Jerry Heasley
September 1, 2003

As we drove, I kept noticing different things. For one, the transmission tunnel mounted a red fire extinguisher added for safety.

The glovebox door displayed a Carroll Shelby autograph. "Shelby added that at the Petersen Museum during a Cobra show," Tony said.

Tony blipped the throttle to pass a car, and I glanced at the speedometer needle jumping to 100 mph. The LeMans cam was working great in the higher revs.

My surprise was the smoothness at triple digits, for which Tony had another confession: In addition to the five-speed transmission, he went with an aluminum driveshaft.

"It makes this car ride so much more smoothly," Tony explained. "It's really a great freeway cruiser now. We can talk without having to yell."

Tony was relieved the wind had slowed down. Dust wasn't rising off the desert floor and blasting the car, so his paint was safe. Only then did he admit his worries about going on the rally.

"I was getting nervous," he said. "I thought if it is going to be like this inside the Valley of Fire, I don't know if I want to take the car in and have rocks hitting the paint."

I noticed stickers on the car from past rallies. One was from our Mustangs Across America jaunt many years ago.

"I drive it all the time," Tony said. "Besides Mustangs Across America, I drove it north to Seattle the following year to the Bellevue show. Drove it up from L.A. and back. I had it shipped to Dearborn for the Woodward Dream Cruise last year. I'm having it shipped to Dearborn again this summer for Ford's 100th anniversary at Dearborn. Then I'm driving it to Tulsa for the Mid-America Meet before shipping it back to L.A."

I was impressed. Mostly, I wondered how this car remained concours, with no nicks or dents. Did he drive it the rest of the year too?

"I drive it in nice weather, every weekend to cruise nights and car shows," Tony said. "It's going to be one of the concours cars at Fabulous Fords Forever."

Our rally directions contained questions to keep us alert. Tony is a quick-witted attorney, who works in the district attorney's office. He can drive, answer questions about his car, and read signs at the same time.

His cell phone rang. He tried to convince his friend Doug, who owns a '69 GT350, to drive the rally. Worried about his paint, Doug had returned to the parking garage at the Boardwalk.

"I'm not criticizing people who have trailer queens," Tony said. "That's their preference. Everybody has a right to do what they want. That's just not me, because I enjoy driving them and listening to them and smelling the exhausts and the oil and hearing the sound of the wheels and the engine."

Tony and I sat back and relaxed. Driving the desert is a humbling experience. The road stretches out before you like an undulating ribbon in vast expanses of real estate. After 10 or 15 minutes, you make a turn, crest a rise in the road, and enter another valley.

I heard a thumping sound from inside the dash. Was this a problem? "Just the speedometer cable," Tony said.

I remember an old article about that. I'll have to check it out later. Tony didn't bat an eye-just kept tugging at that real-wood wheel through the twisties, enjoying every second of his real-world Shelby sports car.