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.

Looking positively luminescent in the hazy Utah sunlight, Shelby's King ot the Road version of the GT 500 was positioned front and center of the top of the paddock. Its 540 hp and merely expensive price tag should make it an aspiration for Shelby enthusiast.

There were hundreds of cars running the open track, with plenty more showing up for the judged and people's choice concours. Aside from that, we saw one of the largest collections of significant Shelbys and Fords for the first time in ages. Everything from Daytona Coupes, Dragonsnake Shelby drag cars, and Ford's own collection of R-model Mustang Cobras were lined up for inspection in the paddock. Many of these were thanks to track owner and charter SAAC member Larry Miller, but many others brought their treasures to be seen. There was plenty to see and do.

Things got underway on Friday with a swap meet, instructor and parade laps on the west track, open-tracking on the east track, judge's meetings, and so on. On Saturday, the opentrack continued on the east track, which is the more interesting of the two short tracks. Instructors and vendors gave rides on the west track, the swap meet was underway, and the Shelby concours was judged. Sunday was the same except with a people's choice car show, which was more popular with the late-model crowd. Instead of Saturday's vintage-car race, there was a late-model Mustang race. Monday was the final all-SVTOA day, which proved a ghost town as far as vendors, displays, shows, and everything in the paddock were concerned, but the track was there for the taking. Furthermore, the east and west tracks were combined into their full 4.5-mile, 24-turn glory, so the lap-happy among us were busy burning up the last of our gas, tires, and brakes on Monday. It was a veritable track-time overdose.

Not to be overlooked were the two banquets at the host hotel. The SAAC's was Friday night and the SVTOA's was Saturday night. Shelby team members and drivers highlighted the SAAC dinner and Ford engineers and marketing specialists from SVT and Ford Racing gave everyone a direct line to the factory at the SVTOA gathering. Ford promised a "stay- connected" initiative to keep communication clear between the factory and enthusiasts.


Shelby'S Super Snake
Lurking in the shadows at the back of Shelby's display was the Super Snake prototype. With the hood down and the doors locked, the Big Hiss was there to be noticed, but we garnered some details with careful eavesdropping. Power is from a blown 5.4 V-8 in two versions. Fitted with an Eaton blower, expect 600 hp; the screw-blower option bumps that to 725 hp, an attention-grabbing number in a production car. Redline is held to 6,250 rpm in either case, and the unit should run 11s out of the box and 10s on pump gas with some prep (and possibly spare axles).

At press time, Shelby was working on driveline details, such as getting the driveshaft to take more than 630 hp. Furthermore, details of the underhood ram air system were still being figured out.

We expect the styling details to remain unchanged with the exception of the missing quarter-window scoops. The interior shouldn't suffer from nesting birds what with coiled snakes everywhere, and the tri-gauge dashpod is a sharp touch. The huge hood bulge matches the car's projected personality: big and overwhelmingly powerful-a real muscle machine.


Ultimate Toy
Bruce Griggs stood in the door of the team motorhome, looking like everyone else at Miller Motorsports Park: rather tired of the relentless 100-plus degree heat. It had been one of those days mechanically, and we had picked his brain too long, rummaging around for details on the new Griggs Racing Products Track Toy Mustang.

We were pecking away on the laptop when Bruce escaped our pestering by stepping outside. That's when he looked up and said, "Some people want to build a car, others want a car already built. We're trying to fill the second need with this car-that's the bottom line."

Following Griggs Racing Products' performance-first philosophy, the turnkey Track Toy wears a clean, frill-free look. Griggs fits its front air dam with sufficient under-car support to keep it from bending under aero load, so it helps handling and directs more air into the charge cooler and radiator. The rear wing was stock a Miller, but a NASCAR-type spoiler is normally fitted or replaced by an optional all-out cometition wing.

That's what the GR40tta in the pictures is all about. As the Mustang market has matured with the refined S197 chassis and the overall weekend-warrior market has come to embrace the well-heeled looking for street and track excitement of ever greater sophistication, the once-lowly Mustang has come to compete and win at the highest levels. As Bruce observed, while some of us can't wait to pull the trigger on a pneumatic wrench, others can't wait to pull on their blue-suede driving shoes. To that second group, Griggs [(707) 939-2244; www. griggsracing.com] is offering the Track Toy. After all, Bruce has been selling Mustang parts and one-off cars for years. A series-produced car sold off a simple chart by dealers is the next logical step.

To recap the mechanical details of the Griggs S197 suspension and brakes detailed in our July '07 issue ("Better Than Good," p. 186), the Track Toy uses Griggs' highly developed A-arm front and torque-arm-based rear suspension. These are no-excuse assemblies that completely replace the stock Mustang suspension in order to provide the precision, traction, and stability necessary to positively glitter through the apexes-along with the guts to take racetrack abuse so the owner doesn't have to bolt the car back together after every on-track weekend. These aren't cheap, quickie bolt-ons, but top-of-the-line, race-derived, reengineering jobs that allow S197 Mustangs to embarrass Ferraris and Porsches.

As each customer has slightly different needs, Griggs Racing is offering the Track Toy in three levels: GR40tt Sport, GR40tta Autocross/Open Track, and GT40ttr Road Race. They're all spiced with an extensive option list to address the chassis and powertrain, with big-power, supercharged cars on the menu. Griggs Track Toy dealers, which include long-standing traditional parts vendors and Ford dealerships, are playing a vital role in guiding customers through the order list. We're also excited by the thought of several Track Toy demonstrators spread across the country. Getting people behind the wheel is the only way of convincing them of the car's abilities and sophistication.

Track Toys are ordered through any Griggs dealer and are built at Griggs Racing before being shipped to the dealer. This is important, as all the details Griggs has accumulated in two decades of Mustang development is tuned into the chassis rather than relying on a dealer's labor department, which is well past its depth when setting up such an installation.

Since all the parts are on the shelf and ready to go as we head to print, Track Toys are available immediately. Pricing depends on the car, but generally speaking, the most basic Track Toy-which is anything but basic-retails for $50,000. The supercharged models hover in the $70,000 range, which includes the Mustang GT starting point.

Should Donald Trump discover open-tracking is more fun and less expensive than wife collecting, it's possible to double the price of a supercharged GR40ttr with exotic engines and such, but that would take a Track Toy right into championship race car territory. More realistically, it offers the best equipment, excellent setup, and meaningful exclusivity to the in-crowd at the track. For those with the means, it clearly delivers instant gratification.