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prototypes to be finished in time for

the Detroit and Los Angeles automo-

bile shows in January of 1997. The

cars would also appear at a large

Oldsmobile dealer meeting in April

and one would be the pace car for the

Indy 500 in May (the first IRL race

where the Northstar engine would be

used). In return for all of this expo-

sure, Olds ponied up $1,000,000 to get

the prototypes built. At this point all

that existed were drawings of what

the prototype car might look like.

Shelby provided the general

guidelines. The car had to be fast, but

it also had to be light—because the en-

gine would only be 4.0 liters. To aid in

balance and weight transfer it was de-

cided that the transaxle unit would be

mounted in the back while the engine

would be up front. That would provide

a 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribu-

tion. Peter Bryant was the car’s de-

signer. He had an extensive resume.

He had worked as an engineer for

Aston Martin when Shelby drove for

the factory in 1959. He had also

worked for Shelby American on the

Daytona Coupes and more recently

had put together the Can-Am team

that built and raced the Ti-22 cars. He

was a very talented guy and there

wasn’t much he couldn’t do. Once

again, Shelby had found the right man

for the right job at the right time.

As the project got off the ground it

was anything but smooth sailing.

Some within Oldsmobile were against

it, mainly because of the N.I.H. men-

tality which permeates Detroit (“not

invented here”). Others were con-

cerned that money allocated to this

project would have to come out of

someplace else in the budget and

feared it was their’s. And some failed

to see the need for a sports car built in

such limited numbers.

The next meeting was held later in

the year and the long knives came out.

Rager and Davison left the meeting

with a commitment for a lot less than

the original promise of $1,000,000,

less technical support and they even

lost the Indy 500 Pace Car promise.

Rager was basically offered a take-it-

or-leave it deal, and in order to keep

the project alive (and not face Shelby’s

wrath) he grabbed it like a drowning

man lunges for a life preserver.

By this time Shelby had success-

fully undergone his kidney transplant

and the company was operating out of

a small-ish building on the north side

of Las Vegas because their new facility

out at the track was under construc-

tion. Cobra CSX4000 series cars were

being built there.

As work on the two Series 1 proto-

types progressed off in one corner,

there was another meeting in Las

Vegas. Shelby and Rock both attended

this one (it was the first time they had

actually met) and in light of Oldsmo-

bile’s reduced financial investment, it

was suggested that dealers help fi-

nance the construction of the cars.

Finding the capital to build the proto-

types was, at that point, the over-

whelming obstacle. Everyone realized

that Shelby’s oft-quoted retail, price of

$75,000 was just bluster that made

good press. Rock suggested the cars

could be built for $60,000, sold to the

dealers for $80,000 and the dealers

would sell them to the public for

$100,000. This, without even seeing a

completed car.

Oldsmobile’s suggestion of putting

together a consortium of dealers which

would bankroll production costs for a

car that had not yet been built was an

idea that must have been generated

under the influence of hallucinogens.

Nevertheless, Rager approached the

dealers at a meeting which had been

set up in Las Vegas. The entire Series

1 dealer network consisted of 26 deal-

ers. Only a few were large enough and

successful enough to bankroll even a

portion of the Series 1 project – if they

had wanted to. And they didn’t.

Work on the prototype car contin-

ued. The original shape (as pictured in

the first press photos that Landy had

handed out) resembled a Daytona

Coupe in roadster form. It was a visu-

ally pleasing design that had been

penned by an illustrator from Col-

orado named Michael Mate. That de-

sign had been fresh several years

earlier but now there were other cars

in production that resembled it—espe-

cially the Jaguar XJ Coupe. So a new

design was required. Shelby, Rager

and Bryant all agreed that the shape

had to harken back to the original

Cobra roadster: it should be powerful

looking and aggressive. Bryant found

three new designers who set to work

creating what would become the Se-

ries 1 shape. Most of the dimensions

would be dictated by the car’s weight.

The engine would not be capable of

500 horsepower but Shelby insisted

that the new car perform like a Cobra,

so everything would have to revolve

around light weight.

Peter Bryant headed a team of de-

signers and engineers whose resumes

included aerospace experience as well

as automotive production and racing

backgrounds. Rather than build the

prototypes in Las Vegas, the decision

was made to construct them at

Shelby’s facility in Gardena, Califor-

nia. Shelby liked that because he

spent most of his time there and he


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