Kirk Gerbracht photos
Carroll Shelby passed away in May of 2013. So every spring, the Carroll Shelby Foundation, Shelby American, and all the other related Shelby companies and entities mark the occasion – but don’t you dare call this fabulous event, hosted at the historic Shelby Los Angeles facility in Gardena, California, a memorial. It’s a tribute, and a worthy one at that.
The property is significant because for many years it was the home of Shelby’s Goodyear Racing Tire Distributorship warehouse and is still home base for the DenBeste owned Carroll Shelby Engine Company. It also houses the Shelby Foundation, International, and Licensing offices, and a giant garage full of Carroll’s own personal collection, and is the site of the planned Carroll Shelby Museum. Fortunately, the parking lot is large and will hold hundreds of cars, so it’s the obvious place to hold any car show or tribute event in Carroll’s honor.
Since this event is now in its third year, you might be thinking that it would be much the same as the two previous editions: a parking lot full of Shelby Mustangs and a picnic ground full of chili. Not so. In order to spice up the 2015 rendition with some new steps, the Shelby folks made two significant upgrades, that being to throw open the buildings’ doors and let the assembled crowd of car owners, media and enthusiasts see what’s actually behind Oz’s curtain, and to introduce a new car to the media and public at the same time. In as much as 1965 represents the birth of the original Shelby GT350, these cars were showcased inside the warehouse building. Ditto for big block Cobras. Several of Carroll’s own cars were also on display, including his automatic trans-equipped 289 Cobra and several Mustangs.
Carroll Shelby’s first race car, this charming British Racing Green MG proudly on display inside the Shelby Los Angeles warehouse, is now owned by the Shelby family
An important piece of Carroll’s history as a racing driver was also on show inside, that being the British Racing Green 1949 MG-TC that is the first car that Shelby raced as a driver. And even though it was his first race, in a car he didn’t know, he won. Of course he won! It is heartwarming to mention that the Shelby family has since purchased this car, now likely to remain in Shelby hands forever as an important heirloom in remembrance of Carroll.
Legendary Shelby designer Peter Brock, The Shelby Foundation Exec Director Jenni Shreeves, Carroll’s grandson Aaron Shelby, Shelby exec Neil Cummings, and also Shelby exec Tracey Smith
Lots of people important to the Shelby story, past and present were also on hand. Several former Shelby American employees, such as designer Peter Brock and driver Alan Grant, were there, as was Carroll’s grandson Aaron Shelby.
Aaron is the son of Carroll’s son Patrick, and is today a successful banker in Texas. Even though Aaron has no day to day hand or position in running Shelby American, he’s taken a very participatory interest in the present and future of the Shelby companies and brand. The role he appears to be taking is somewhat similar to that of Edsel Ford II, within the Ford family and company hierarchy, as that of a company and brand ambassador. It’s a role that Mr. Ford appears to relish, and he represents his forbears admirably. Aaron Shelby does much the same: he’s tall, handsome, and warmly outgoing, happy to chat about the cars, the company and his famous grandfather, equally willing to sign autographs and pose for selfies. A genuinely nice man who understands who he is and what his famous name represents in autodom, and is more than willing to share it. We compliment him on all of that.
Every time we visited the Gardena warehouses, we’d see a long row of unused 427 Cobra frames; clearly new and previously unbuilt, not rusty but coated with the patina of unpainted metal that’s sat inside untouched for decades. Every time, we’d think “hmmm…sure be fun to get one of those and build it up.” It turns out that they were awaiting the right time and a plan. Shelby has decided now is the time and they have a plan. In its own announcement, here’s how you can buy one:
From Left, Neil Cummings, Bob DenBeste, Peter Brock, Aaron Shelby and the new 427 Cobra Homologation special race car
CARROLL SHELBY TRUST TO COMPLETE UNBUILT
427 SHELBY COBRA COMPETITION CHASSIS RACE CARS
LOS ANGELES – May 12, 2015 – Fifty years after the 427 Shelby Cobra was first introduced, the Carroll Hall Shelby Trust will complete and offer to the public the remaining original Competition Chassis race cars that were started in 1965. Built faithfully to the original specifications, the roadsters will be sold as race cars, just as Carroll Shelby intended when he launched the car in 1965.
“The Shelby 427 Cobra is the most iconic car in post-war history,” said Neil Cummings, co-Trustee of the Carroll Hall Shelby Trust. “Shelby American didn’t complete the mandatory 100 units in time to race for the FIA World Championship in 1966. This was because Henry Ford II (“Henry the Deuce”) wanted Carroll to drop what he was doing and take over Ford’s GT-40 race program. Carroll famously replied ‘Ferrari’s ass is mine’, which it was, with the Shelby-led team promptly winning Le Mans and three straight FIA World Championships in the hallowed “Prototype” racing class. Carroll put the 427 S/C program on hold after building 53 of the original 100 homologation cars. The 50 year anniversary of the big block Cobra seemed an appropriate time to finish the last of the Cobras.”
