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Business

April 28, 2013

Hot-rod company driving in new directions

Twenty-one-year-old Taylor Dankel darts around a quick corner of the racetrack and buries the throttle.

The supercharged, 650-horsepower V-8 in his father’s modified 2008 Shelby Mustang GT500KR lets out a guttural roar.

It’s a scene that would have put a smile on the face of Shelby American’s founder, Carroll Shelby. An automotive icon whose career evolved from chicken farmer to world-class racer, engineer and businessman, Shelby died in May 2012 at the age of 89.

But his legacy is everywhere on this windy day in Pahrump, Nev., about an hour outside of Las Vegas.

Shelby Mustangs of every age and color underscore Shelby’s rich history of hot-rodding one of America’s most important sports cars, the Ford Mustang. Roughly 275 owners and fans of Shelby vehicles have traveled from around the country for Shelby American’s sixth annual Shelby Bash.

This year’s gathering is significant not only for the quiet sadness over Shelby’s absence. In the wake of his death, Shelby American is a company in transition to new cars, hot-rod parts and sources of revenue beyond just the modified pony car.

Later in the day, Dankel got a firsthand look at one of those new products, hopping into all-new Shelby Focus ST for a few hot laps with test driver Gary Patterson. The small, front-wheel-drive car, based on the turbocharged Ford Focus ST, aims to pull in younger buyers and those who want a more civilized Shelby for daily driving.

He wouldn’t give up his 2001 Mustang Bullitt, but Dankel came away impressed with the Shelby Focus ST.

“You get one of these smaller cars but still have the throttle response of a Shelby,” Dankel said. “It was great around the turns, even with four people in it. It’s really a fun car.”

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