My Car Quest

February 23, 2024

Event Report: The Shelby American Club Los Angeles Car Show

Raw horsepower at its finest….

by Wallace Wyss –

The Los Angeles branch of the Shelby American Car Club had its annual fall show on September 15, 2018, but this time it wasn’t on the Santa Monica pier as in years past, but at a Shelby facility in Gardena, right where the ol’ Snakemeister used to sell racing tires and where I interviewed him back in the ‘70s when I wrote my first Shelby bio.

The pier location was just too difficult to keep, but it is missed by not only me I’m sure because at the same time you looked at cars you got to see the ocean and coastline.

And it was fun to see tourists agape and agog over the sight of cars bulging with muscle, making menacing growling noises. Hey Santa Monica may be full of eco-weenies now but this is the cars that used to be built there (the first Shelby factory was in nearby Venice).

AC Shelby Cobra 289

Finding a one owner 289 Cobra is difficult. A fellow named Hank bought this new, and still drives it to many an event.

I would say there were close to 50 cars being exhibited, from the early 289 cobras, through the 427 Cobras and even a Sunbeam Tiger, the result of Rootes Motors hiring Shelby to goose up their Alpine.

Sunbeam Tiger

Yes, Sunbeam Tigers are Shelby-related. Ken Miles and Shelby, then Miles still an independent, both got contracts to shoehorn a Ford V8 into an Alpine. Miles got $200, Shelby got $10,000. Rootes went for Shelby’s version and more were made than Shelby Cobras.

Some of the Shelby Mustangs were ‘65s, but they ran right through the last ones Shelby himself built and then there were the newer model Shelby Mustangs Ford builds today.

Shelby GT350

A ’65 Shelby GT350 enters the outdoor display area. These have recently been fetching over $300,000 depending on history.

One thing that faked me out was the Bullitt Mustang (honoring the Steve MacQueen movie) that had a t-shirt on the seat that had McQueen’s visage, so if you looked at a glance you thought you saw McQueen behind the wheel!

Bullitt Mustang

Is that McQueen behind the wheel? No just a t-shirt in a car that copies the one used in the movie.

Oddly there was not a GT40 anywhere, not a real one (whereas Shelby is largely responsible for the Ford GTs beating the Ferraris at LeMans) or even any replicas.

The old tire building has been cleaned up and there is even work going on there on Shelby cars. Many for the cars that used to belong to Shelby’s private collection including the very first Cobra ever made, CSX2000, which sold at auction for over $10 million. Shelby also owned many examples of the cars he built for Ford between 1965 and 1970.

I didn’t see any Dodge Shelbys, those the result of Shelby going to work for his old Ford buddy Lee Iacocca when Iacocca took over Chrysler. Those little four cylinder front drive Shelbys just don’t exude the same character as the Ford powered rear wheel drive cars Shelby marketed.

There was a booth with Shelby clothing marketed by the present Shelby company and I was shocked to see one hat that was, well, dirty and the saleslady explained that it was trying something out, making it look, well, used. I figure it’s the distressed Levi shirt syndrome, you want things brand new to look old.

Shelby Hat

Brand new hat, but looks old, all fits in with buying brand new denim jackets that look weathered…

There was also photographer Dave Friedman, who used to be hired to shoot publicity pictures for Shelby back in the day, autographing his latest book.

The most impressive car, historically, I thought was the Lola GT of Allen Grant, a former Shelby race driver who bought the car when Ford and Shelby were done using it as a test rig for parts they were developing for the GT40. This car was engineered and built by Eric Broadley who was a consultant to Ford as they started to build GT40s but then broke his contract early and went on to build a GT40 rival.

Lola GT

Yes, this is one of the two Lola GTs, Ford powered when new, that Ford bought to test out GT40 parts. Shelby racer at the time Allen Grant bought it and kept it all these years.

