Jeff Lacina
November 1, 2007
Photos By: Mike Pakoskey, Ron Blevins

July 2007 marked the first-ever joint national convention between the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) and the Special Vehicle Team Owners Association (SVTOA) with an event held at the incredible Miller Motorsports Park, just 35 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah. For the SVTOA, it was the first national meet since the big Ford Centennial in Detroit back in 2003, and only the third major gathering in the club's eight-year history.

As soon as you pulled into the paddock, you were met with displays from Ford Racing Performance Parts, Shelby Automobiles, and the Larry Miller Collection, which was made up of a dozen competition Cobras and GT40s. Some street GT350s and Cobras were also scattered about, with a replica of the Cobra Caravan trailer serving as a backdrop. Deeper into the Ford-blue paddock were scores of SVT Cobras, Cobra Rs, Foci, Lightnings, Ford GTs, Mustang GTs, and of course, plenty of vintage and late-model Shelby vehicles.

If you're into late-model Ford performance, you're fully aware of SVT and all the go-faster vehicles it has produced since 1993. The owners of these products enjoy getting together to cruise, show, and put these vehicles through their paces on the track. With this being a joint event between SAAC and SVTOA, though, it meant the paddock was also full of vintage and late-model Ford performance vehicles-pure nirvana for any loyal Ford fan. The Shelby Automobiles semi arrived and unloaded a new Mustang perfor-mance lineup for 2008: the Shelby GT convert-ible, the GT500KR, and the jaw-dropping Super Snake show car.

Ford SVT joined the fray with its development trailer and its trio of original Cobra Rs: the No.1 '93 car, the No. 1 '95 R, and the No. 2 '00 R model. Ford also trotted out a couple of note-worthy SVT engineering vehicles: a recently completed, track-going GT500, complete with rollbar, missing back seat, and a nice assortment of GT500 suspension components; and a well-worn, yellow-with-black Ford GT. This was the very car that carried out the high-speed certification testing for Ford and SVT at the world-famous high-speed testing facility at Nardo, Italy. Better yet, guests and participants could pony up a small fee and go for some hot lap rides with various SVT engineers at the wheel of either of these incredible rides.

Where else but at an SVTOA event can you see an SVT Lightning, a track-prepped Mustang GT, and a Ford GT all sharing the same turn? For four straight days, this is the type of on-track fun that SAAC-32 and SVTOA Experience III drivers enjoyed.

Tempering the July sun that pushed afternoon temperatures to near triple digits for the four-day performance festival was the ultracool Miller complex-truly a world-class facility. It's clear that this place was designed with drivers and spectators in mind. An expansive paved paddock, modern garages, covered grandstands, sparkling restrooms, an air-conditioned clubhouse, and a restaurant overlooking the track, along with the friendly and helpful Miller staff added to the fun for everyone.

Friday and Saturday centered on the SAAC 32 portion of the event, and Sunday and Monday were more focused on the SVTOA Experience III. Both SVTOA and SAAC members were seen in the paddock and out on the track all four days. There was also a swap-meet area and manu-facturers' and sponsors' midway, as well as a car show, a vintage race, an SVTOA cruise, parade laps, and even hot laps in either the Ford Racing-prepped Miller Motorsports Park school Mustangs or the SVT development vehicles.

Sunday and Monday was the SVTOA On Track Performance Driving Clinic, with 17 in-car instructors providing their coaching skills to the eager student drivers. Sunday, the event used the 2.24-mile East Course for on-track fun.

On Monday, the action shifted to the incredible, 4.5-mile, 24-turn "full course." This track proved a challenge for the novice students and an enjoyable exercise in fast course memorization for the more advanced drivers.

Right next to the SVT collection, Shelby Autos had an equally impressive line display, including the prototypes of the Shelby GT convertible, the GT500 Super Snake, and the GT500KR.

Over the four days, more than 300 drivers took to the track, with about 2,500 spectators checking out the action. Saturday night's SAAC banquet seated more than 650 folks, while Sunday PM's SVTOA banquet seated in excess of 250 hard-core enthusiasts. It was at the Sunday night event that those attending were introduced to the all-new Ford Performance Group.

John Clor, Ford Performance Group com-munications manager, explained it to the group as an all-new initiative headed up by FRPP and supported by Ford Division that will strive to "put a face and a place" on Ford Motor Company's connection to the enthusiast club and perfor-mance aftermarket business. He also explained that this new FPG program is centered on a Web-based portal that manages the relationship between Ford and its past, present, and future performance customers.

Using this umbrella approach, FPG will bring unique resources to bear on communicating with Ford enthusiast vehicle clubs and promoting the lifestyle they represent. Clor also explained that FPG will ultimately enjoy a variety of benefits beyond a true connection with Ford and the establishment of a Web-based information clearinghouse-the largest of which is access to, and discounts through, the Ford Performance Info Center.

