People came from all around the world including Norway, France, and as far as Asia to attend the 2019 Shelby Bash held in Las Vegas with track events happening an hour away at Spring Mountain resort in Pahrump, NV. The event allows Shelby enthusiast to attend events that celebrate the spirit of life of Carrol Shelby and the cars that carry his name. Created as a family event there are multiple events occurring simultaneously so you can choose to either go to the track and race around the beautiful resort motorsports park or spend your time in group events like Snakes on the Strip of the famed Shelby Scavenger Hunt which sends participants around the city looking for clues in a friendly team competition. The Carroll Shelby Charity Fund also has a presence with a silent auction, and a special heart transplant recipient attending and joining in the fun. The event has become such a big draw, 400 participants showed up with their gleaming Fords.
The Shelby Bash was launched by Team Shelby on Carroll’s 85th birthday. The “Shelby Bash is a celebration of the Shelby lifestyle… it started on Carroll’s 85th birthday. We did a birthday bash for Carroll, which he was kind of pissed off about because he never wanted to trouble anybody, and we brought out all of his friends from Ford. From that, it evolved it into the Team Shelby Bash and we’ve just been carrying it on. It used to occur on his birthday, we moved it because a lot of the people that we have coming, come from different parts of the country, and we needed to move it so they could drive their cars out. January was too hard on people living the East Coast and some of the other states,” says Tracey Smith, Executive Vice President of Licensing & Media Relations, Carroll Shelby International, Inc. and head to Team Shelby.
“[The] Shelby Bash is a celebration of the Shelby lifestyle. That includes people that like to track, people who like to have fun just enjoying their cars. We do poker runs, scavenger hunts, and banquets where we talk about the Carroll Shelby Foundation that was near and dear to Carroll’s heart. It really is about bringing people together and again, it’s about everybody. We even have a core event, you don’t even have to own a Shelby to be a part of Team Shelby, and to be a part of the Bash. Carroll worked with all manufacturers. He worked with Toyota—everybody. This event is about bringing people together. We started out as a meet and greet. Some people have been here all 12 years. We do have a real up of new people too. 40% of the people who came last year were new—they’ve never been, and that’s really, I think, with Ford Motor Company with the GT350 and now we’re launching the GT500, I anticipate that with next year’s Bash we are going to have new people who are coming out with GT500s that we can embrace, and let them have fun,” exclaims Smith.
“Shelby is an enthusiast driven brand. It’s hard to describe, but it is just the passion that runs through the community. It brings people together. They feel it, and they connect to each other, and I think that’s indicative of automotive in general—automotive brings people together, and Carroll was all about people. As much as he loved making cars go faster, and winning the races, and his greatest accomplishments and winning Le Mans, working with Ford Motor Company—it really was all about the people for Carrol. We carry that today with the club. I’ve been with the club for about 4 years, we do enthusiast events all over the world, in fact in this event with have people from the UK, Norway, China, and France. We launched the brand last year in France and also in the UK and we did a 14-day tour in Europe, the passion is universal” (Smith).
Many of Shelby’s original mechanics and race car drivers from the 1960s come to the event including Allen Grant, Ted Sutton, and Jim Marietta. Although, to these people they had no idea that their racing exploits and projects that they worked on over 50 years ago, would be held to much acclaim and still honored by so many people—for them they were just doing a job or trying to develop cars that would win races. Still, they are treated like royalty at the event, sitting in VIP booths and signing autographs for fans.
Shelby Bash is a celebration of the Shelby lifestyle…
Smith illustrates how the original Shelby workers attending the Bash means to the event: “it means everything to have the original Shelby race car drivers and mechanics here, again about Carroll, a lot of the people who worked for Carroll in the 60s said that it was infectious—they had to win, they had to win these races, people like Jim Marietta—50 plus years ago, and they were building these cars and they’re back. I think it’s really important that people recognize the heritage, and the history of Shelby because it’s true to what we do today. I think that if it wasn’t true to what we do today, it would be so obvious. The fact that we bring everybody in, and they’re a big part of it. We have them go out to events—actually Jim Marietta came to France last year, he was a part of the event that we did there last year, he shipped his car out, got it on the track at the proving grounds for Ford. It was really cool. This history of Carroll is obvious, and there is a film coming out and I think it is going to capture a small amount of the whole story, and again it goes back to the people, and the people who are still involved today. When something special like that happens, you don’t forget it and it carries on and it lives on. And even know Carroll has been gone for six years”.
