2022 GT350 Tour – Cruising in the Ozarks

Shelby GT350 Tour

Recently we had the opportunity to participate in the 2022 GT350 Tour. These types of tours have been growing in popularity over the recent years and it is no wonder why. Being able to drive your car over a week, usually about 1,000 miles, with other collector car owners is very appealing and fun! For many, it is the most miles they will put on a car in a year. It helps to justify all the maintenance, insurance costs and other factors involved in car ownership. And you get to do so with a group of similar enthusiasts!

The idea for a GT350 Tour began in 2015 when Tom Cotter (of the “Barn Find” book fame) decided to organize a tour for the 50th Anniversary of the GT350 in North Carolina. Tom also organizes the east coast Cobra Tour each year, so it was a natural extension for him. But running two tours a year can be extremely time consuming, so the 2015 Tour was essentially a one off and Tom Cotter continued with his Cobra Tour. But he had given a taste to the GT350 owners out there and once they had a taste, they wanted more. Enter Ford and Shelby enthusiast Lee Cross.

Enter Lee Cross

Lee had participated in the Tour in 2015 and thought it was too much fun not to continue. Lee’s first GT350 Tour was in 2017 enjoying the many wonderful roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In 2018, Lee moved the Tour north to the Lake George, NY area and the Adirondack Mountain roads. For the following year, 2019, the Tour moved to the Ozarks and the wonderful roads of Arkansas and Missouri. In 2020 Lee invited his group to come to the Hill Country of Texas just outside of San Antonio. Last year, 2021, the event took place in Hershey, PA immediately following the AACA Fall Meet. This year, by popular demand, the GT350s returned to the Ozarks.

Each year the number of cars has grown so much that Lee has a waiting list full of Shelby enthusiasts hoping someone else will drop out. The first GT350 Tour included just 13 cars, but this year 39 GT350s hit the roads of Arkansas and Missouri. It’s become such a popular event that Lee estimates five or six tour participants bought GT350s just to join in the fun!

2022 Tour - Big Names on Hand

Most cars that participated this year were 1965 and 1966 models. But there were also a 1967 GT350 and a 1969 GT350 Convertible in the group. Four original 1966 GT350H four-speed Hertz cars were in the Tour as well – a strong showing considering only 85 were built and even fewer survive to this day.

As one can imagine, logistics has become a major part of organizing the Tour. Meals for almost 80 people, parking along the way, gas stops where there are enough pumps so that 40 cars aren’t stretched out into the street are all part of the extensive planning that goes into the event.

No mechanical support was provided on the Tour as the GT350’s are not only reliable but across the 39 cars you had 39 GT350 experts to help with their experience (and tools) should anyone have an issue.

There were also Shelby veterans invited on the Tour. Chuck Cantwell, Project Engineer for the GT350 race and street car program, was in attendance as was Bernie Kretzschmar who was a mechanic for the GT350 R Model race cars. And Peter Miles, son of Ken Miles and an accomplished mechanic – formerly the crew chief for Ivan “Iron Man” Stewart’s Baja campaigns, currently the executive director of one of the world’s foremost private car collections – was also driving a GT350 for the week.

2022 GT350 Tour - Day by Day

The event began on Sunday evening with a welcome cocktail hour in the parking lot where the cars were unloaded prior to the event. Followed by a dinner where participants saw old tour friends and made new ones. Monday morning the drivers meeting took place at 8:00 am in the parking lot where the drivers and navigators would receive any last-minute instructions or updates. The route that day was more than 300 miles and contained some nice roads and fall foliage. A group photo of the cars was staged outside while lunch took place at a riverside inn.

Day Two brought some heavy rain. Most, undeterred by wet weather, proceeded on that day’s route where there was half an inch of rain per hour at times. Wednesday has always been a down day so that tour participants can enjoy local activities and sightseeing of their choice. Thursday and Friday brought more great roads (and great weather) for a total of over 1,000 miles in the week. Friday night was the farewell dinner and costume party.

Costumes, Community, Cars

Occurring so close to Halloween, it’s become tradition for Tour participants to dress in costume for the last day and evening. We had a couple of Elvis’s, a Billy Gibbons, a ketchup and mustard container, and just about any costume one could imagine. One couple came in Bavarian Octoberfest attire and even switched cars for the last day, bringing an early Porsche 912 to drive complete with 2022 GT350 Tour decals on it!

Considering all the time required of him to organize this tour each year, we wondered why Lee goes to all the trouble. He doesn’t make any money from the tour, everything is priced at cost – which can sometimes leave him on the wrong side of the bottom line – but he loves doing it and the reason is simple. His greatest satisfaction from the tour comes at the end of each day when all the participants are gathered in the parking lot around all of the GT350s simply having a great time together. That sense of community and the love of Shelbys is what drives Lee to continue organizing the tour each year.

At the end of the evening goodbyes were said by all and every single participant said, “See you next year!” We can’t wait for the next one!