We can all thank Kevin Marti's mom for an "accident" that sent her son down the path to obtaining Ford's '67-and-later production data and providing us with the Marti Reports. Those coveted sheets of paper tell us if a special Mustang is real or fake, how many were made, what options were on the car when it was built, and a myriad of other facts and figures. Today, the term "Marti Report" has become part of the Mustang vocabulary. You see them displayed in show-car windows, and buyers of high-dollar Mustangs use them to document a potential buy before putting down a deposit. You even hear about them during Speed's coverage of the Barrett-Jackson auction.
Beyond documenting Mustangs (and other Fords-Kevin's database includes all '67-'79 Fords, with '80-'98 coming soon), Kevin's data and programming provides fascinating production numbers, not only for specific models but also for options. Want to know how many '70 Mustangs came with a tach? Kevin can type it into his computer and it will spit out the numbers. Weird color combinations? Yes, Ford built a few yellow cars with blue interiors.
The information within Kevin's database includes every Mustang built from 1967 through 1979. He has been able to confirm the VINs of many important Mustangs, including the pair of '68 fastbacks that were used in the movie Bullitt and the hardtops that became Shelby's Trans-Am race cars in 1967. In fact, Barrett-Jackson has contacted Kevin about producing a special report to document Fords sold at the auctions, a move to avoid the rare but embarrassing situation when a consigner tries to sell a fake car.
The info has also unraveled mysteries. When a customer requested a Marti Report for an early production '71 fastback, Kevin not only discovered that it was the only '71 Boss 302 ever built ("The Last Boss," Feb. '08, p. 32), he also found information about other '71 Boss 302s that were scheduled but never built.
As Kevin points out in the following interview, Ford's production database didn't just fall into his laptop. Several factors came together to make it all work. Otherwise, the information would still be buried at Ford.
Always fascinated by numbers, Kevin's engineering background provided the computer knowledge to create programs for translating and analyzing the data. Through Marti Auto Works, his company that produces replacement dataplates and reproduction items, Kevin had a working relationship with people at Ford, and more importantly, with Ford licensing. He was also fortunate to have a relationship with Lois Eminger, the retired Ford employee who sold copies of original Ford invoices for many years. In fact, Kevin ended up purchasing the invoices from Lois and plans to resume offering copies as part of his services in the future.
Kevin is the stereotypical numbers guy. He still has every car he has ever owned. He collects stamping machines and vintage Ford technical analyzing equipment. He even admits that he tried to lean to the right side of his brain by learning how to play piano but gave up because if he made a mistake he couldn't just go back and fix it, he had to start all over again from the beginning.
Because of all this, Kevin is the right guy doing the right thing for Mustang owners. "I have so much fun coming in here every day," he admits. "Sometimes I just play games. I'll think, If I could've ordered a car back then, how would I have ordered it? For example, I'll program the computer to say I would've wanted a yellow Boss 302 with intermittent wipers. Then I see if they built any. Well, yeah, that car exists out there somewhere. Someday maybe I'll come across it."
Mustang Monthly: How did you get interested in Mustangs and Cougars?
Kevin Marti: It was an accident. When I first started driving in 1973, I was interested in Camaros and Chevelles. I had a paper route, so I had more than enough money to buy a decent car. One Sunday, my mom pulled out the newspaper and said, "Well, let's find a car for you. What are you looking for?" I said, "Camaro or Chevelle." At the time, the Phoenix paper listed cars alphabetically. So she started circling Camaros and Chevelles. We picked out a few and went looking. After about the 10th or 11th car, all junk, we looked at the next one on the list and she had accidentally circled a Cougar. I said, "Not [a] Cougar, Mom." But she insisted we look at it. When I saw the back of the car, I remembered the sequential turn signals. Suddenly I had to have it. My whole life turned on that accident. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been involved with Fords at all. I bought that '67 Cougar. It's the one under the cover back there.
MM: How did that lead to you starting Marti Auto Works?
Marti: After graduating from college, I went into the aerospace industry as a mechanical engineer. On the side, I was fixing up my cars and going to junkyards to find original date-coded spark plug wires with Autolite stamped on them. I'd put them on the counter and sometimes the owner would kick me out thinking it was some kind of joke.
As that stuff became scarce, I started figuring out ways to make it. I'd go to car shows and someone would say, "Can you make me one?" I wasn't married at the time and had extra time after work, so I started making them.
What really started Marti Auto Works is my Cougar Eliminator. I advertised in Hemmings Motor News for a stripe kit and all I got were calls from other people wanting to know if I had found two so they could buy the other one. I started thinking that maybe Ford still had the tooling. I spent more than six months calling Ford and 3M, the company that had made the kits. I finally found the right department at Ford, and the guy said, "Yeah, the tooling is sitting right over there." We got Ford's permission to reproduce the Eliminator stripes, which is when my relationship with Ford started.
