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At age three, Ty Padilla was a fairly quiet kid. “He was brilliant, but he wasn’t much of a talker,” says his mom, Rosie. So she didn’t think anything of it at first when he didn’t have a whole lot to say one day after having lunch with his grandfather, Lee. When Rosie asked him if he’d had fun, Ty answered yes, but she quickly realized by the look on his face that something was wrong. After a little prodding, the tyke burst into tears, looked up at her and wailed, “Grandpa called me a gearhead!”
Rosie resisted the urge to laugh. “It was the first time he’d heard the phrase.” She wiped Ty’s tears away and calmly explained that all it meant was that he liked cars, and that it was a huge compliment, especially coming from her father. A fervent gearhead himself, Lee is now on his fourth Mustang Shelby® GT500® convertible in under six years.
“I went through hot-rod stages and sports-car phases, but this has been the most fun I’ve had with a car,” Lee says of his Shelby® habit. “And I think it’s probably the prettiest car I’ve ever owned too.” With his frequent drives from home in Laughlin, Nev., to visit Rosie, Ty and the other grandkids in Albuquerque, it takes Lee no time at all to rack up serious miles (giving him a great excuse to continually trade in for newer models). He loads the family in for road trips—and always takes the scenic route.
“We try not to take any freeways if we can,” he says. “We get lost for a while on purpose, wandering around and seeing different things.” He can relax and enjoy the view from the road even more, thanks to how safe he feels transporting the kids in a Shelby®. “There’s an abundance of power and handling. I always say it can get you out of trouble more than it can get you in trouble.”
The Padillas are a Ford family through and through—Lee’s wife worked for the company as a warranty administrator, and Rosie loved her job as a zone manager in the customer service division before she retired to take care of her kids full-time. “I wrote a letter when I left and said that not only will I always be in a Ford, I’ll convince as many people as I possibly can to drive Ford.”
Six years after learning what being a gearhead really means, Ty is right there with his mom. “Anytime anyone compliments the Shelby®, Ty will go into a spiel about it!” Rosie says. “He cleans the rims, helps to polish it and knows how to put the top down. He knows more than I do as far as horsepower!”
“He’s a really sharp kid.” Lee laughs fondly. “The teacher got taught, quick.”
*Shelby® and GT500® are registered trademarks of Carroll Hall Shelby Trust.