing autographs as well.

Ford offered ride and drives of its latest vehicles, with shuttles to a separate location. Meanwhile, the guys from Gateway Classic Mustangs gave ride-along hot laps in the new 2019 Shelby GT350. A monster truck was also offering thrill rides, and there was a burnout contest on Saturday as well.

Manufacturer’s Midway was packed with some of the industry’s top manufacturers, including our friends from Edelbrock! Ford was on hand to show of its newest offerings, including the new GT500, and Roush and Saleen also showed off new vehicles and parts.

For Sale!

A massive swap meet encompassed a large portion of the grounds, with everything from sought-after parts, to vehicles, to automotive memorabilia and tools. There was also a separate venue for vehicles for sale separate from the swap meet, featuring beautiful restored classics, Lightnings, pick-ups, and factory drag cars, including a 1963 Lightweight Galaxie for sale for $145,000.

For the non-enthusiast ladies in attendance, Carlisle coordinated a “Women’s Oasis” equipped with shopping, seminars, and a tiki bar. There were also kid activities planned, including a “cash grab,” kids’ choice awards, and a kids’ activity center.

Downtown Carlisle

Late in the day on Saturday, we headed over to downtown Carlisle, and found a spot with a good view of the street while many of the show vehicles staged in a lot. Soon, the streets were flooded with a mixture of every Ford imaginable, which were then parked in the middle of the closed down streets. We mingled and found some cars and trucks that we hadn’t even seen in the show field. Honestly, the Ford Nationals are THAT big – you just can’t see it all in one weekend. Click through the gallery below and let us know which is your favorite Ford of Carlisle!

Photo gallery

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About the author

Stephanie Davies

Stephanie Davies got her start in automotive media while studying at Rutgers University and eventually landed at Roush Performance outside of Detroit, where she now resides. She writes for various automotive outlets, works with rescue dogs, enjoys driving her Roush-charged Coyote-swapped 1992 Fox body Mustang race car, and is convinced that absolutely nothing in the world beats a sunny weekend at the track.
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