Aaron Shelby, Carroll Shelby’s grandson attended the Bash, but his focus was on the Carroll Shelby Foundation, the charity that Carroll Shelby started and loved after his heart transplant. Aaron Shelby spoke on the charity’s involvement in the Shelby Bash and pre-celebration festivities: “So, we had two components that went to the foundation that night. The silent auction piece revolved around the casino gaming, so people could buy dollars for gaming and the proceeds went to the foundation. We also auctioned one live auction off, it was a cobra statute, we received—it was around $1200 for that, but something that we’ve really tried to build into team Shelby events in the last 3-4 years, is the association with the Carroll Shelby Foundation, and getting people to recognize the foundation and that was really something official that Carroll wanted to continue on, and really have his legacy represent.”
“[Carroll] started the foundation back in 1990 originally after he had his heart transplant, and at that point decided that it was critical for him to help support, at the time children—it could just be other people going through the transplant process—and so that was something always important for him to support. When he was alive, he could go auction cars or he would sign his autographs, it was a fairly simplistic way to raise money for the foundation. Today we have to be a little more creative because he’s not around anymore, so by tying in the foundation to team Shelby events, it’s really generated more awareness of the foundation, and it’s really generated more support, so not only do we get the financial commitment off of some silent auction items or gaming items, but we get people who think about it more on a year-round basis, and look at it more as an annual, or like their local charity where they give $50 or a $100 to the Shelby foundation, and that is something that we really want to drive home, and by doing special fundraisers at the team Shelby events, it just continues to emphasize the importance of the foundation”, said Shelby.
Attending the event were transplant survivors like a young girl named Holly who joined festive teams with other Bash attendees. In the end, Holly’s Scavenger Hunt team won, and she was awarded a medal along with her teammates, that proudly hung around her neck during the remainder of the award ceremony.
[Carroll] started the foundation back in 1990 originally after he had his heart transplant, and at that point decided that it was critical for him to help support, at the time children
In all, the charity took in around $12,000 in donations throughout the entire Bash week.
The two-day track event was held in Pahrump, NV at Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club, located about an hour away from Shelby American Inc.’s Las Vegas location. The track is placed in the desert, under the gaze of snowcapped mountains. The cars that showed up ranged from 1960s Mustangs, a 1965 OVC Continuation G.T.350 Competition, multiple modern sixth-generation Mustang GTs, Shelby GTs, and Super Cobras, and many Shelby GT350s and GT350Rs. Also, in attendance was a 2018 Ford GT owned by Camilo Pardo, the designer of the 2005-2006 Ford GT, who drove his new supercar all the way across the country from Michigan. The event was open to anyone, no matter what car you have you were welcome at the event, and other brands did show up including a Jetta R, Dodge Challenger, and Camaro ZL1.
The track day events are meant to allow people to enjoy the racing aspect of Shelby, as well as allow them to learn about the performance of their cars, and to have a fun day at the track. The drivers are broken up into different groups based on skill level, and everyone is encouraged to be safe, and have fun. Shelby American and OVC had their cars at the ready on the track to give rides to attendees. The cars were driven by Shelby American Inc. race car drivers Gary Patterson, Vince Laviolette, and Rick Titus. All three men are more detailed in their daily lives, Patterson is the President of Shelby Inc., Laviolette is the VP of Operations, and Titus, son of Jerry Titus, is a radio host on Drivers Talk Radio, but today their job was to act as thrill ride directors as they took passenger on a high-speed lap around the track in either the high horsepower Super Cobras or the 1965 G.T. 350 Competition. The lines sometimes looked like the cues at Disneyland as almost everyone in attendance wanted a seat on Shelby’s own mobile House of Horrors.
Honoring the track day attendees was the 2020 GT500, equipped in the carbon fiber package with its high downforce producing aero package. It sat at the Ford Performance booth, next to a 2019 GT350 with its new wing and Gurney Flap. On the second day, the GT500 led a parade lap, driven by Jim Owens of Ford Performance with Aaron Shelby (grandson of Carroll Shelby), riding shotgun in the passenger seat.
The track day events are meant to allow people to enjoy the racing aspect of Shelby, as well as allow them to learn about the performance of their cars, and to have a fun day at the track.
The final night of the event was the banquet held in the museum back at Shelby’s Las Vegas location. It was held in the museum. Chairs and tables were laid out, almost all the cars had been removed, and a stage had been erected near the far wall. The 2020 GT500 placed at the rear, cordoned off by velvet ropes. Nearby was CSX2000, the first Shelby Cobra ever made. A life-sized cutout of Shelby stood by the car. Attendees of the bash dressed in their best clothes and many sat at tables that represented teams that they had formed at events like the scavenger hunt.
Patterson gave speeches about Shelby’s history, new projects, direction. Owens represented Ford, describing the new GT500 and explained the enthusiasm of the mustang and Shelby community, as well as the long historic history of Ford and Shelby. Scott Black, PR for Shelby
The second trophy to be given out was the Keeper of the Flame award, which is a new award that recognizes a person that made significant effort to continue the Shelby legacy. Larry Miller, who won CSX2000 the first Shelby Cobra ever made, and who offered the car for display at the Shelby Museum in Las Vegas.
