LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The 2022 Shelby Bash celebrated the 60th anniversary of Shelby American as a company, and was hosted in and around Las Vegas with events happening in the Las Vegas metro area and out 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. It has become 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 was held from November 29th to October 2nd and 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,” Owens continued. “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!”
These students were from local schools in the Vegas area. They were first shown the Ford booth by Owens himself, who walked the students through the differences in Ford’s 2022 Mustang lineup.
First, he started with 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. He then moved to the 2022 Ice White Mustang that is named for 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 V-8 with the transmission from the second-generation GT350, before finally 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 noted 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 Americans job is to build upon the great cars that Ford provides for its customers. They simply take it to “more extreme places.” Laviolette described the implementation of larger superchargers, more aerodynamics and different suspensions. 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 driving school students, where they had lunch and 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 of Mindshare; Gary Patterson, President of Shelby American; and Owens, who is 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. The told their personal stories, and then expanded them to talk about how they found themselves in their current positions. The main theme that every speaker carried was that you have no idea what opportunities will come your way or where you’ll actually end up. Many of the 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, because where you 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 event’s charity night held on Friday had its best night ever, raising the most money ever at a Shelby Bash. Hosted 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 stories 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 has meant to her in her life and what it means to other recipients. She explained how important it is for people to consider becoming donors, and she talked about her personal friendship with Carroll and his views on being a transplant recipient.
McCullough spoke about how Carroll turned around his college’s fledgling automotive program. It went from a faltering program that trained a handful of students to earn their certificate to become an automotive mechanic on the edge of closing its doors, to a program today that has grown to over 200 students and has placed them in well-playing 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, with the second piece selling for around $14,000. All of the 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 about helping others.
At multiple times during the event, video snippets were played that explained the history of the Foundation. These served to bring Carroll back to life through the stories of the people who knew him best. The snippets were actually small segments of a soon-to-be-released documentary, “Carroll Shelby: Lasting Legacy,” which explores his philanthropy.
The 2002 Shelby Bash was a collective celebration of car culture, Ford, and Carol Shelby. Whether you want to drive around a 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 has become an annual destination event that every enthusiast should experience at least once.
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS / COURTESY BRETT TURNAGE