The 8th Annual Shelby Bash proved to be one of the best ever as it featured six legendary Shelby-American employees from the 1960’s—Bob Bondurant, a member of the 1963 Ford Cobra team and the 1964 GT Championship team; John Morton and Allen Grant, critical members of the 1964 and 1965 Shelby American racing teams; Peter Brock, a key member of the team who took the Shelby Cobra roadster and turned it into the Cobra Daytona Coupe; and Chuck Cantwell and Ted Sutton, who were instrumental in the creation of the original G.T.350. They made up the “Legends” panel. 2015 also marked two milestones from 50 years ago. One was the birth of the original 427 Cobra, and the second was winning the FIA Manufacturer’s Championship with the 289 Cobra. Bash entrants joined with the Legends to celebrate, and one of the highlights of this year’s Bash was naming the winner of a new Spirit Award, which will be annual from here on out, to the person that best embodies the spirit of Carroll Shelby. The inaugural recipient was none other than Bob Bondurant. The theme of this year’s Bash was clear: Carroll Shelby’s spirit is with us.
The event kicked off on Friday, March 6th 2015 in Southern California with a cruise from The Shelby Automotive Museum at 19021 South Figeroa Street in Gardena. Shelby Mustangs, led by Michael McGuirk, streamed out of LA and across the desert to Shelby American’s Heritage Center where new Shelby Mustangs, Raptors and Cobras are built. This new Heritage Center, which opened on the south end of the famous Las Vegas Strip in November of 2013, was the setting for a World Championship Party on Friday night and the Bash Banquet on Saturday night.
Of course, any Shelby Bash would lack the Carroll Shelby spirit if road racing and lots of driving were not involved, so Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in nearby Pahrump, NV provided a track as well as the setting for the Sunday car show and the final destination point for the Poker Run on Saturday. Needless to say, a glass or two in celebration was raised Friday and Saturday nights.
At Saturday’s Bash Banquet, participants got their chance for autographs, and it was fun to watch a line of grown men (this author included) asking other grown men to sign things of a collectible nature, like posters, die-cast model cars, even automobile parts. The adults reverted to giggling little kids in the presence of the legends. LeWayne Musslewhite, who opened Shelby Canada West in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta Canada, really got creative when he asked one of the Legends panel to sign the side of his beer bottle.
The overwhelming thought during the Shelby Bash was, “When will we ever see these six Shelby-American Legends together again in one place?” We have an answer: only in spirit.
Shelby’s rolled into the parking lot at the Shelby American Heritage Center on Friday afternoon about 3:00 PM.
The biggest display in the Shelby American lot was DenBeste Motorsports’ tractor-trailer rig filled with Shelby Cobras for sale. Among the Cobras in his inventory include one with a body made of copper and the other made of bronze. Bill DenBeste sells more Cobras’ than any other dealer in the world.
We set up this group photo Friday afternoon after everybody driving from Gardena joined attendees arriving from other destinations at the Shelby Heritage Center in Las Vegas. The white poster is actually a door decal for the event that every entrant receives.
The Shelby gift shop inside the Heritage Center was very busy on Friday afternoon.
Tracey Smith, president of “Carroll Shelby Licensing” came from Gardena scoots across the floor at the Shelby Heritage Center in Las Vegas. Tracey, Scott Black (of Timepiece PR) and Jenni Shreeves came up with the idea for the Shelby Spirit award.
This 50th anniversary FIA Cobra Roadster, such as helped win the 1965 World Manufacturer’s Championship for Shelby American, was on display Friday night in front of the Heritage Center. Shelby sells them today.
Can’t afford a $15 million one-of-six Daytona Coupe? No problem, you can buy a new one that looks like the original from Shelby-American today.
Shelby Bashes are time to renew old acquaintances. Michael McGuirk, from northern California, meets up with his old racing friend, Fadi Cherfane from New Jersey.
The Friday night World Championship Party gave participants the chance to meet Legends on an informal basis, such as Allen Grant (Cobra Daytona Coupe driver) and his wife Dixie, seen here holding glasses of Chablis.
We also ran into John Morton, another famous driver for Shelby American in the glory days, at the Friday mixer. Morton showed us his new Baume-Mercier watch—Shelby Licensing will do a deal with Baume & Mercier to honor the 50th anniversary of the FIA World Championship with an exclusive line of watches.
Moving out the cars in the museum area of the Heritage Center makes room for these get-togethers. The setting is in the same building and adjacent to the production room, where new Shelbys are made.
They wheeled out a 50th Anniversary FIA World Championship cake, complete with fireworks. Shelby American got the points they needed for the championship on July 4, 1965.
On Friday night, one-half of the Legends panel was seated on one side. From left to right are Allen Grant, Ted Sutton, and John Morton.
On the other side are three more Legends – Chuck Cantwell, Peter Brock and Bob Bondurant. To the extreme right is Randy Richardson, moderator for Shelby-American history, which he displayed with historic photos on a large screen.
The highlight of Friday night was when LeWayne Musslewhite paid $10,000 (which went to the Shelby Foundation) for a die-cast Daytona Coupe model signed by the six Legends in attendance, plus Dan Gurney (who could not make the event). This die-cast was one of 200 signed but had the distinction of being #001. Bob Bondurant holds up the die-cast for the crowd to see Friday night.
News Flash, Circa 1965
Bob Bondurant (co-driving with Jo Schlesser) won the 24 hours of LeMans in a Cobra Daytona Coupe, locking in the World Manufacturer’s Championship for Shelby American on a very auspicious day for America: July 4th!
News Flash, 2015
Fifty years later, Shelby American’s World Manufacturer’s Championship remains the one and only for an American manufacturer.
We rode in the Poker Run with Kenji Bonds in his orange GT500 Shelby. Kenji told me a story about driving his Mustang GT to a Shelby show in Downey, California where Michael McGuirk told him to park his Mustang and join them. This invite led to Kenji buying his Shelby and joining Team Shelby.
Who did we find at the track but 81 year-old Bob Bondurant, ready with his helmet for a ride around the track. On the left is Scott Black who helped put together the Spirit award.
Drivers race in one of three classes: beginner, intermediate, and open. Passing is permitted only on straightaways.
In front of Shelby American’s Heritage Center on Saturday night, we noticed this 1965 Mustang fastback. A placard with these words: “Introducing the 1965 Shelby GT350R as originally conceived and now built by Peter Brock and the original Venice crew.”
Rick Titus was MC for the Saturday night banquet. Rick’s father, Jerry Titus, drove for Shelby American in the glory days. Rick has a talk show called Driver’s Talk Radio, which can be heard and seen on the Internet at http://www.driverstalkradio.com/.
Jim Owens of Ford heads up the GT350 marketing team in Dearborn, Michigan. Owens has also worked at Shelby American and knew Carroll very well. Speaking at the banquet Saturday night, Owens said, “He’s part of this, guys,” referring to Carroll Shelby and the latest Shelby Mustangs.
Neil Cummings (left) and Joe Conway (right) pose with Bob Bondurant and his Spirit Award, a 60-pound bronze of a 427 Cobra designed by Rick Hadley.
If you buy a car from Shelby American, you just might deal with this guy, Tim Pittsenbarger, who also loves to drive fast on the track.
If you buy parts from Shelby-American, you might run into Keith Criswell. Keith is an amazing person. His college background is classical music, but he is a genius with suspension systems.
Art and Beverly Potter won the Poker Run driving their GT500 from Wisconsin, which was far enough for the long distance award.
Dorothy Barnard is a mainstay at Shelby events who is delightful and always up for a joke. She and her husband Tom Barnard own Tom’s Motorsports where they build CSX Cobras.