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out 1998. Pictures of the car were run

in the December, 1997 issue of



along with an interview with

Shelby. He estimated actual produc-

tion to begin in March of 1998 and

that the price would be an even

$100,000. Both the date and the price

proved to be somewhat optimistic.

Work continued on many fronts si-

multaneously. The engine was final-

ized: the 4.0 liter DOHC Aurora V8

would produce 320 horsepower. Shelby

had originally envisioned using the

Northstar engine but he quickly dis-

covered that GM was an inhospitable

labyrinth to outsiders. The more pow-

erful Northstar was only intended for

use in the Cadillac and that was that.

Engines received from Oldsmobile had

to undergo some Shelby massaging:

new camshafts (from the Cadillac

STS), a reconfigured computer chip, a

free-flowing intake manifold, exhaust

headers, high-flow catalysts and Borla

2.25˝ stainless steel exhaust. Shelby

had wanted the engine to be super-

charged but GM Powertrain forbade

it. They were afraid that a super-

charger would put a strain on the en-

gine components and reliability would

become a problem. Shelby was unac-

customed to having someone tell him

“no,” but a supercharger was a deal-

killer, so he acquiesced. Nevertheless,

the 400 horsepower figure was still in

the back of his mind and the only way

to extract that from this engine was by

supercharging it. Once the GM stran-

glehold was loosened, supercharging

would become an option; but at the be-

ginning it was off the table.

The transmission was also final-

ized. Shelby had wanted to use a 6-

speed transaxle mounted in the rear

to provide even weight distribution.

But the new Corvette was going to

make use of a transaxle, so GM nixed

Shelby’s request to share technology

because they wanted the Corvette to

use that system exclusively. As a re-

sult, Shelby was forced to look else-





manufacturer, was the first one they

went to, but Shelby’s production re-

quirement of only 500 units was

deemed too small. That left the ZF

gearbox, which had originally been

used in the Pantera. ZF had issued a

license to manufacture units to Roy

Butfoy in Dallas. Butfoy had worked

for Holman-Moody and had been the

master transaxle builder for the Ford

GT MK II program. Shelby’s require-

ment of 500 transaxles was almost too

large for Butfoy’s shop. On top of that,

the five-speeds would have to be re-en-

gineered into six-speeds. Butfoy

signed on and agreed to work clandes-


The suspension also created prob-

lems. Peter Bryant was insistent on

creating components of his own de-

sign. Others on the engineering side

wanted to use Corvette parts which

would save money. Shelby had initially

been told that part of the deal with

Oldsmobile was that he would be able

to purchase necessary parts from GM.

However, he soon learned there were

limits. The new Corvette C5’s suspen-

sion would remain proprietary to the

Corvette. Shelby had to make due

with the C4 suspension parts. They

were forged aluminum and for

Shelby’s purposes, actually turned out

to be superior to the C5 pieces.

While all of these pieces of the

puzzle were being massaged into

place, the people in the front office

were going through gyrations trying to

handle the dealer network. After all, it

was not easy to sell cars which did not

yet exist. They also had to establish a

marketing and advertising campaign

– again, for a car that did not yet exist.

And all the while, keep the excitement

level high to maintain continued inter-

est. Advanced deposits of $50,000 per

car ($10,000 of which was non-refund-

able) kept the company alive in the be-

ginning. These funds were used to

cover payroll and overhead expenses.

In February of 1998 Oldsmobile

requested a meeting to review the

project. Don Rager had been going

head-to-head with several people at

Oldsmobile over engines, horsepower

and various parts. He was afraid that

Oldsmobile was looking for a reason to

pull out of the project. The meeting in-

cluded the presentation of a written

progress report. In it, all of the prob-

lems with the project were blamed on

Oldsmobile and Rager played hard-

ball. The meeting went well and by its

conclusion the suits from Oldsmobile

assured Rager that the company

would honor all of its commitments.

After the meeting, on the way to the

Detroit airport, Rager was happy. He

told Davison, “

We’ve got ‘em where we

want ‘em. They can’t back out now


Oldsmobile’s purpose for calling

the meeting had actually been to try

to figure out how they could capitalize

on the new sports car and their asso-

ciation with Carroll Shelby. The com-

pany had been willing to commit

millions of dollars to make the Series

1 into Oldsmobile’s version of the

Viper, but Rager’s arrogant style, con-

ceit and general attitude turned them

off. The result was that Oldsmobile

merely acquiesced to the present con-

tract instead of pushing a large stack


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