Most teenagers struggle to pick a college major, let alone decide what type of career path they want. But when Ray Shaffer was a teenager in the 1980s at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, he knew. 

Now after more than 30 years in the automotive industry, Shaffer will serve as Grand Marshal at this weekend’s Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. The Grand Prix includes a full week of car-themed activities leading up to the street races of vintage cars through Schenley Park. Tickets to the Schenley Park race weekend are $5.

Born and raised in the South Hills, Shaffer hasn’t lived in the Pittsburgh area for years. Now the market development manager at Porsche Cars North America in Atlanta has returned home in a capacity he never thought possible. 

“The thought never crossed my mind that I’d have the opportunity to serve this way,” he says. “I was humbled and honored all at the same time.”

Here is what this year’s Grand Marshal is most excited about and what keeps him interested in cars:

What exactly does it mean to be Grand Marshal?

It’s my job to go to all of these wonderful events and see what’s going on. I get to help promote and encourage people to go. I see it as an opportunity to serve like a volunteer.

What interested you about motorsports/vintage cars in the first place? 

I’d always been interested in cars, but it wasn’t until I went to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in 1983. It was really my first exposure to that type of environment — the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, the excitement around a race weekend. There’s just something about it that clicked. For some people when they go to their first concert, then they make the rest of their life about music. In my case, it happened to be cars.

A turquoise Porsche is parked in the grass.

A Porsche 911 a the 2021 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. Photo by Ben Schwarz for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

If you could only drive one car for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A Porsche 911. It is the most versatile sports car for every day. You have enough seats, plenty of storage space. You can drive to an elegant dinner, but you can also drive it to the race track or the Monte Carlo. It’s just the most versatile sports car ever. You could drive it every day and still have your fun.

What is your favorite part of the Vintage Grand Prix? 

The unique setting that Schenley provides where you can walk through the international car show — it’s almost like being in a theater. You can see cars [parked] on the golf course, and then down where the track is you can see the cars wind through the park. It’s just a really unique setting to socialize with your fellow car people. The idea that we have this common passion that brings us together — it’s a great way to build community.