Jerry Heasley
August 10, 2012

At every Shelby Bash, members are on the lookout for the great man, Carroll Shelby, himself. The event revolves around spotting him. However, Carroll couldn't attend this year's Bash. His condition wasn't clear, but attendees heard he was in the hospital. Waiting in line at the banquet, Team Shelby member Tom Raber received a text message from Cleo, Shelby's wife. We were all encouraged to hear that the doctors had taken Carroll off sedation and were hoping to have him out of the hospital soon. (Editor's note: Carroll unfortunately never improved from his hospitalization and has since passed away on May 10).

The first Bash was held in 2008 to celebrate Carroll Shelby's 85th birthday--as in birthday bash. It has become a January tradition at Shelby American, with open-track activities, car shows, shop tours, cruises, and more. This year, the Bash was part of Shelby American's tour to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary.

During this year's event, held January 13-16, someone pointed to a young man entering the Friday evening banquet at Shelby World Headquarters in Las Vegas and said, "That's Henry Ford."

Indeed, it was Henry Ford III, the 31-year-old grandson of Henry Ford II, who was known as The Deuce. Visiting with him in line, I discovered a down-to-earth person.

"Is it hard to be Henry Ford?" I asked. He looked at my name badge and responded, "Is it hard to be Jerry Heasley?"

Henry Ford III appeared comfortable with his historic name. After we walked down the red carpet, through the factory, past an impressive display of Shelbys and Cobras, and finally into the big white tent for dinner, I discovered that Henry III was there to accept the Shelby American Hall of Fame award on behalf of his grandfather. Carroll Shelby chose Henry Ford II as the first recipient.

On the podium, Shelby American President John Luft paraphrased Shelby's words: "Without this man, we wouldn't be here," explaining that Henry Ford II thrust Ford into its Total Performance racing campaign in the summer of 1962, of no coincidence the same time that Shelby American got underway 50 years hence.

Henry Ford III accepted the award on behalf of his late grandfather, telling a story that had the crowd laughing.

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It seems a couple of years ago, Henry III was working at Galpin Ford in Los Angeles when he received a call from Carroll Shelby with an invitation to dinner. "To me, he's this icon," Henry III said. "Of course, I said I would go to dinner with him.

"I had no idea how he got my number and sort of wanted to ask. But if you get a call from Carroll Shelby, I don't think you ask, 'Where did you get my number?' So after I hung up, I called my dad (Edsel) and told him I just got a call from Carroll Shelby. And he's like, 'Oh yeah, I gave him your number.'"Henry III said he told his father, "The next time Carroll Shelby asks for my phone number, can you give me a little heads up?"

Two weeks later, Henry III met Shelby and Cleo for dinner. He said his hands were sweating as he wondered what to say. He had no worries because Carroll is a big talker. "We sit down at the table and I haven't said anything," Henry tells the crowd. "Carroll looks at me and says, 'Henry, your grand-pappy was a mean, old son-of-a-bitch.'"Ford went on to explain that his grandfather loved Carroll and Carroll loved his grandfather. Their partnership started 50 years ago.

I had already mentioned to Henry that the name Shelby should be forever synonymous with Ford. He agreed wholeheartedly, telling me about his '08 Shelby GT 500 KR that he would display at the show.

The Vegas event had kicked off in usual fashion with check-in at the hotel on Wednesday, March 14. But many people on the West Coast had gathered previously at Shelby's Gardena, California, facility to blast over to Las Vegas.

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Although I did not traverse that leg, I did meet some of the caravan crew at the hotel. One of them was George Munsterman from New York. Readers may remember our feature about his '70 Twister Special Mach 1 drag car. Last fall, he bought a new GT 350. Munsterman told me about jumping into the throttle on a stretch of road outside of Vegas and snapping a photo of the speedometer at 160 mph.

Judging by the Wednesday night turnout for the cruise-in at the Guitar Center, the 2012 Shelby Bash appeared larger than previous Bashes, as hundreds of cars parked in a roped-off area at the Town Square Mall on the south end of the Vegas Strip.

On Thursday morning, entrants met at Spring Mountain Motor Speedway, 45 miles west of Vegas in Pahrump. One trademark of any Carroll Shelby car show is track action. The event is not technically a race, but instead an open track, where owners can enjoy their Shelbys in a no-pressure, non-competitive event.

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On Friday, participants could go back for another day of club racing or opt for the Poker Run, where entrants pick up a card at five different stops to make a poker hand--the best hand wins. The route this year took the group about 115 scenic miles, consuming three hours from start to finish and edging into California at Shoshone. The final checkpoint was actually the track at Spring Mountain.

The Friday night banquet was not the finale, but it did cap off the event.

An event this long requires wisdom in pacing oneself because of the early morning starts and late evening get-togethers. The mixer Friday night was a must-go for just about everybody. Held in a relaxed atmosphere of the South Point's huge ballroom, this event allowed everyone the opportunity to eat from a variety of foods on five different buffets and even bid on signed Carroll Shelby memorabilia.

Helaina Semmler (Mt. Laurel, New Jersey) attends every Shelby Bash and said she saw people at the 50th she hadn't seen in years. Events like the 50th pull the enthusiasts from everywhere.

Fittingly, the sign-off to this event was, "See you at the 100th."

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