SAAC 35,California Style!
The Shelby American Automobile Club Took Its 35th National Convention To Northern California
From the January, 2011 issue of Mustang Monthly
By Eric English
Photography by Eric English
We've long known the Shelby American Automobile Club to run a first rate annual convention, but the 2010 rendition, held at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, over the August 27-29 weekend, turned out to be about as good as it gets. With car shows, road racing, drag racing, and evening programming featuring legendary guests, there was certainly something for everyone.
Beyond the aforementioned, what made SAAC 35 truly special was the quantity of historically significant cars. While we'd agree that every Shelby American product is significant, we're speaking of the cream of the crop, which understandably weren't all Mustangs. Carroll Shelby would never have connected with the original pony car if it weren't for the Cobras that came before.
And speaking of Cobras, arguably the best of the best was on display. The late Larry Miller's family came through with several over-the-top cars from their collection, but the one we're alluding to is the Cobra Daytona Coupe that won the GT class at the 1964 24 Hours of LeMans. Just six of these Peter Brock penned beauties were constructed, and the Miller car is arguably the most significant. Talk about history!
Of course, Mustangs were in abundance as well, with some of the angriest racers to grace the planet present and accounted for. That's one of the best attributes of SAAC events-the commitment to continued enjoyment of these great cars at speed. This year included three days of road race/open track activities, along with an evening of drag racing on the world-class Infineon quarter-mile. Long-time drag racing devotee Randy Gillis was instrumental in the return of this activity to the SAAC curriculum, and our hat is off to him and club officials for recognizing and embracing this form of participatory fun.
While we're patting folks on the back, we'd like to include a big attaboy to the members of SAAC's NorCal Region, who put off their annual Mini-Nats event to support the national club when they came to the west coast. The end result was surely an event to remember.
Engine exotica is something...
Engine exotica is something we're always interested in, and few underhood views were more impressive than this Boss 302 in a '69 Bud Moore team car. Cleaner than any period racer could ever have been, this engine sports the dual Holley Dominator/offset distributor setup that was used exclusively during the '69 Trans-Am season.
This is 5R002, the first R-model...
This is 5R002, the first R-model GT350, and a virtual wonder car since birth. Not only did 5R002 score the first victory for a GT350 in SCCA competition, it went on to many other B-Production wins in 1965 in the hands of Ken Miles, Jerry Titus, and Chuck Cantwell. With the car are the Shelby American employees who literally made this car come to life: from right to left, GT350 project engineer Chuck Cantwell, 002 fabricator Jerry Schwarz, designer Peter Brock, and fabricator Tom Marietta. 5R002 appears as discovered in Mexico in 1989, but a recent change in ownership will likely bring a full restoration in the coming years.
Befitting a Shelby event,...
Befitting a Shelby event, Shelby American had a nice display of their current wares, including a GT500 Super Snake and Shelby GT concept car.
It's always intriguing to...
It's always intriguing to see the matchups during a drag event, and here we had two of the quickest factory Mustangs ever produced. In this instance, the Terminator Cobra pulled away from the GT500 Super Snake.
Certainly inspired by Shelby,...
Certainly inspired by Shelby, and doubly fitting for the California venue, was Mike Jewell's rare S-code '68 GT/CS. A number of '68 California Specials were present at SAAC 35 in their own specific display area.
Mark Hovander brought 5S003,...
Mark Hovander brought 5S003, the first GT350 ever completed, and the photo car for much of the early Shelby American promotional material. Also known as the Street Prototype, 003 has been in R-model guise for decades, but is due to be returned to original specs in the next few years.
While not exactly a barn find,...
While not exactly a barn find, Cory Hitchcock did find this '66 GT350 in 1986 in an Oklahoma warehouse. Making the deal took years, but by then the timing wasn't right for Hitchcock to purchase 6S1640. He made good friend Glenn Giaimo aware of the opportunity, who pulled the trigger and took the plunge. A restoration awaits.
Most, but not all, cars at...
Most, but not all, cars at SAAC 35 had Shelby history-a case in point being Todd Sprague's '70 Boss 429. Absolutely stunning in its original shade of Calypso Coral, we were told that its fresh restoration had been finished in the wee hours of the morning before Saturday's judged show.
The garages of Infineon Raceway...
The garages of Infineon Raceway were a beehive of activity for the competitive road race types.
A nice smattering of authentic...
A nice smattering of authentic Trans-Am competitors were running hard, lap after lap. Seen here is Forrest Straight's '70, Gary Goeringer's '68, and Ken Adams' '69.
Randy Gillis had his 10-second...
Randy Gillis had his 10-second capable '66 GT350H (yes, white/blue) running hard on Friday night, but unfortunately came up wounded on this pass against Shelby American's new '11 GT350.
GT350 Road Tour
The day before SAAC 35's Friday kickoff, a group of purposefully early arrivers gathered for what you might call a pregame warm-up. Motivated by the presence of original GT350 project engineer Chuck Cantwell, his wife Carol, and the couple's recently purchased '66 GT350, first-gen GT350 owners organized a fun-filled road trip through the back roads of Northern California. We were fortunate to be along for the ride in the '65 Mustang GT convertible of area resident Brian Ferrin, who graciously plotted out our day and functioned as tour guide extraordinaire.
We found parking at a premium...
We found parking at a premium during a fuel stop in a small coastal town. Three of our party did get into this lot: from front to back, the '66s of Chuck and Carol Cantwell, Dave McDonald, and Dave Lennartz.
We snapped this shot while...
We snapped this shot while our party was inside tasting Sonoma Valley wines . . . Jim Boyd's carryover '66 and Mark Hovander's 5S003 lead the lineup.
Our group took up a number...
Our group took up a number of courtyard tables at the Union Hotel, where stories were swapped over a fantastic lunch. Having the Cantwells (far right) present with us this day was a real treat.
Major props go to Allen Cheng...
Major props go to Allen Cheng and family, who not only accompanied us on our Thursday drive in their gorgeous '66 GT350H, but also drove the car straight through from Vancouver, British Columbia, to SAAC 35 on Wednesday. That's right, no trailer, and they had the bugs on the front of the car to prove it!
The group tallied an intimate seven '65-'66 GT350s, a wonderfully manageable number. Beyond the joy of being on the road with a pack of Shelby Mustangs, highlights of the day included driving through groves of Coast Redwoods, the scenic Pt. Reyes National Seashore, lunch at the historic Union Hotel in Occidental, and wine tasting in the Sonoma Valley. In all, it was surely one of the weekend highlights.