MM: Were you able to start spitting out reports as soon as you got the data?
Marti: Not at all. I think some people are under the impression that I received some type of data and programming package, but what I really got was raw data that was never planned to be used this way. The format wasn't even compatible with modern computers. So with my engineering background and my love of numbers, I created a translator to take the data and put it into a format that would be usable by modern PCs.
At the same time, we had to use Ford's decoding information [points to a row of large spiral notebooks]. Let's say in column 58 there's a code 3. That means the car had an AM/FM radio. All that information had to be put into the database.
It was morning, noon, and night. At the time, my son was in Little League and I'd be sitting in the stands with my laptop and these notebooks. I'd be typing away, and my wife would say, "OK, Rob is coming up to bat." So I'd stop to watch him. As soon as he was done, I'd be back to typing.
MM: Did the decoding information come with the data?
Marti: No, I had to photocopy all that stuff. I lived at the copy machines at Ford, and I was constantly interrupted because the rule was, if someone needed the machine to copy something, I had to back away until he was done. I probably copied 50,000 pages worth of documents. I had to have the data and the decoding manual information. One was no good without the other.
For example, the raw data had the dealer numbers but Ford didn't have the dealer directories. Think of it like phone books. Who kept their phone book from 1967? The only thing that made that work was my relationship with Lois Eminger. She had the invoices with the dealer names and addresses.
As we move into the '81 model year, the way I wrote the original program won't work anymore because Ford went to 17-digit serial numbers. Again, Ford never meant for the data to be used this way, so each year it would change the computing method. Now we're doing a complete revamp to make it compatible for all years, short of the last 10.
MM: When you were pursuing the data, did you realize you would be able to find many unique cars?
Marti: That thought never crossed my mind. What happened was, on the flight home from Detroit, I pulled the data up for the first time on my laptop and looked at the '67 Mustang information. And I saw serial number 100001, 100002, and so on. I started scrolling down, and I thought, There are 472,000 records here! I was overwhelmed by the immensity of it-and that was just one year for one car line. I wasn't even thinking about the special cars that were within this. What I did know was that column 15 had the paint code. I recognized code M-oh, it was a white car. There's a Candyapple Red car. The second car in '67 was Lime Gold. The first car was a fastback, then a hardtop, then a convertible. That makes sense-one of each bodystyle.
When I got home, it was one of those things where you wake up in the middle of the night thinking, I wonder if I could do this? It took weeks to start realizing the potential and figuring out the best way to present the material. I had so much that I didn't know where to begin.
Then someone asked, "Do you have the Shelby information?" I hadn't even thought about Shelbys. So I ran a report on a Shelby. With time, we started thinking, What about the '67 Shelby Trans-Am cars? All of them were there. Someone asked if I had information about the first '68 Cobra Jets. At the time, I didn't know much about those first 50 cars. So I looked it up and saw they were identical. The only difference was some came with sealer delete. But there they were, all 50 of them. And each dealer. And the day each car was built. And which one was built first. The first serial number wasn't the first one built. After a while, I started realizing that cars weren't built in order. A lot of times, serial number 1 was built two months later.