Talking Shelby with Gary Patterson, President of Shelby American
By John Legan
If you are a fan of the vehicles produced by Shelby American chances are you are familiar with their charismatic leader Gary Patterson. As the current president of the company started by the late great Carroll Shelby, Patterson is the face of Shelby at many of the Shelby American and Team Shelby events across the country.
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Gary at the Inaugural Barrett-Jackson Northeast Auction last year at Mohegan Sun Casino in CT. After being introduced he asked what got me interested in Mustangs. For me it was a 1989 Mustang LX that my dad purchased when I was 12 years old. When I turned 16 I was handed the keys and eventually swapped the 2.3L 4 cylinder for a 5.0L V8 out of a GT. Gary’s interest in Mustangs also started with parental influence. “Actually it all started with my father. He bought a 289 High Performance Mustang convertible. I used to sit in the back seat with a little box that he made so I could see out. That was probably not exactly your child approved safety seat but I’m still here” Patterson explained.
His first car is one any Mustang enthusiast would love to own and he still has it to this day. “My first car was a 1969 Mach 1 428CJ 4 speed. I bought it when I was 16 with money I made mowing lawns”. Other Mustangs in Patterson’s stable include “the Shelby Code Red experimental” a prototype from Shelby American and Nelson Racing Engines based on a 2008 Shelby GT500, “the first with 1,000 horses at the tires with the turbos. It is a bad boy. A lot of fun! I’ve also got a 2016 Shelby GT350R so I have a passion for Mustangs”.
Talking with Gary it is obvious he enjoys what he does. I told him it was clear he doesn’t just talk the talk. “Oh, I walk the walk too. I do this because I love it. Every one of my cars gets time on the track” replied Patterson.
I asked where the Ford built GT350 falls in the performance hierarchy with the Super Snake, Terlingua, and Shelby GT. “It is very interesting” Patterson explained, “ the GT350R is a fabulous car for the street and very competent on the track. The Terlingua we’ve got or the Super Snake are very similar in that they are very track capable. We’ve upgraded the wheels, tires, suspension, and all of that. You take that Coyote 5 liter engine and put a supercharger on it and make over 750 horsepower. So now you’ve got a muscle car that is very powerful. There’s really not a one’s better than the other, one’s more of a track focus, the other is kind of a track/street car. We’ve also got the Shelby GT with the 4 cylinder, the Shelby GT with the V8 naturally aspirated or supercharged”. Basically Shelby American offers a complete range of cars that has something to suit the needs of every enthusiast.
Our interview took place within the Shelby American display near the auction block staging lanes. On display were the Shelby Terlingua and Super Snake. They were highly detailed show cars but if you follow Gary Patterson on social media (@drivingpatterson on Facebook and Instagram) you will recognize some of these same cars on the track. Patterson summed it up best. “The Super Snake, the yellow Terlingua, the Shelby GT- Those are the same cars we ran on the track last week. We ran them hard for 4 or 5 days in a row. Today they are show cars. What we do is we show people that although they’re very competent on the track oh by the way they are show cars and we drive them too. We’ve got our rig here for the shows but other than that we drive them. Those cars have probably between 12 to 14 thousand miles on them. About half of those are on the track”. These Shelby Mustangs are no bare bones track only racers either by any stretch of the imagination. “Take a car like that, race it at the track and at the end of the day when everybody is loading their trailers, hit your air conditioner button, select the right song on the radio and drive away”.
Before talking with Patterson during the Barrett-Jackson event I had seen him a few weeks earlier on the center stage at the Carlisle Ford Nationals showing off a new Shelby GT-H to a crowd of eager enthusiasts. This year he was back at Carlisle showing the 50th Anniversary Super Snake during an action packed Team Shelby weekend that included a track day at nearby Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia and a red carpet movie premiere in downtown Carlisle. Shelby American and Team Shelby travel the country attending various events. “What it boils down to is we like to go where our people live. We’ve got family throughout the country and around the world. The brand is global but primarily we tour the United States” stated Patterson. If you attend a Team Shelby event it’s likely you’ll run into Gary Patterson, often behind the wheel of a Shelby Mustang. He’s down to earth, an experienced performance driver, an expert of all things Shelby, and a true Mustang enthusiast. I enjoyed the time we had together to sit and talk Mustang.
Team Shelby was originally created in 2008 by Carroll Shelby as a club for people who enjoy their cars. Team Shelby has a full series of events including VIP experiences, track days, national and regional gatherings, cruises, and car shows. The best part is that ownership of a Shelby is not required to be a member. All you need to have is a passion for Shelby cars. For more information, check out www.teamshelby.com.
For information on Shelby American and the current line of performance vehicles, check out www.shelbyamerican.com.
Follow Gary Patterson and his latest adventures at www.drivingpatterson.com.
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Project Code Red images courtesy of Shelby American.