By Brett Turnage
Photography by Brett Turnage
The Shelby Bash celebrated the 60th anniversary of the company. It was held on September 29-October 2nd in and around the Las Vegas area with events happening in the Las Vegas metro area and in Pahrump, Nevada.
The Bash first started to celebrate Carroll Shelby’s birthday, but now it serves as the mecca for Shelby and Ford performance. A once-a-year festival that encompasses three full days of events where people can celebrate their love of driving and car culture. Events range from group competitions in the Poker Run, to driving down the Las Vegas strip in Snakes on the Strip, to lapping around the Las Vegas Motors Speedway’s oval while being led by a NASCAR cup car.
This year, The Bash hosted the Ford Youth Initiative, where high schoolers and college students attended workshops and presentations on the automotive community.
“We created the Ford Youth Initiative early this year to inspire young people to join the auto industry and possibly seek careers with Ford connected organizations,” said Jim Owens, Mustang and Shelby Brand Manager for Ford Motor Company. “The idea was to give kids a unique experience mixed with presentations by a variety of people in the industry. Some of those included Barrett-Jackson CEO Craig Jackson, Carroll Shelby’s grandson Aaron Shelby, Shelby American President Gary Patterson, pro drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr., Shelby Executive Vice President Tracey Smith, and Carlisle Events owner Lance Miller. We kicked it off at Barrett-Jackson in Florida, followed by Ford Carlisle and Myrtle Beach Mustang Week. The response has been amazing.”
“Thanks to our partners at Shelby, we brought the program to the 2022 Team Shelby Bash in Las Vegas. We hoped to host 25 kids at the track, which was the first time many of them had ever been to one. We ended up with 34 plus their chaperones, who listened to industry superstars, toured our latest vehicles, and enjoyed hot laps with pro drivers. Best of all, the mix of young people was diverse in age, gender, ethnicity, and interests. I think I was even more inspired by their interest and enthusiasm than they were at the event. From all the smiles and excitement at the track, the future looks to be in great hands!” said Owens.
These students were from local schools in the Vegas area. They were first shown the Ford booth by Mustang Marketing Manager of Ford Mustang and Shelby products, Jim Owens, who walked the students through the differences in Ford’s 2022 Mustang lineup.
First, he started with the history of the Mustang, showing an Original Venice Crew’s (OVC) cabriolet 1965 GT350 convertible—explaining how the GT350 gave the Mustang its fangs and its racing credibility before moving to the 2022 Ice White Mustang that celebrates the 1993 Triple Vibrant White Fox Body Mustang that it celebrates. Then Owens showed off the Mach 1 Ford Performance Racing School car, which is equipped with the 5.0L coyote motor with the transmission for the second generation GT350, before transitioning to TTR001, the first 2020 GT350R Heritage Edition that was painted in Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue vinyl stripes.
Owens’ finale was showing the students the 760-horsepower dual clutch transmission supercar—the 2022 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Heritage Edition that was equipped with the Carbon Fiber Track Package with Painted Wimbledon White Stripes. Side by side with Aaron Shelby, Carroll’s grandson, the two showed the group of 28 students with eight chaperones the Brittany Blue monster’s inner workings.
Around the GT500, Owens and Shelby popped the hood and showed off the supercharged 5.2L Predator engine to the students. Shelby pointed out the inverted 2.7L displacement supercharger which as Owens pointed out is larger than the 2.3L turbocharged engine that comes in the 330-horsepower Ecoboost Mustangs. The students crowded around the engine bay, and when the Ford team started the car so the students could hear the exhaust, cellphones and cameras came out as the students pressed closer for a better look and the idling monster.
After visiting Ford, the students moved over to the Shelby American tent where Shelby American President, Gary Patterson, and Shelby American Vice-President, Vince Laviolette introduced them to the Shelby Super Snake and their Pikes Peak GT500SE car.
Patterson and Laviolette explained how Shelby American’s job is to build upon the great cars that Ford provides customers with. They take it to more extreme places. Laviolette described the implementation of larger superchargers, more aerodynamics, and different suspension. Patterson was keen to point out that everything he does is about having fun and about celebrating the spirit of racing and being an enthusiast, he pressed upon the students that if you find a job that you love you never work a day in your life.
After the presentation, the students were taken to a classroom that usually hosts driver school students where they had lunch and where they were able to sit and listen to lectures by multiple members of the automotive community including Aaron Shelby, board member of Carroll Shelby International and grandson of Carroll Shelby; Raquel Slusher, Track Rentals & Events Coordinator for Spring Mountain; Tracey Smith, Executive Vice President of Carroll Shelby International; Matt Porath, Mindshare; Gary Patterson, President of Shelby American; and Jim Owens, Ford Mustang and Shelby Marketing Manager.
They all talked about how they got their start in other fields before finding their way to the automotive industry. They told their personal story and then expanded to how they found themselves in their current position. The main theme that every speaker said is that you have no idea what opportunities will come your way and where you’ll actually end up many speakers talked about how they first went to college or started in a completely different field than where they actually found themselves. They emphasized to the students that they need to keep their eyes open for opportunities that come their way as what you normally start your journey in is rarely where you’ll finish.
After lunch and after the lectures, the students got into lines for thrill rides in cars that would be driven around the Spring Mountain race track by professional race car drivers.
In one day, these students got the full experience from understanding the engineering of the vehicles to hearing lectures by automotive experts to ending with wearing helmets and balaclavas so they could actually feel what these cars can do when they’re released in anger around the track. Hopefully, some of these students were inspired to continue on and join the automotive community as a career.
The charity night which was held on Friday had its best night ever, raising the most money ever at a Shelby Bash. Held by the Carroll Shelby Foundation, the foundation that Shelby started in 1991, the organization flew in Leah Smith, a double transplant survivor and personal friend of Carroll Shelby, as well as North East Texas Community College Vice Chancellor, John McCullough.
Both Smith and McCullough spoke to the crowd after video segments of their personal story and relationship with Carroll Shelby played on the big screens that were on both sides of the room. They talked about how important charity was to Carroll Shelby. In the case of Smith, she highlighted the importance of the Foundation and what its assistance to her meant for her life, and what it means to other recipients. She explained to the crowd how important it is for people to consider becoming donors, and she talked about her personal friendship with Carroll Shelby and his relationship and views on being a transplant recipient.
McCullough spoke about how Carol turned his college’s fledgling automotive program which trains students to earn their certificate to become an automotive mechanic from a program that was faltering on the edge of closing its doors, to a program today that has served over 200 students and is placed them in well-paying jobs across the country.
Camilo Pardo, the designer of the 2005 and 2006 Ford GT, was on stage in the background with a brush and paint in hand, adding the final touches to two murals that he had brought. Scott black acted as auctioneer, and the first piece sold for over $20,000, and the second piece sold for around $14,000. All money was donated to the charity.
This charity night was a beautiful event that showed the other side of Carroll Shelby, which is not about cars, but instead is about helping others.
At multiple times during the night, video snippets were played, explaining the history of the foundation that really brought Carroll back to life through the stories of the people who knew him best. The snippets were small segments of the soon-to-be-released documentary, Carroll Shelby: Lasting Legacy, which explores his philanthropy.
The Shelby Bash was an amazing celebration of car culture, Ford, and Carol Shelby. Whether you want to drive around the race track at the two track days, or join cruises and play friendly games that take you all around the Las Vegas area, the Shelby bash is a destination that everyone should experience at least once.
When it was all said and done, the track was quiet, and the Casino Ballrooms were empty, but many will be remembering this event for the 365 days it will take until the next one comes around next year.