BUENA PARK, California – In the era of social media, it’s easy to promise to meet up with people and then never follow through. People get busy, traveling can be expensive, and sometimes it’s simply easier to make promises than to admit that it’s a long shot that you’ll see each other soon.
Fabulous Fords Forever offered me the opportunity to make good on the promise that I’d meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school, and given that writing about cars and posting about them on social media is my job—I vowed to make it down to Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County and meet up with them after years of bandying the idea about.
1969 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Not only did we spot this drop-top pony car, we drove it away from the show. My buddy from high school, Armon Ebrahimian daily drives his 1969 Mustang GT convertible. Getting it to this point took years of labor, and the restoration process had its share of setbacks. The most notable involves a commercial truck that backed the parked ‘Stang at a media blasting shop. Now the complete build impresses at car shows with period-correct parts and original lime gold metallic paint with a little added pearl.
Ebrahimian’s car is powered by a 302 cu. in. Windsor engine that has been bored to the 306 cu. in. and still uses the original block. The Mustang GT was originally ordered with the quad-exhaust tips, which sound epic under full-throttle acceleration. It’s neck-snappingly quick as well—the motor makes 450 hp and Ebrahimian estimates that it makes 370 hp at the wheels.
All the power is sent through the original four-speed manual transmission operated with a period-correct aftermarket Hurst shifter. The clutch is stiff and engages late, but it isn’t too tough to manage even in thick traffic.
All that power warrants a big set of brakes, and Ebrahimian fit his car with Wilwood six-piston calipers up front and Cobra disc brakes in the back. I had never driven a car without power brakes before, so I was taken aback when the car didn’t slow with a small input. With a little more effort, the stopping power impressed.
The rack and pinion power steering is direct and accurate. The car tracks really well, even with 17-inch by 8-inch Coy C67 wheels, one of the few non-period parts on the car (although they are a wider version of wheels that could be purchased when it was new). It’s no surprise Ebrahimian dailies this thing—it’s about as easy to live with as you could demand from a car from its period.
1956 Ford Thunderbird
The Thunderbird was one of the first classic cars I fell in love with, and this Peacock Blue convertible hardtop was the exact specification that enamored me to Ford’s Corvette fighter. 1956 was the first year to get the iconic “porthole” windows and to have a standard 202-hp V-8. The crisp lines and jet age tailfins give this Thunderbird presence seldom recaptured in modern cars and make it worthy of a spot on this list.
1970 Mercury Cougar XR-7
Not a Ford, but this Mercury Cougar XR-7 is still a deserving pick. The bold-patterned houndstooth roof was a new option for the 1970 model year and makes this cat stand out. This configuration marked one of the earliest points where Mercury’s coupe began to transition from the Mustang’s muscle car sibling to a plusher pony. Nevertheless the base engine for the XR-7 was a 302-cu. in. two-barrel V-8 developing 210 hp, and bigger and more potent power plants available. This Mercury brings something different to the Ford family gathering, and that’s something to celebrate.
1971 Ford Boss 351 Mustang
As a life-long learner, I have no problem admitting my prior ignorance when I learn something new. I thought classic performance Mustangs stopped with the Boss 302. I didn’t know Ford also made the Boss 351 and Boss 429.
The Boss 351 was one of the final high performance Mustangs sold and used a 351 Cleveland four-barrel engine with a mechanical camshaft, solid lifters, an 11.0:1 compression ratio, an aluminum intake, and a four-bolt main bearing block. Its appearance is similar to one of my other favorite American classics, the Mach 1, due to its hood scoops, stripes, spoilers, and exhausts (though many of these options were tweaked for even more performance).
Learning about a car for the first time when I spot it in real life offers a great adrenaline rush for a nerd like me, so this one had to be on the list.
1977 Ford Mustang II
The much-maligned Mustang II deserved the hate. It was slow, ugly, and a by-product of the fuel crisis. There was only one example of the least-loved Ford at the meet, which earned it the final entry in this post. This pony is in immaculate shape, thanks to its owner’s contrarian love for restoring second-generation ‘Stangs.
This one looks to be a 1977 coupe bodied car with a mashup of other trim parts from the period. The wheels appear to be from a contemporary Mach I and the spoiler appears to be from the Cobra specification. The Mustang II was never great and will likely never be remembered as such, but it’s still cool to see a part of automotive history in the parking lot.
Hundreds of cars come out for Fabulous Fords Forever, and there were a slew of cars I could have included in the list if I had the space. The show was a success for me as a SoCal car enthusiast as well. I ate the bacon-wrapped hot dog, reconnected with friends, and rode out of the event in a convertible Mustang GT. Ford fan family reunion? It all checks out.