A festival of Fords in Florida

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This is only one slice of the huge throng of Ford and Ford-powered cars at Silver Springs State Park, some 2000 vehicles in total | Jim McCraw photos

First, the wonderful location: Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida, is only a few miles from the world headquarters of event sponsor National Parts Depot. It’s a huge park, full of big, wonderful trees and plant life, and it is built around one of the largest freshwater springs in the country, a system of springs that produces more that 500,000 gallons of crystal clear water every day. So clear that the park features glass-bottom boat rides.

Second, the history: NPD has been throwing this free car soiree for almost a quarter century. It used to be a two-day affair, but the park couldn’t take it for two days, so now it’s a Saturday-only affair, which means that more than 2,000 vehicles start streaming in at 7 a.m. and start streaming out at 4 p.m.

Now, the machinery: The parking situation is a sort of catch-as-catch-can affair, because this ain’t a car show. No groups, no circles, no eras. Just Ford, Shelby, Cobra, Lincoln, Mercury, and DeTomaso vehicles from 1903 on, any old Ford body with a Ford engine in it, car or truck.

All Ford-powered cars are welcome, so a hot rod is next to a DeTomaso Pantera

Anything can be parked next to anything, which makes for a wonderful arrangement. Although Mustangs were more plentiful than anything else, from ’64-1/2 to today, including Roush and Saleen versions, the anything else was the real treat here.

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On a cold, overcast, windy day, the Ford drivers and the Ford fans bundled up to enjoy this amazing festival of sheetmetal, paint and engines and the stories that go with each and every one of the cars and trucks on display.

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Jim McCraw has been writing about cars, motorcycles, design, technology, car people and racing for 50 years, in such publications as Hot Rod Deluxe, Super Chevy, Muscle Mustangs, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Penthouse, Winding Road, The Mercedes-Benz Star, AutoWeek, The New York Times, and a number of European publications. He was executive editor of Motor Trend, editor of Hot Rod and Super Stock. He co-holds the record for the drive from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, 96:22, and has run in major events such as the Mille Miglia Storica in Italy, Goodwood, the California Mille, the Colorado Grand, the New England 1000, Forza Mille, and four One Lap Of America competitions He owns a pristine Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.

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