Beyond providing member referrals and club event information, the Ford Performance Info Center will handle questions on all Ford and SVT performance vehicles and provide technical assistance via the Ford Racing Tech Line. What's more, members of clubs who are part of FPG will qualify for a discount on purchases of selected Ford enthusiast merchandise.

Miller Motorsports Park is the new home of the Ford Racing Performance Driving School. The official school cars are these nicely tweaked Mustang GTs, complete with Ford Racing Performance Parts' Power Pack, Handling Pack, and rollbar. Even better, several participants ponied-up and rented these cars from the Miller folks for the weekend.

Sunday night's program was capped off with a "town hall" discussion of the current state of performance affairs at Ford. The panel consisted of Jamie Allison, Manager, Ford Racing Performance Parts; Jamal Hameedi, SVT Engineering, Chief Nameplate Engineer; Kerry Baldori, SVT Engineering, Chief Vehicle Engineer; Mark Wilson, Vehicle Personalization, Vehicle Program Manager; Jayson Demchak, Ford Performance Group/Club Liaison; with Clor serving as the moderator. This group fielded questions well past 11 p.m. and was even on hand at the track on Monday to field more questions and, of course, enjoy some high-performance driving of their own.

SAAC and SVTOA event sponsors include FRPP, Griggs Racing, Steeda Autosports, Dynatek, MRT Racing, Shelby Automobiles, Heacock Insurance, Bassani, Borla, Mustangs Unlimited, JBA Racing & Headers, RM Auctions, Cobra Automotive, Branda Performance, Orlando Mustang, Kirkam Motors, Blocker's Harley-Davidson, and Colin's Classic Automobiles.

Want to get in on all this Ford fun next year? Mark your calendar now, as club officers announced that plans are underway to hold the '08 joint SAAC and SVTOA event around the July 4 holiday at under-construction New Jersey Motorsports Park and Thunderbolt Raceway near Millville, New Jersey. With the first event under their belts, both clubs will be working hard to make the next one even better.

Getting There Is Half The Fun
What better way to enjoy an all-Ford funfest than to load up the Mustang and point it in the direction of a cool event? The journey I faced was 1,120 miles (one-way) from Olathe, Kansas, to Tooele, Utah. Usually, I'd load up my trusty, old silver steed on the trailer, hitch it up to my proven PowerStroke F-250 and head out down the highway-but not this time.

For this trip, I managed to come up with a real sweet ride: a ProCharger-equipped, five-speed, '06 Mustang GT. According to the ProCharger Web site, the H.O. kit for the '05-'07 Three-Valve Mustang GT is capable of a 70- to 75-percent power gain on stock motors running pump gas, with 10 psi of intercooled boost. This means stock motors typically produce 460-plus rear-wheel horsepower.

My goal for this trip was not to trailer the car but to drive it to the SVTOA Experience III event at Miller Motorsports Park, as well as put the retina-vibrating yellow GT through its paces on the track and then drive it back to the Kansas City area. Loaded up for a week on the road, not to mention putting on the SVTOA Performance Driving Clinic, my son Grant and I plugged in the Garmin navigation unit and headed west.

Out on the open road, the GT soaked up the miles with aplomb. With the cruise control locked on and the Shaker 1000 blastin' out some CD tunes that my 16-year-old and I actually agreed upon, the miles and hours seemed to melt away. At each and every fuel stop, even the most casual refueling neighbor couldn't help but ask about the car and want to see the shiny ProCharger P-1SC.

Speaking of fuel, we managed a respectable 23.5 mpg average for the on-highway round trip. Keep in mind, the car was loaded (my son and I don't pack lightly), with the A/C on all the time and rolling along at speeds that allowed us to complete the 1,120-mile one-way trip with an average moving speed of 72 mph.

Once at the event, I couldn't resist seeing what those 450 horses felt like on the track. Proving the classroom point that I've been making to our SVTOA On Track students for more than six years, more horsepower doesn't always mean faster (or smoother) lap times. From my first, boost-assisted, tail-hangin'-out laps around the deceptively tricky Miller East Course, I quickly realized I had way more horsepower than I had under the fenders. It was still fun chasing down numerous unsuspecting Terminator SVT Cobras once I figured out how to balance the horsepower with the grip.

Clearly, getting the most out of this combination on-track would also require some suspension and brake upgrades. And with the incredible number of spring, strut/shock, sway bar, and brake upgrades available for the S197 Mustang, turning this car into a real track monster would be a relatively easy and enjoyable undertaking. Of course, if doing so means more on-track laps and more miles getting to and from the events, sign me up.