The logistics of putting on a car show with more than 1,000 cars and trucks is enormous, but the Ford Car Club Council (compromised of 39 Southern California clubs) and Ford Motor Company with special events manager John Clinard managed to entice about 5,000 attendees to “the West Coast’s largest all-Ford car show,” named Fabulous Fords Forever.
Clinard and automotive designer Freeman Thomas co-founded the event, which was hosted at Knotts Berry Farm since 1986 until it recently found a new home at Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California.
On June 13, the show celebrated all Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles from 1903 to current models, including the new 2022 Ford Maverick truck making its California debut. The massive display presented more than 600 Mustangs (Bullitts included) in addition to F-Series trucks, Broncos, Thunderbirds, Lincolns, Pintos/Bobcats, Falcons and assorted exotics.
Eight states from California to Washington were represented, with Ford celebrating 80 years of Continentals, 65 years of Thunderbirds, 60 years of Falcons, 60 years of Econolines, 55 years of Broncos, and 50 years of Pintos.
I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, so when I entered the show and gazed upon a fabulous turquoise-and-white 1955 Ford Club Sedan presented by Dennis Bisdorf, I felt like I had stepped back in time.
Bisdorf told us he is the second owner since 1993, and the car was in terrible shape when he acquired it. It did, however, have the original engine, a 272cid wide-block 2-barrel, and its factory air-conditioning and 8-tube Motorola radio.
“I took it down to bare metal and discovered there was absolutely no rust, so I had it painted in Los Angeles in an acrylic enamel, which they don’t do anymore,” Bisdorf said. “My wife and I enjoy driving around with the grandkids, and we come to the car show every year since 1995 when it was at Knotts Berry Farm.”
There were surprises at every turn, such as Gene Winfield’s truck and trailer with “Back to the Future 2” Strip Star movie car designed by Winfield and Ernie Graves. The car sits on a ’46 Ford chassis powered by a ’63 Ford 427 with quad carbs.
Another eye-catcher was a wonderful custom 1972 Ford Maverick with a 347cid stroker linked to a 5-speed trans and Ford 9-inch rear end, and 6-piston Wilwood power brakes.
“It was a turd when I got it and have been working on it for 12 years and now it’s my daily driver and one day I want to auto-cross it at Willow Springs or Fontana,” the owner named Javier told me with a big smile.
Ronnie Ayala’s gorgeous black 1949 Mercury stopped spectators in their tracks. Ayala nicknamed the car “James Dean ’49 ers” and tells us he spent $10,000 for a special steering wheel, although it is an unmolested original car worthy of a museum.
While I was enjoying all these Fords on display, I ran into longtime friend and colleague Randy Richardson, president of the LA Shelby American Automobile Club, at Shelby’s booth presenting the reborn ‘65 Shelby GT Competition Prototype with IRS built by the original Venice Crew, which included famed racer and designer Peter Brock.
Another memorable highlight was the presentation of the actual cars raced in the movie Ford vs Ferrari. Bill Stabile, Jr. coordinated and supplied the replica Ford GTs and Ferrari that RCR built in Frazier, Michigan.
The fun-filled, Ford day finished with the award presentation, during which Jason and Christine Sacco were honored for Best Truck (’73 Bronco), George Watts for Best Thunderbird (’57 T-Bird) and Best Car to Allene Chambers for her ’65 Ford Ranchero.
For more information about the Fabulous Fords Forever car show, visit its website.