Back in the old days, some folks thought a horse was just a disposable tool to get their jobs done. They might ride a horse hard, until it was sweaty, panting and broken down. After that they would put it out to pasture without proper grooming. This is probably the origin of the expression “ridden hard and put away wet.” But for me, I can think of no way better to pay homage to a pedigree high-performance car.
I have been a member of several car owners’ organizations, which routinely have car shows. I had a good time and admit I came home with more than my fair share of trophies. But I have to be honest with you. That’s not my cup of tea. I would much rather be getting my shiny car covered with as much carbon, grime and brake dust as possible.
In 1990 there was a three-day event in Palm Springs, Calif., which was a tribute to Carroll Shelby. It consisted of The Palm Springs Road Races, a concours d’elegance and a dinner where Carroll was roasted by Jay Leno. I have had cars in some famous concours events, all of which were by invitation only, so being asked to bring my 1968 Shelby GT500, the only one the factory ever built with a 427, was an opportunity of a lifetime.
When we arrived in Palm Springs, I could not believe my eyes as I watched crews unload huge, custom enclosed trailers, many of which were air conditioned and lined with carpet. Crews in team uniforms and white gloves cautiously rolled the cars out. Even the tires had condoms on them to prevent the acid in grass from etching the authentic original tires. These were the best of the best, including Shelby Daytona coupes, A/C Cobras, GT500s, GT350s and so on, all of which were the real deal.
At the end of the day, a helicopter arrived and there was Carroll Shelby himself. Certain cars were selected to drive onto the stage to receive their trophies. I was humbled to have my car included with many beautiful machines, which were the finest examples in the world. Halfway through the show, I was instructed to hurry and get in the back of the line of cars to drive on stage.
As I drove onto the stage, I could hear my wife and kids cheering the loudest. Then they gave Carroll the microphone.
“When I was asked to judge best of show today, I knew it was going to be a difficult decision, and the truth is I didn’t want to do it,” he said. “But as I walked around looking at all these beautiful cars, I happened to notice this one right here owned and driven by Gary Faules. I have known Gary for many years and what I like best about this car is not only is it driven, but Gary drives the hell out it. To be honest with you, when I built these cars, I built them to have the crap beaten out of them. Gary put his entire family in this car and drove all the way from San Francisco, then pulled a garden hose out of the trunk, washed it and will drive it back home again. That is exactly what I enjoy about this car and that’s why I am awarding Gary with best of show.”
I’m sure NASA members appreciate this way of thinking and understand how good it feels to use a tool for the purpose for which it was intended. So next time you feel the need to ride it hard and put it away wet, there is no better place than a NASA event to enjoy your car, and to become part of a long lineage of racing history.