As a rule, I don’t go to enthusiast shows, whether they’re car shows, dog shows, home shows or wine shows. Firstly, I don’t consider myself to be an enthusiast—AKA people who only talk about one thing. Of course, enthusiast behavior isn’t limited to car shows, and if I were ever invited to a Victoria’s Secret show, I would certainly go—but I don’t think there’s a lot of talking there, despite all the enthusiasts.
Second, looking at cars is like thinking about exercising – the wrong verb with the right noun. You do exercise. And you drive cars. Looking at a bunch of stationary cars makes me weep for the cold oil, quiet gears, and non-squealing tires.
But… with every rule comes exceptions, and there are a few car shows definitely worth attending. Most have famous names: Goodwood, Monterey, Amelia Island. But another car show snuck up on me: The 38th Annual Shelby American Automobile Club National Convention. Which needs a shorter name.
There were enthusiasts of course, but nobody was all googly-eyed and drooling. Except me. I was drooling because there were more original Shelby Cobras and Mustangs than I knew existed (as the old joke goes: “only 562 were made, and all 600 are here”) but all the examples were 100% genuine, and amazing.
How about a completely unrestored original 289 Cobra? How about one that the present owner bought new? How about the very one that was used in The Gumball Rally? And how about the fact that basically the only people there were the guys that owned the cars, and me.
And Peter Brock. A guy so famous in enthusiast circles that the Shelby folks have to battle with the Datsun guys who have to arm-wrestle with the Stingray geeks to get a moment of his time. He designed the original Stingray, built the most famous BRE (Brock Racing Enterprises) Datsun 510s and 240Zs, and was Shelby American’s first employee, first running the driving school, then designing the Daytona Coupe that went on to win the GT class at Le Mans. Here he was just a nice, down-to-earth guy who was hanging out with a Daytona Coupe that he designed. And drives. Daily. Not your average enthusiast.
Which brings us to Carroll Shelby himself. If it’s possible for a dead man to be somewhere, he was at the event. Although he tragically passed on last year, his legacy lives on, and he was in the conversations and thoughts of everyone at the event. He’s basically immortal.
And I spent the day joyously wandering around, looking at his creations, talking with the owners, and just having a really great time.
Damn you, Carroll Shelby. You made me an enthusiast.
PS: There are other car shows worth attending, mostly because there are great cars with only casual enthusiasm: Cars and Coffee, Supercar Sundays, and Mopars at the Mansion (which nicely integrates the aforementioned Victoria’s Secret show) to name a few…
[Related slideshow: Legacy of Carroll Shelby]