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Ford 100th Anniversary Celebration, June 12-16th 2003, Dearborn, MI.

 

    Ford held it's 100th 'The Road is Ours' Celebration on June 12th-16th at the Dearborn, MI HQ, to celebrate it's 100 years of profound impact on not only the cars we drive but the way we live. To say this was a big event is a slight understatement; it was a HUGE gathering of Ford faithful of all ages, FoMoCo cars and trucks of every description, a chance to meet race drivers like Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Elliott Sadler, John Force, Tony Pedregon, Kurt Busch, Todd and Jeff Bodine, Greg Biffle, racing greats like Jackie Stewart, Ned Jarrett, Dyno Don Nicholson, Glen and Leonard Wood and legends like Parnelli Jones, Junior Johnson, Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby, to name but a few. There was the chance to take a lap with your car on the Dearborn Proving Grounds, ride in a Model T, see a full scale Kitty Hawk replica, look over Ford's concept cars, view Ford's 100 'Icon' cars, see thousands of awesome collector vehicles, take a guided tour inside the Dearborn Assembly plant....the list goes on and on. They also had nightly concert events scheduled (rained out on Thursday and cancelled Friday because the ground was still too wet). Ford spent quite a bit of time planning this event, which quite literally took over the Corporate HQ for the last few months; one Ford Credit employee told me they had been busing them back and forth for 2 months prior to the show to get everything set up!

     Anyway, since I won't be around for the 200th event (and if I was, it would probably rain that weekend anyway), we decided to pack up the '86 Fire Chief Mustang and head North. There were a total of 6 SSP's attending from places far and near including Darin and Sylvie, son Chris from Lubbock, TX, Tony from Houston, Bruce with his '92 Michigan State Police car from IN, and Joe and Dave from Michigan. More about this later tho..

    We left Charlotte Wed at 6 PM sharp. As much as I like driving Special Service Mustangs, they're not always great for 1300 mile trips(630 to NC, then another 670 to MI), especially when packed with gear and equipment. The trip through the mountains of West Virginia is something quite awesome, especially with pounding rain and plenty of 18 wheelers, although they have Starbucks coffee on the WV Turnpike now, who would've thought. My main concern was getting there though, and my '86 behaved a bit better this time than Charlotte, and 11 1/2 hours later we were in Motown, ready to get a couple of winks and meet the other SSP'ers attending the event.

     We got to the show around noon on Thursday. Weather is always a concern for events like this, and unfortunately Thursday the 12th was a bit of a washout. It didn't stop everyone from having a great time, since Thursday was the Ford Racing Night event, with autographs from Ford's top NASCAR guys. It just so happened that the race at Michigan Speedway was that weekend, making it quite convenient for the drivers to hop over to Ford. After waiting for an hour or so, I got to meet Mark Martin and Ricky Rudd, grab a couple of autographs, cruise around for a couple more laps of the grounds. Ironically, the helicopters that were supposed to take the guys over for the later sessions got grounded by the rain, so the announcement was made that the 'drivers were running a bit late and driving over from the track'. I hear Kurt Busch won the qualifying lap on I-75..

    One thing that was pretty cool was seeing the Model T's that made the journey from California come in on Thursday, right past our cars. This trip was several weeks long, covering 3000 miles and almost 3 weeks, and these people were determined to make it to Detroit. I would have liked to seen the looks at the local Jiffy Lube when they pulled in for a quick oil change! Here's a closer look courtesy of Ford: Model T's make it to 100.

    Friday was better, no rain and warmer, and we got a chance to check out the cars attending a bit closer...An absolutely astounding display of cars from Ford including the 999 special, Indy racers, GT-40's, vintage NASCAR racers from all years, Mustangs, Cobras, Model T's, A's, Thunderbirds, Fairlanes, Falcons, Galaxies, Torinos, Lincolns, Mercurys, trucks of every kind, Military vehicles, etc.. When was the last time you saw a 'Mad Max' Australian Falcon? There were a dozen here! We also got to try out the Ford Proving Grounds...quite an experience. Also, Emil Loeffler, who was involved in the Special Service Program from 82-92, stopped by, and after we wire tied-him to a folding chair, we spent quite a bit of time asking him all he knew about the SSP program; hopefully he will have some information for us forthcoming on some SSP specific items. Few more autographs, another lap around the grounds, and back to the Brann's(pronounced BRAWN'S) in Livonia for some cold ones with the group.

    Saturday was perfect, sunny, warm, a great day to try and see the rest of the show. Still more autographs from the likes of Carroll Shelby, Junior Johnson, and Ned Jarrett. They also had a Q&A session before each of the signings so you could have a little time to ask the guys questions without tying them up at the signing tables. The MCA sponsored a plant tour at the Rouge, which was amazing...Walking around the plant, you could feel the history present here; seems hard to believe the Mustang will actually be made somewhere else. Saturday night we managed to add on our own little event by hitting a local cruise-in at the 50's McDonalds on Telegraph Rd. in Dearborn Heights with several of the cars. The locals seemed to view us as a cross between aliens and gearheads..hmmm..maybe if we hadn't shown up with cop cars....

    Sunday topped off the trip by making a stop at White Castle in Columbus, Ohio. Hey, they don't have these in Florida, what can I say? Made it back to Charlotte at a reasonable hour with no problems.

    I have to say the people at Ford did a pretty good job of pulling all this together. Everything was fairly well organized, they didn't gouge you too much on prices ($22 for a hat, t-shirt, and print in the Ford Collection tent, although $2.50 for a warm Sprite was no bargain), they gave you a dash plaque, nice hardbound book of Ford's 100 years (although we found out about this by accident!), commemorative coin,  photo at the Proving Grounds with your car, and more posters, key chains, etc than you could bring home. Security was tight, but there was plenty of local and state police around (many of whom we talked with, naturally curious about the Police vehicles, and it made for some good photo ops), but I didn't notice any problems during the event.

    I didn't get a whole lot of sleep over the 5 days we were there, but I'd do it again in a 'Heartbeat'..Tooling around Dearborn in the cars was pretty cool as well..Hmm..maybe Woodward this year, who knows?

    I've split the links into sections for easier navigation. Enjoy the photos.

Mike

SSP's at the 100th On the Show Grounds Dearborn Factory Tour
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