The Cobra Owner’s Club of America is recognized as one of California’s oldest car clubs, formed to preserve the cars and heritage of Shelby America. It started out with a few car-crazy buddies who just wanted a place to legally drive their cars fast (and safely). Lynn Park, Tom McIntyre and a few of their car-crazy buddies knew that if they could just get in good with a good track, they could give it a go for a season. They reached out to the new owner of Willow Springs Raceway, Bill Huth to just ask about the possibility of doing such a thing. Long story short, a deal was made, and the club was off and running.
McIntyre shared that back in those early days, a club member had to stop off at a local realtor’s office to pick up the gate key to let themselves in to the Willow Springs property for the weekend. The Cobra Owner’s Club of America is now in their 45th year of proudly hosting the semi-annual Cobras & Friends open track weekend at Willow Springs International Raceway (WSIR).
You don’t have to be a Cobra owner, just an enthusiast. As the club has grown, expansion now includes Shelby enthusiasts of most models. If it’s inspired by Carroll Shelby, your vehicle is welcome. This particular weekend, we saw a Falcon, RHD Cortina, Sunbeam Tiger, ASC Cobra, new and vintage Mustangs and more. Sometimes you’ll see modern showroom hot rods like SVTs and occasionally, semi-retired NASCARs and trans-am series cars.
This is NOT a race! It’s a two-day, (ladies’ and) gentlemen’s event where speed is welcome, but mutual respect and safety are king. A driver’s meeting is first on the schedule for Saturday morning and is mandatory for drivers and crew. Rules of the track are covered along with a Q&A session.
Car owners sign up and choose color-coded speed groups to run in, with yellow being novice and blue being most experienced. (When your color banner is posted, it’s your time to take the track for a 20 minute session, which repeats many times throughout the weekend.) Immediately following the meeting, newer drivers are encouraged to hop in a vanpool around the track for a three-lap live tutorial, given by any one of the veteran club members in attendance.
Later, a short but highly-informative classroom session is offered by pro driver instructor, Danny McKeever who gives tips on how to not “run out of talent” during your day at Willow. For the two-seaters, there are regularly scheduled passenger sessions, allowing you to take along a coach, family member or significant other out on this famous course (helmets required).
Since this event takes place in the California Mojave Desert, one of the hottest places on Earth, the club was wise in choosing spring (Mother’s Day) and fall (Halloween) as the standing order to gather at WSIR. So whether you want to get that snake or pony out of the stable to stretch its legs once in a while, or are looking to work on your driving skills and effectively shrink your lap times, this is the family-friendly learning event to do it at. Learn more at Cobraownersclub.org.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2016 print issue of the Drive Magazine.