Tom Wilson
July 1, 2008
Photos By: Eric English
Plenty was the key word at SVTOA Experience III. There was plenty of space, entrants, track time, and as it turned out, heat. If there doen't seem to be anyone walking about in this photo, it's because they were hiding in the shade.

Horse Sense: Shelby's Daytona Coupes secured the Constuctor's Championship with a win at Reims, France, on a rather appropriate date: July 4, 1965. To this day, SAAC holds its conventions near Independence Day. The 2007 confab was from July 6 to 9. Unfortunately, there is no national event this year, but look for it to fire back up in 2009.

As if you haven't noticed, playing with cars is getting more expensive, and no one knows that better than car clubs. Not only do they hear groans from members about the price of curb ticklers, but they're the ones negotiating track time from flinteyed track owners and steel-hearted insurance companies.

Then there's the SVT Owner's Association. Originally sheltered under Ford's wing, the SVTOA built a good following of Mustang Cobra, Lightning, Contour, and Focus owners. It enjoyed the bounty of Ford's name and money when it came to putting on track days and seminars. However, when Ford reorganized and cut back, the SVTOA backing came to a halt.

Brave efforts were made by motivated members to keep the SVTOA going, but keeping a national-level club running is tough. Furthermore, while the SVTOA isn't exactly small, it didn't have the numbers or deep pockets of other marque clubs, so the program was dwindling. Enter Rick Kopec and the SAAC. In important ways, the SAAC had issues complementary to the SVTOA's. The SAAC is a large, independent, established marque club with strong Ford ties. With decades of experience, it enjoys the contacts, financial horsepower, prestige, and knowhow to produce all the things a club wants: a registry, a newsletter, conventions, seminars, concours, races, and the support structure these activities require.

While the SVTOA is hardly made up of pimply faced punks in Mustangs, the SAAC membership could bust out a fair AARP meeting without using the high-speed circuits in their Webers. If the SAAC was to maintain its hard-earned momentum, owner Rick Kopec realized it could stand some youthful energy injection.

Our favorite thing about the SAAC and SVTOA is that they're driving oriented organizations. Track lapping is always a major part of these events as these three sessions '00 Cobra Rs and the SVT Focus demonstrate. Well-regulated track sessions were offered for raw beginners up to door-to-door racing for the experienced, along with with good instruction and organization.

Seeing the SVTOA as a mirror-image of itself, the SAAC bought the club. Each club will maintain its leadership independence and is focused on its respective constituents. When it makes sense, the two clubs will mingle to save money or make the activities possible in the first place. The first major opportunity to do that was the event we're covering here: the joint SAAC '07 national convention, SAAC 32, and the third SVTOA national convention, SVTOA Experience III.

A four-day blowout, the dual event was held at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, last July. Granted, Tooele is a long tow for almost everyone, but it's a first-class facility with everything a big convention needs. Nearby Salt Lake City provided the hotel rooms, and the track has acres of beautifully paved paddock, a huge number of Formula One-level garages (each with its own bathroom), two 2.2-mile-long roadracing courses that can be joined into one long lap, and a club house restaurant, as well as go-cart tracks and room enough to do figure eights in your team's 18-wheeler. The paddock even has streets painted onto the pavement, complete with stop signs at the intersections. Everything is new, the construction quality is first rate, and no one has to camp out in the dirt. It's great stuff.

For the SAAC, the addition of the SVTOA meant spreading the significant costs of track rental and insurance across a larger number of entrants. For the SVTOA, the arrangement meant nothing less than being there at all; there was no way the previous SVTOA administration could have swung an event at a venue such as Miller. Furthermore, everyone could enjoy at least four days on-track.

We thought the combined event was a big success because it really did mingle the old and the new. Of course, the casual observer would've mainly seen squadrons of vintage Cobras and Shelbys on-track and in the paddock, but it was hardly all tired iron. The Shelby crowd embraces the new Shelby GTs and GT-Hs, and Miller had its own S197-based track cars out. Add in the SVTOA Mustang Cobras, Lightnings, and Foci-there had to be an SVT Contour or two on site, but if so, we missed them-and you have a truly national-level event.