My Car Quest

July 23, 2019

Event Report: The Petersen Shelby Show

by Wallace Wyss –

At the Shelby tribute on January 5 and 6, 2019 at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles (hampered mightily on cruise-in day by an overnight rain), one question was answered definitively, that question being: Will the Shelby legend survive the death of its creator? The answer is a resounding “yes” and there was proof there that the Shelby cult survives and thrives both within Ford and outside (with private firms and with Shelby American themselves.). Shelby died in 2012.

Shelby Cobra

The two day event in early January started with a VIP dinner at the Petersen Museum on Wilshire in Los Angeles, in which there were four guest speakers, a couple of which went back to the early days of Shelby, so early that the firm was not yet at the LAX airport, but still in Venice, a town known today as a hipster town, full of artists, musicians and movie folk.

So it’s hard to believe that, back then, they were building some of the fastest cars in the world there from ’62 through ‘65. Cars like the Cobra 289 and 427 and Cobra Daytona Coupe.

Two of the speakers told how they got hired at Shelby; pretty funny stories in that they proved to Shelby what they could do, one of them bringing an Austin Healey over that he had stuffed a Chevy V8 into. Shelby looked it over and said something like “when can you start?”

Another employee lived back East but, at his own expense, kept going to races all over the country where Cobras were racing and volunteering to help in the pits. Finally an exasperated Shelby said “Why the hell don’t you move here and work for us?”

Superformance GT40

A key part of the event was Lance Stander’s Superformance, an outside company, separate from Shelby American, originally a South African firm, showed how his firm is now making virtually the whole line up of Shelby’s famous cars, the Cobra 289 and 427, the Ford GT40. They hinted there was a new car in the offing but it was only a hint. No details yet.

Yet another speaker, part of the Original Venice Crew, spoke about how he and a couple other early veterans of Shelby decided to start converting regular Mustang fastbacks into competition Shelby GT350s again and got all the approvals from Ford and Shelby-American to do so and are cranking them out. It is really amazing that these veterans of an operation that ceased over 50 years ago are back in business, making the same car the same way (albeit this time they are going to offer an independent rear suspension, using much of the same design Ford developed but never put into production.)

Ford Shelby Mustang

Then an employee of Shelby-American took the floor and told how he worked with Carroll Shelby in his final days and related how Shelby was insistent they make a 1,000 hp car, a goal they reached a couple years back. At the car show the next day he showed a blue prototype, which Ford will produce once a few production mods are made. It won’t have 1000 hp But will show that Ford gives their Shelby suppliers plenty of leeway, if not free rein, to change the design of a Mustang to suit their needs (such as say, making the mechanical changes necessary to reach the lateral g force of 1.5 g).

Superformance GT40

That spokesman said that Shelby-American and Ford are “working better today than they did in the last 50 years” and that was the heartening thing to see that Ford isn’t just selling Shelbys to gin up showroom traffic but they consider the Shelby-American factory in Las Vegas to be a sort of think tank that is the leading edge of Ford performance. Sort of like Mercedes has AMG.

The Museum showed Bruce Meyer’s very early Cobra (CSX2001) in the museum and the next day had a pristine white early Cobra at the car show. I wish they would have parked their real small block Cobra next to the replica Superformance was selling because I would have liked to see if I could tell the difference—Superformance’s replicas are that good.

AC

Because of the rain only about three real Cobras, by my count, showed up at the Petersen Museum-based show on Sunday but there were about 20-30 Shelby Mustangs.

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I left the events feeling that Ford is damn lucky that Shelby-American is still in business and still providing excitement to Ford’s passenger car business, which, as anyone knows, is suffering because of the lack of interest in four door sedans (everyone wants crossovers or pickups). One wonders if Chevrolet regrets they didn’t publicly tie in more with Jim Hall commercially back in the day. If Chevy had, for instance, sold a Chaparral passenger car back then, 50 years later, they could still have them for sale in Chevy showrooms.

Shelby Ford Mustang

The Petersen shows new life with the bequest of Mrs. Petersen, the widow of Robert E. Petersen, the magazine publisher who funded the museum, and is to be congratulated on the variety and quality of their programs.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

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Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of three books on the cars of Carroll Shelby. As a fine artist, he has a list of prints of his paintings of Shelby cars, the list available by writing mendoart7@gmail.com

 
 
 
 
 



AC Shelby Cobra Post Card

AC Shelby Cobra Post Card Announcing the Cobra 427

Summary
Event Report:  The Petersen Shelby Show
Article Name
Event Report: The Petersen Shelby Show
Description
It’s hard to believe that Shelby was building some of the fastest cars in the world from ’62 through ‘65. Cars like the Cobra 289 and 427 and the Cobra Daytona Coupe.
Author

Comments

  1. Maurice Doll says

    I think the green #68 is an AC Ace Bristol.

  2. Great write-up, Wallace — solid overview of what was there (and not) and the inside view of the connection between Ford and Shelby. The rogue inventors, builders and racers have created some of the best stories and pushed the classic car passion through the years.

    We had fun last year at La Jolla talking to Allen Grant about the Lola Mk 6 and the GT40, and he and my pal (who worked with Shelby) shared their own stories to much amusement. It’s all great entertainment and I always learn something. I appreciate you adding much to this history of improvisation and pushing the edges further out.

    Carl

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