Each authentic 427 S/C Shelby Cobra comes with the CSX VIN and badge number originally assigned in 1965, as well as an “MSO” and “Title” document signed by Carroll Shelby himself. As a pure race car, this vehicle cannot be registered for use on the streets. But, each car will be specially registered and have a unique place in the Shelby American World Registry, not to mention American muscle car history.
The Shelby 427 S/C indeed has a fascinating history. From 1962-1964, Shelby American dominated racetracks worldwide with its powerful, diminutive 289 Cobra, leading to the now internationally famous Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, which won the FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship in 1965. This is the first, and to this day only, time an American car has won the World Championship on European soil. Then rumors swirled that GM was readying a new big block Corvette and Ferrari was said to be building a more powerful car to outrun the Shelby.
“Carroll simply couldn’t and wouldn’t let the competition overtake him, especially Ferrari” said Joe Conway, co-Trustee of Shelby’s Trust. “The Ford small block engines had reached their limit for power and the leaf spring suspension could not handle additional stress given the 289 Cobra’s paltry weight, making it lighter wasn’t an option. Ever looking forward to “the next car,” Carroll and his Shelby American team designed an entirely new Cobra. It was bigger and faster, but at the same time maintained the unique, classic features of all the Cobras.”
Shelby American and Ford Motor Company together designed an entirely new coil spring suspension and a stronger frame to accommodate more power. At Ford’s behest, Shelby fitted the 427 NASCAR based engine into the model. In January 1965, the CSX3000 series Cobra was unveiled at Riverside Raceway.
The first 100 cars were designated to be competition versions so that the car could compete in FIA races, ergo the “S/C” designation appearing after “427.” Only 53 were completed before Henry Ford II made his special request of Carroll to take on Ferrari in the “Prototype” class. This, in reality, marked the end of the Shelby Cobra builds…998 in all. Until now!
Carroll Shelby began the sacred task of completing the “Remaining 43” in 1988 when he hired the legendary restorer Mike McCluskey, who began the painstaking job of making the tooling, jigs and fixtures necessary to build these vintage cars true to their original specifications.
Carroll completed and sold five of the 427 S/C Cobras for $500,000 each between 1990 and 1992. Then AC Cars foolishly tried to claim the Cobra and its heritage by spreading false rumors about Carroll and Shelby American in automotive publications and newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Shelby brought suit to establish not only his rights, but also to compel this English company, once and for all, to acknowledge America’s and Shelby’s place as the “Manufacturer of Record” of all the original 260, 289 and 427 Cobras (998 in all), and the ones responsible for the Shelby Cobra’s incredible racing successes. The litigation with AC Cars went on for years. But, ultimately, Shelby prevailed on all fronts, and the owner of AC Cars signed a written statement (published worldwide) acknowledging the truth that Shelby was the “creator,” “Manufacturer of Record” and racing guru for all of the Cobras.
“After we forced AC Cars to admit that the Cobra was purely Carroll’s vision and all Cobras were built by, or under license to Shelby American, Shelby contemplated restarting production,” said Cummings. “But, he was already busy building continuation component Cobras and moving his operations to Las Vegas. Carroll told me he wanted to suspend the 427 Cobra Competition Chassis program until after his passing so he could focus on other projects involving new model year vehicles.”
In 2014, the Carroll Shelby Trust followed Carroll’s wishes and undertook the job of gradually finishing the remainder of the 427 S/C Cobras.
Each competition chassis Cobra features a spectacular aluminum body clad in a customer’s choice of color and with a black interior. The engines will be period correct and supplied by the Carroll Shelby Engine Company, which is owned and operated by Bill DenBeste. Each will be fitted with an original cast-iron Ford side oiler 427 block, forged internals and correct medium riser cylinder heads. The engine will be dressed with period correct parts including an Aviaid oil pan, sandcast Cobra valve covers, medium riser intake, Le Mans carburetor and turkey pan air box.
All of that power will run through a blueprinted 4-speed correct gearbox. The Shelby features the original style swept forward shifter, horn button, Raydyot mirrors and Lucas headlights to add to the overall aesthetic authenticity. It comes with a MSO listing it as a 1965 Cobra signed by the late Carroll Shelby for ownership purposes.
A portion of the sale from each 427 Shelby Cobra Competition series car will be donated to help construction of the “Shelby Automotive Museum” in Los Angeles, California, which is now in the design and build stage. This tax exempt 501(9)(3) non-profit public benefit corporation was created by Carroll Shelby to celebrate American racing heritage, including Mr. Shelby’s contributions to that history.
Those interested in one of the only remaining Competition Chassis Shelby 427 Cobra can contact the Carroll Hall Shelby Trust at (310) 327-5072.
More tribute photos below
Lots of yum in the sun
GT350s took pride of place inside the buildings to enjoy their 50th birthday
The best and most venomous got a special room inside the warehouse
Like it or not, not every interesting piece of the Carroll Shelby legacy was born with a Ford engine
Several of these were Carroll’s personal cars…Highland Green Metallic ’68 coupe is NOT the original Green Hornet prototype, but a clever and handsome copy
New Ford built GT350 (front) and Shelby American converted Shelby GT (red) had crowds around them all day
$17.95 a day, unlimited burnouts! Where do I sign?