Every year when Jim Wicks invites me to the Mid-America Shelby Meet, I initially decline because I need to attend some of the other June events around the country. Then Jim names the special cars and people coming to the show. In the end, I find myself on my company's travel website looking for a Southwest Airlines ticket to Tulsa.
This year, there was no need to hem and haw with Jim. In addition to the traditional something-for-everyone format, Carroll Shelby's new Team Shelby national club had announced its partnership with Mid-America to stage the first-ever Team Shelby Nationals in conjunction with all the regular happenings at Mid-America. Health permitting, Carroll Shelby was scheduled to be there along with the crew-Amy Boylin, Gary Patterson, Gary Davis, Jim Owens, and others-and a bunch of cars from Shelby Automobiles, including the new GT500KR and Terlingua Mustang. To top it off, the gang at the Boss 302 Registry was organizing one of its all-too-infrequent Boss Reunions for Tulsa, so a large number of Boss 302s, 351s, and 429s were expected.
There was no way I could miss it.
Now called the Mid-America Ford and Team Shelby Nationals, the gathering that Jim Wicks started as a local picnic in 1974 has grown into one of the must-see Ford events of the year. As we've noted on these pages many times before, Mid-America offers something for all Mustang and Ford performance enthusiasts: open track at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, an evening cruise, drag racing at Tulsa Raceway Park, car show at the host Southern Hills Marriott, a roving swap meet, and a Saturday night banquet with guest speakers and so many door prizes that almost everyone goes home with something. Not to mention the late-night golf cart races and Edsel tuning sessions in the Marriott parking lot.
With the addition of the Team Shelby Nationals, this year's Mid-America event broke every record for participation. I knew something was up when I arrived on Thursday afternoon and couldn't find a parking spot at the Marriott. After parking way in the back, I was greeted by a long line of people in the hotel lobby. I thought perhaps a Carroll Shelby autograph session was underway; it turned out to be the line for event registration. Later, the vehicle lineup for the evening cruise wrapped completely around the Marriott and surrounding facilities, nearly a full city block. Tulsa police later confirmed that at least 775 cars cruised into Tulsa's Brookside District. According to Jim, more than 1,300 Mustangs and Fords participated in the overall event.
"I was pleased to see that we still had a lot of vintage cars, especially with the influx of new Shelbys," Jim says. "We had people from Canada, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand."
Carroll Shelby made it to Tulsa and signed autographs during two sessions with his artist buddy Bill Neale and former Shelby-American team drivers Alan Grant and Tom Yeager.
The '09 Mid-America Ford and Team Shelby Nationals has tentatively been pushed back to the third week of June. Maybe that will alleviate my early June scheduling conflicts next year.