My Car Quest

October 22, 2020

Six Hours In Cobraland Celebrating the Shelby Cobra

by Wallace Wyss –

I was hoping now that Ford v Ferrari, the movie, which may have already recovered its cost back ($100 million) will be breeding a new whole new legion of Shelby fans, who leave the theatre interested in Shelby Cobras, GT40s, Shelby Mustangs and the famous cowpoke himself.

Ford GT40 by Superformance and Wallace Wyss

Ford GT40 and Wallace Wyss (one of the replicas supplied by Superformance for the movie)

I just went to two Shelby club Christmas parties on the same day but didn’t see the expected wave of young people suddenly turned on by the thought of zoomy Fords of yesteryear.

But maybe I’m asking too much, after all, the film only premiered a few weeks ago on November 15th. Maybe the film has to seep into the culture.

Shelby Cobra

The truly brave at Dana Point showed up top down at 50 deg (yeh, I know East Coasters will say that’s warm…)

It’s not as easy to be a Shelby Cobra owner now. Back when I wrote Shelby’s Wildlife, my first book on Shelby, in 1977. Back then, big block Cobras were $7000 and small blocks $5000. Today big blocks are worth a million if they have a side oiler 427 from new (some came with lesser 428 engines) and small blocks upward of $400,000–add more, maybe a lot more, for racing history.

Shelby Mustang

A dad showing his son the fine points of a Sixties Shelby convertible (and the kid bought some art, so maybe there IS hope…)

I talked to various people at the parties about the movie. All lamented the sloppy chronology like having Miles in California, during Le Mans ’65 when he was actually in the race at Le Mans, dropping out with gearbox trouble in a GT40 after four hours.

But all liked the general good feeling about the passion of racing that the film conveyed. And as a supplier of fine art depicting Shelby history I noticed more interest in my historical paintings–people wanted to know which race the car pictured was in and the like.

This Shelby is a brand new one brought by the works test driver

The Shelby was a brand new one brought by the works test driver

Alas, my last book on the subject, SHELBY the Man the Cars the Legend, is out of print. It died just as the film came out. But again, I think the ground swell of new Shelby fans hasn’t been felt yet. My publisher keeps the light burning in the window so to speak. It’s percolating, like a fine cup of gourmet coffee.

Shelby Engine

Can any domestic engine of the Sixties sing as sweet a song as a 289 with Webers?

Oh, and about replicas. Most of the Cobras I saw at the first event, put on at the Dana Point Yacht Club by the Orange County, CA branch of the Cobra Club, were replicas. At the second meeting there were a couple real ones at the far end of Steve Beck’s shop, Beck being the host of the Culver City event. There was also a replica GT40 somewhat the worse for wear, still wearing dirt from its movie role. When they lifted the engine bonnet I expected to see a 289 or 427 but instead there was some damn modern engine that was horrors–not even a Ford I suspect.

Shelby Cobra

A replica owner with The Book – another who braved SoCal in winter

A fearful moment came when Bob Shaw, a frail man but a staunch super-enthusiast who, a few years ago started a club for retired Shelby employees from the original’60s crew, announced that the last reunion has been held because those remaining veterans of Shelby’s ’60’s operations are beset by mobility and health problems. An auction of memorabilia was then held to come up with money to help the surviving members of the crew.

I was surprised to see two members of Shelby’s original ’60s operation were there looking so robust, one being Bernie Kretzschmar, who even today is building Shelby Mustangs with what’s called “The original Venice Crew” and John Morton, a racer. It was eerie to see a copy of Road & Track there and be able to turn to John and ask “Now where did you finish in this race?”

Shelby Mustang

There was no parking space at Beck’s Checkpoint Automotive but hey, it’s West LA….

Now back when I was writing those books I was against Shelby Cobra replicas but now that real ones are too valuable to drive, I’ve turned the corner on that, better replicas than none at all. I’ve even accepted them in vintage racing, in the same way I don’t mind the ever younger actors hired to play James Bond. He’s still Bond.

Bullets and broads (oh so politically incorrect). Insisting the older actors who played him before continue to play him is like asking a now million dollar Cobra to compete at the Rolex Revival. True I have seen many originals raced there by people like Rob Walton (I even saw him crash a Daytona coupe) but if the real ones don’t appear, if the architecture is roughly the same I’d rather see replica Cobras on the track than none at all.

So back to the no show of newly minted Shelby fans. I’m hoping that the film has drawn some young people away from their smart phones long enough to see what the excitement was all about 60 years ago…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR/ARTIST: Wallace Wyss has authored three books on Shelby, and co-authored two on the GT40. As a fine artist, he has a one page catalogue of his prints of Shelby-related race cars. For the list write mendoart7@gmail.com.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Wallace Wyss Shelby Book

Some ephemera from the author’s horde–denim jacket with sewn-on print of Wyss painting of 289 works Cobra in Yurrip, print of Wyss’ painting of two ’64 Daytona coupes queuing up for a race; and the late lamented book.

All photos by Wallace Wyss.

Summary
Six Hours In Cobraland Celebrating the Shelby Cobra
Article Name
Six Hours In Cobraland Celebrating the Shelby Cobra
Description
It's not as easy to be a Shelby Cobra owner now. Back when I wrote Shelby's Wildlife, my first book on Shelby, in 1977 big block Cobras were $7000 and small blocks were $5000. Today big blocks are worth a million or more...
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Comments

  1. I’m afraid the younger generation is more interested in piercings, tats, man buns, video games, lattes, and rice burners. Race cars and gas engines are a thing of the past generations. Out of everyone in both my wife’s family and my own nobody, young and old, care about cool cars, very sad.

    SEMA is packed each year, manufacturers like Edelbrock, MSD, Comp cams, etc, and companies like Summit Racing and Jegs are doing well from what I know. So there is hope?

    It would be interesting to see the ratio of older people to young that attended the movie and buy performance car parts from the afore mentioned vendors.

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