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Making High Performance Dreams Come True

  • 26 June 2024
  • Author: SAI-JohnE
  • Number of views: 345
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Making High Performance Dreams Come True

Editor’s note:Vice president of Operations Vince LaViolette is cut from the same cloth as Shelby icons such as Ken Miles and Phil Remington. Since joining Shelby in 1999, the native Californian has been involved in every aspect of vehicle development and production at the automaker. His duties include production line management, R&D, new product initiatives and integration with Team Shelby activities. When Vince is not inside the production facility, he is the lead test driver for the company.

As an employe of Shelby American for 22+ years, I have experienced some of the most awesome cars and trucks in the world. I am privileged to test and develop current models, while also design vehicles that we will manufacture far into the future. It is so fun to take my talent of seeing a design in my mind and then manufacture it for those that love the brand, as well as newcomers who have never experienced Shelby.

But the best part of the job was working with Carroll Shelby. I have spoken with guys who part of Shelby American during the racing days, and they said he was hard to work for at that time. He was a real “no BS” kind of guy.

Luckily, he mellowed out after a few years out of the car business. I got the “good Carroll.” He was a great guy to work with; the reason I say with instead of for is because Carroll and I had a different kind of relationship since I have a racing and fabricating background.

I am a third generation racing enthusiast. I began my career as a high-performance engine builder for a boat company and soon after, became involved in the car customizing world. In 1983, I began driving in the Winston West NASCAR series. After my first race, I was hooked. Eventually, I owned a hot rod and racecar shop until joining Carroll Shelby came calling

That meant Carroll and I spoke the same language. He could give me a task and I could perform it with no issues.

My first task for Carroll was to develop a supercharger system that fit under the stock hood on a Cobra. He enjoyed the element of surprise. He wanted to give customers who were passed on the front straight during a Friday track session the ability to go home and bolt on a Shelby upgrade. Then, go back and dominate the track on Saturday.

With each successfully completed task, he trusted me more. That earned me the right to do what I felt was best for the design on the Shelby vehicles.

 

The best part about working with Carroll was that he genuinely appreciated what I did for him. Carroll would call every morning to see what was happening and if he was needed. That night,  he would call to thank me and would end the call with “I love you and thank you for what you do for me.” How could I not put in 110% of effort in to everyday for a man that appreciates me like that?

 

Carroll and I had such a great relationship that it never felt I worked for him. It was more like we just worked together. This close friendship ingrained Carroll’s values into me, so that every vehicle built at Shelby today still follows his vision.

Some of my best memories are from after I started driving on track for Shelby. I had to be on point every time on the track, not only because I was driving for the company, but knowing that Carroll was watching and evaluating me. While being on track was my goal, it could affect my ability to run cars for the Shelby.

I have spent many hours on track and off road testing new suspensions and engine combinations, as well as braking and cooling systems. I cannot imagine how many miles I have driven testing Mustangs, trucks and Shelby Cobras.

But I wouldn't change a thing. I have definitely been blessed to enjoy a job where I can design a vehicle, test and refine it and then see the joy in people's faces when they experience these cars and trucks.

I definitely believe that the best part about working for Shelby is the people. I have met so many individuals from around the world who all share a common thread. We all love performance, friendships and Shelby American. We are so happy that a man with a dream started something so big and iconic that we all can be part of, and it is still growing today.

 

Thank you Carroll for letting me be part of your dream.

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