I think Grant made a brilliant buy way back when and I hope when and if he sells it, he is rewarded with the millions that it should bring as the “grandfather” of the GT40.

Of all the Cobras, I have to admit, after several books on Cobras, I couldn’t tell from a distance which ones were real 60’s cars and which ones were replicas, (unless of course they had lug nuts where the real Cobras made in the 60s had knock off center spinners) but one that’s real for sure is the battered gold 427 S/C that is one of two owned by a La Cresentia /Flintridge resident who likes to own and drive his treasures “as found” sort of rolling barn finds.

Shelby Cobra S/C

Ya wonder, why doesn’t Tony finish this barn find, but it’s wonderful to see how a half century Cobra has aged, but still has the cojones, so to speak.

Shelby Cobra S/C

The S/C cars came about when Shelby was trying to get FIA approval of the 427 Cobra as a production car but when the FIA inspector showed up, golly, Molly, he was a few dozen cars short so failed to win approval and the 427 would have to run against prototypes. So some clever Shelby marketer says “No problem, let’s put some street parts back on and call it the S/C” so that’s the reason that almost full blown race cars were sold for the public to drive.

I also didn’t see a single Series I, that was a front engine modern sports car that Shelby created around an Olds engine, but it was a dog in sales, I think under 300 were built and they had to dump them, but there’s signs that someday they too, like almost everything Shelby touched, will go up in value.

There were also half a dozen guest speakers, and though I only heard snatches of conversation as I wander from room to room, I urge Shelby fans to go to any event where there’s guest speakers from the original Shelby era, because those guys are in their ‘70s now, and older, and they won’t be around much longer to tell the tales of what it was like, especially to work in the Venice,CA factory before Ford came in big with the GT40 program.

I saw many familiar faces, and was hoping I would run across somebody who could update me on what is happening with the Ford vs. Ferrari film now being lensed by 20th Century Fox in the U.S. and in France. But most people weren’t aware of it so I handed out the cast list if they haven’t heard of it. Names at the top of the list are Matt Damon cast as Shelby and Christian Bale, his right hand man, as Ken Miles.

As the author of five books on Shelby and his cars in all, I’m still hoping against hope that the film company calls me about my books (for film rights) lest they make some grievous historical error but everybody I told their plotline to (where Shelby and Miles invent the GT40) said “That’s Hollywood….” Hey Hollywood, reshoots are a killer on budgets.

NOTE: Everyone is under the impression they are basing their film on AJ Baime’s book Go Like Hell, but they re-sold the rights to that book to a TV company making a TV series on Shelby at LeMans.

So if you missed this year’s show, mark your calendar so you don’t miss next year’s Tony Sousa show (named after a deceased club member who was the club historian and helped the club immeasurably).

The Club by the way, welcomes anybody to go to their monthly meetings at Checkpoint Automotive in Culver City. You don’t have to own a Shelby or Cobra product to go to the club meetings and interesting cars show up at the meetings as well.

As much as the new show location is good because it ties in with Shelby history, I still yearn for the beachside location for this show, and hope they can find one because one of the fun things about the beachside location is seeing the public reaction (in the Age of Ecology no less) to all that cubic horsepower. If electric cars continue and grow, we won’t have these thundering beasts around much longer….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of five books on Shelby and Ford GT40s. For a list of his artworks on Shelby Cobras, write




Event Report: The Shelby American Club Los Angeles Car Show
Article Name
Event Report: The Shelby American Club Los Angeles Car Show
There were close to 50 cars being exhibited, from the early 289 Cobras, through the 427 Cobras and even a Sunbeam Tiger at the Shelby event.


  1. Thanks for the great article. Sounds like a fun event!

  2. wallace wyss says

    Much larger (1,000 Fords) event coming up, Galpin Ford show, on Roscoe Oct. 7th, and LA SAAC might be there. I think the event is free for spectators but to see if there is a fee to enter a car, I’d go to Galpin’s website.

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