Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  2 / 134 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 2 / 134 Next Page
Page Background


Fall 2015 245

Had not Jaguar received ad-

vanced FIA approval that their

recreations would be legal to race,

it is doubtful the project would

have gone any farther. By the way,

all six cars have been sold for $5M

each. Historic racing (called “vin-

tage racing” in the U.S.) has become

big business everywhere. Large

crowds mean large gates and rare

historic race cars attract large

crowds. However, when these rare

historic cars become too valuable to

race, owners stop bringing them

out. The other side of the equation

then comes into play: fewer cars

mean fewer spectators, which

means smaller gates. The goal of

race organizers is to insure that

events have a healthy number of

entries. This is why they no longer

place a premium on race history

and are hesitant to turn cars with-

out it away.

The FIA, once meticulously

strict in Europe, has bowed to the

business end of historic racing and

allows recreations, as long as cars

have “legitimate” serial numbers of

cars which were raced when they

were new. A number of Cobras

presently racing in Europe appear

to be based on Kirkham cars or

other reproductions and use serial

numbers appropriated from origi-

nal Cobras which were wrecked in

the 1960s or have otherwise “disap-

peared.” This allows the FIA to hold

its head up and maintain that they

only allow period cars to race while

turning a blind eye to recreations

with correct numbers but no actual

history. They have made an excep-

tion in allowing the newly recre-

ated Lightweight Es to compete.

Where will this trend go? Euro-

peans have only to look at the U.S.

Forty years ago when vintage rac-

ing in this country began (sired by

Steve Earle at Monterey’s Laguna

Seca) it was envisioned as a show-

There’s no question that when it

comes to cars, an association with Car-

roll Shelby is a virtual guarantee to in-

crease value. So we shouldn’t be

surprised when an owner concocts a

link out of whole cloth. If true, it would

certainly add to the uniqueness and

luster of the car. But if it’s not true

then it becomes a matter of determin-

ing if the car owner is a charlatan or

merely an unwitting dupe. Neither

choice is especially gratifying.

The latest in this parade of pin-

heads was spotted at a Cougar show

held at the Blackhawk Museum in

Danville, California back in late June.

A 1968 XR-7G (for Gurney) had a

showboard next to the car advising

anyone who saw it that the car was a

“Shelby Cougar.” Having recently pub-

lished the 1968-69-70 Shelby Registry,

we were somewhat surprised that

something so important could have

eluded our research. And yet, there it

was, in print.

In 1968 Mercury wanted some-

thing similar to the Shelby Mustang

and decided to enter into a contract

with famous race car driver and

Shelby Automotive founder, Carroll

Shelby. Shelby then entered into a con-

tract with A.O. Smith to do the actual

alterations to the cars. He was to send

regular production XR-7s built in

Dearborn, Michigan by rail to the A.O.

Smith factory in Ionia, Michigan

where they would be converted into

special XR-7G Cougars (also named

for Dan Gurney)


We weren’t there, of course, but if

we had been, and if we could have

talked with the car’s owner, it would

have been interesting to hear his ex-

plantation of why Mercury would have

gone to Carroll Shelby in order to deal

with A.O. Smith, a subcontractor to-

tally independent of Shelby. And why,

in everything written about XR-7Gs to

date, was a Shelby connection never

mentioned? We’re guessing that all we

would have heard were crickets.

Moral of the story? Don’t believe

everything you see in print, even if it’s

on a professionally-done signboard.

Dennis Gage was at a car show at Morgan Park in Glen Cove, New York in late

June where he caught up with Keith Schadoff, SAAC’s A.O. Smith historian,

and his son Brandon. Check out Brandon’s smile: he knows that if he keeps his

nose clean for a few more years that red Shelby will be all his.