Next, someone-I believe it was Tony Branda-asked, "Can you do the '69 Boss 302 stripes?" And I found out that we could. Then Ford discontinued the '70 Boss 302 kits, so we started running those. Some guys wanted to build Trans-Am cars, so we did some white Boss stripes, then the '69 Mach 1. By around 1983, I was selling so many stripe kits that I quit my regular job.
Then I started doing radiator hoses and getting stamps made so I could mark them with original logos and dates. At the time, I'd go down to NAPA and buy five hoses. After a while, I needed 20 hoses and the local store didn't carry that many, so I started going to the distributor and buying 100 hoses. Eventually, I went straight to Goodyear. They needed a 10,000 minimum, and I said, "Not a problem." Now Goodyear backs a truck to the door and we unload pallets of hoses.
MM: That eventually led to reproducing door dataplates and tags, right?
Marti: I needed a door data label for one of my '70s so we reproduced that. I eventually got into doing the metal plates because I needed one for a '68. With time, I got into doing the carb, engine, and axle tags. Almost all of it was based on "I need this for my car." Once I made one, I could make others.
MM: You seem to be fascinated by numbers.
Marti: That's right. I still know my phone number from when I was 6 years old. I know the license plate number from my mom's old '64 Galaxie. At my 30th high school reunion, I went up to one friend and said, "Does PAN 334 mean anything to you? It was the license plate number on the Nova you drove in high school."
MM: How did you end up dealing with Ford to obtain the production database?
Marti: In the '80s, I sent a letter to Ford Customer Service asking about my car's serial number, but all they did was decode the dataplate. Then I heard someone else had gotten information about options. So I thought, They must have the data. Having already established relationships at Ford, I began searching for the right department. By then I knew the infrastructure well enough to understand the responsibilities of each department, so I figured out the right guys to talk to and asked, "Would it be possible to do this?"
The different departments had to sign off, such as accounting, marketing, legal, and data processing. They all treated me with suspicion. Why would anyone want this? Each had a different angle. For example, starting in 1969 they preserved the pricing information. So the accounting department said, "You could write a program to figure out how much money we collected on every car and add it all together." Well, yes, I guess I could, but the information is 30 years old. Would it help Ford's competitors? These were the kind of arguments we were running into. That's one of the reasons I can't have anything newer than 10 years.
Each department eventually signed off except legal. They were the most skittish about it. Amazingly, there was one guy there who had heard a lot of the bellyaching about Ford's licensing program when it started in 1993. There was one thing I had done different from everybody else. In my advertising, I put "Proud to display this symbol" below the Ford Licensing logo. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that guy appreciated the fact that we did that and also that we never gave him any problems. He turned out to be the lawyer in the right place at the right time for us. He said, "I know this company, and these guys have always been supportive of us." So he convinced the legal department to sign off. That was the last hurdle. From there it was, "Fly yourself here and we'll do the data transfer."
MM: Were you telling them that you wanted the data as a service to owners?
Marti: There was actually a two-fold reason. There was the business standpoint of selling the data. But because we were working on the Mustang Museum at the time, I thought it would be cool if visitors could enter a VIN on a console and it would pop up a picture of the car. Let's say it was a '67. It would show a picture of a '67, then paint the car the right color, put the right hubcaps on, add foglights if it were a GT, and so on. Basically, it would be a picture of the car as it looked new. Unfortunately, the museum never went anywhere.
MM: What year did you get the approval?
Marti: Around 1997, and I got the data around 1998. The first reports came out in 1998 or 1999.
MM: What was it like obtaining the data?
Marti: I went to Dearborn. The guy I interfaced with downloaded it from a mainframe onto the PC on his desk. I went out and bought a Zip drive. We'd plug in the Zip drive, upload 100 megabytes worth of data, unplug it, plug it into my laptop, and transfer that 100 megs. Then we'd go back and take another 100 megs. It was a slow process back then, back and forth between machines. We spent two days transferring the '67-'73 data.
MM: Did you know the information only went back to 1967?
Marti: Not at the time. There was a specific reason why they had 1967 and later, and we can thank Ralph Nader. As he was fighting the auto industry, the Federal Motor Vehicle Act of 1966 specified that car companies had to start keeping records for '67-and-later vehicles for recall purposes. Prior to that, they were allowed to throw the information away. In fact, I talked to a Ford computer programmer who said, "I'm the guy who pushed the button that erased all the '66 data." You kind of hope there was a backup copy, but no-it all went away.
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.
MM: How did you come up with the Basic, Deluxe, and Elite reports?