Parnelli is a special individual and he is just grace on fire.
For the last five Shelby Bashes, the Shelby Spirit Award has been given out. The award which is designed with a rectangle wooden base, with a brass 427 Cobra sitting atop, ‘painted in the iconic Shelby Blue with white stripes. The award reads “Presented to____ who embodies the ingenuity, tenacity, and grit of a true automotive icon”. This year, the award was presented to none other than the great and iconic Parnelli Jones.
The Spirit Award is “about recognizing people who contributed so much to automotive. When I was at Parnelli’s office the other day, what I thought was really cool, was that we were interviewing him about what he did over the years, and on his wall, he had a poster of his Bronco, and he said: “I did that for fun.” And it was like “Whoa!” and everyone paused. It’s just priceless, we spent half a day just talking to him—the memories and the people. Parnelli is a special individual and he is just grace on fire. Every year we try to find somebody that we can honor that brings that spirit forward,” illustrates Smith.
Laviolette describes why he believes Parnelli exemplifies the award: “Parnelli had always been one of the people that I’ve looked up in racing over the years, and that is the iconic name, and to finally meet the person. It was kind of neat, working with Carroll all the years, you get to meet all the people. They just come in as his buddies, and it was uninhibited to talk to these people because they were friends of Carroll’s. It wasn’t like you were meeting some iconic guy and you were afraid to talk—we could just stop and talk like we talk. Now that we were giving him the award, I really had some time to sit down, and discuss cars and tell him what we’re doing in the business and how things are progressing. Where Shelby has actually gone from where we were to where we are now, so it was neat to talk to him and give him the perspective that we have going, and then to listen to the stories that he told about the early days of his racing. It was just a really good day to talk about the motorsports business.”
“Parnelli was a well-rounded race driver”, continues Laviolette, “[he] was in with Carroll early. He got the drive one of Carroll’s cars, he got into Indy, he got into Off-Road racing. We wanted to honor that by coming out with a truck for him, so we could put Parnelli’s name back out in the public, but after talking with him—he’s a very straight forward man, and he’s going to tell you like it is, and he wanted to do a project with us, but he didn’t believe that he could give 100% to the project, so he didn’t want to go forward. He’s at a point in his life where it’s time to relax, he doesn’t have the energy to get in front of people and we respect. He was so excited. He wanted to be a part of the launch of the trucks, he wanted 100% apart of what we were proposing to him, but reality is, he didn’t that he could contribute enough, so that’s where we are”.
“He’s such a well-rounded racer. He came up from dirt, went all the way up to NASCAR, the road racing, the formula cars, the off-road cars, there aren’t racers who are like that anymore, who start from grassroots and bring it all the way up to where you are a household name. There aren’t people like that. Working for Carroll, you kind of get complacent with these iconic people. You want everyone to know about, but unless you followed the history—they [people] have no idea why we have NASCAR racing; they have no idea why we have Formula 1 racing, they know that it’s on tv, but they have no idea where it actually came from, and us in the business, we have the passion because of these guys who started the grassroots. They brought us all the way through,” said Laviolette.
“What a nice piece, look at that gorgeous piece. Shelby was such a great friend of mine. Great admirer of mine, as well as all the great things that he’s done. We had our ups and downs, [laughter]—not bad.
“We went all the way from four-cylinder racing, all the way up to big V8s doing 150 mph across the desert. That doesn’t happen anymore. We get these new drivers, they come up and they are a flash in a pan for two years, and then they kind of die and a younger kid comes in, Parnelli is a guy that started out as a young kid and ran it all the way, right till the end, so that is what is exciting for us. I want younger people to know that it took people like Parnelli to build the groundwork to be where we are today in the motorsports racing (Laviolette).
Parnelli speaks on what it means to receive the award “What a nice piece, look at that gorgeous piece. Shelby was such a great friend of mine. Great admirer of mine, as well as all the great things that he’s done. We had our ups and downs, [laughter]—not bad. The fact that I was Firestone and he was Goodyear, so he left conversations a lot of time with his managers, Peyton Cramer and Al Dowd, but I enjoyed him. He called me up once in a while, and said ‘Good Day, Ruff’—he called me Ruff, ‘let’s have lunch.’ I have a picture on the wall of one time he showed up, and I just enjoyed my relationship with him, such a close friend, and somebody that meant so much to each of us at the time, and we miss him greatly.”
The 2019 Shelby Bash was a huge success. It honored Carroll Shelby, his legacy, and also honored one of his dearest friends, and iconic race car legend Parnelli Jones, while treating the fans to the first private showing of the new 2020 GT500. Next year, the Bash will a lot to top.