Marti: I thought about the old Sears strategy, "good, better, best." There are some people who are thinking about buying a car and they just want the basic information, which is why we call it a Basic Report. They just want to know if the door dataplate information is correct and which options came on the car. If you want to move up from there, the Deluxe information adds statistical figures-important dates about the car and so on. The Elite Report shows how the window sticker looked and how much the car originally cost.
MM: How does it feel when you're watching the Barrett-Jackson auction on TV and the announcer says that a car has been documented by a Marti Report?
Marti: I didn't create the name. Just like Lois didn't create the "Eminger Invoice." People just started calling them "Marti Reports," and I went along with it. To me they were always Basic, Deluxe, and Elite Reports, not Marti Reports. There's an awkwardness seeing my name like that. Friends joke about me being a celebrity. I'm not.
MM: You're providing an important service to not only help people document cars but also to keep people from buying bogus cars.
Marti: Every week we turn up several fake cars. The worst was a guy in Australia who ordered reports for his two '68 Cobra Jets. I had to tell him that both started out as 289 two-barrel cars. He'd spent all this money for the cars, and in his case, he also had the bad exchange rate, transportation by boat, and 50 percent import taxes. I really hate telling someone the bad news-unless it's before they buy the car.
MM: And then there's the side where you get to tell a guy that he owns the only '71 Boss 302 ever built.
Marti: That's the fun part. In that particular case, we also had the invoices and discovered the notes and telegrams in the packets stapled to them. Some of that information exists only on a piece of paper with a handwritten note.
This isn't a Mustang story, but one guy ordered a report for a 427 Cougar, a '68. His serial number seemed awfully high, so I double-checked. I called him personally to tell him that he had the last production 427 Ford ever made.
MM: You also have information about cars that were scheduled but never built, right?
Marti: Yeah. We have all the serial numbers for canceled orders, too, cars that were planned but never built. For the Shelby program, they were going to build more than 200 Boss 302 Shelbys. They only built one ("The Boss Shelby," Mar. '08, p. 32) and canceled all the others. But we have the data on how they were going to build them, which doesn't really mean anything. It's just interesting the things they thought about doing.
MM: Can you think of any other special cars, such as the Bullitt cars?
Marti: The two Bullitt cars were identical with consecutive numbers. There are also the Boss 429 Quarter Horses and Bill Cosby's '68 Shelby. A purple '69 Shelby had some interesting paperwork. It was built for the wife of Goodyear's president at the time. She wanted a Thunderbird color. The car was already painted Grabber Blue, so Shelby painted over it. The invoice says Grabber Blue, then there's another invoice that shows special paint.
In 1969, Ford's pilot plant built 16 Mustangs and five of them made it to the public.
It's interesting that only one Boss 429 was built with a rear deck spoiler. Even stranger, there were three black '70 Boss 302s-yes, with black stripes. I know at least one of them is out there because we pulled a report on it. The car had already been painted several times and the owner wanted to know if it originally came with white stripes. There were no white stripes from the factory. They couldn't put black on black, could they? Yes, they did.
Speaking of weird, one guy had a green Boss 302 with a Vermillion interior, the only one built that way. There are a few yellow cars out there with blue interiors. The vehicle order image has a special column, where if a dealer wanted to override the system and order something out of the ordinary, Ford would put a code in column 77. Basically what that said was, "Mr. Dealer, when you submit this order, this is a nonreturnable car."
MM: Can you think of any other interesting things that come from the data?
Marti: There are always the people who become enamored with a car because it was built on their birthday or anniversary, or some kind of meaningful date.
There's also an interesting period during the UAW strike from September 6 to November 6, 1967. Of course, cars were scheduled to be built because Ford didn't know when the strike was going to happen. My wife's '68 convertible is an example. Her car was scheduled to be built on September 11 but by then the assembly plant had shut down. So her car just sat on the line, along with all the other cars, for two months. Then it finally got built in November. I've had customers report that a lot of oddball things happened on those cars.
Four Shelbys were built one day before the strike: a GT350 convertible, a GT350 fastback, a GT500 convertible, and a GT500 fastback. It's like they knew they had to get those cars built so they could get them completed as Shelbys for promotional purposes.
Another funny thing is what happened to a lot of cars that were built in early January. One of the dates we give on the reports is the release date. That is, after the car has been built, it goes through the inspection process, then they release it, which appeared on weekly and monthly reports about how many cars were built. A lot of early January cars have a release date of December 31 because they fudged the data to make the calendar year look a little better.
MM: Interesting. It's great that Ford allows you to do this, otherwise the information wouldn't be available to anyone.
Marti: As hobbyists, we should be grateful to Ford. They don't need to do this. To me, it's serious money when I write the royalty check. But to them, it's a drop in the bucket. I really am thankful that they were willing to do this.