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of new money onto the table. Rager

was oblivious to what had just taken


The chassis was finalized in April

and the MSRP was bumped to

$113,975. To stimulate sales, dealers

were told that the price increase

would not go into affect until the end

of the month. This allowed them to

make deposits in their own name, to

purchase cars at the present price and

then sell them at the new (higher)

price after they were delivered. This

would bring them an additional

$7,000 in profit. “Price protected” was

the term used to describe this. The

reason, of course, was to stimulate

cash flow. Only a few dealers took ad-

vantage of the new pricing but they

were enough to enable Shelby Ameri-

can to make its payroll. Things were

that tight.

One of Don Rager’s big marketing

ideas was to give a Series 1 to


magazine, which would be given to the

1998 Playmate of the Year. By Rager’s

estimates, Shelby’s cost of the car

(which he put at $75,000) was about

equal to the cost of a full page color ad

in the magazine. The car would be fea-

tured in one issue, the ad would run in

the following issue, and editorial cov-

erage would be given in a third issue.

Rager’s deal-sweetener with


was that they would also get a

CSX4000 to give to the Playmate of

the Year the following year. And best

of all for Rager – who was as

starstruck by the whole



tasy as a teenager in the throes of pu-

berty – was that he would be invited

to the annual gala party at the Play-

boy Mansion when the Playmate of

the Year was announced. When it

came time for the photo shoot, the only

car available was the “pushmobile”

and Rager insisted, for some reason

not apparent to anyone else, that Play-

mate Karen McDougal not pose with

the car in the nude.

July 29th was D-Day, the day cho-

sen for the unveiling of a running, pre-

production car. Shelby’s new facility on

the edge of the Las Vegas Motor

Speedway property would also be un-

veiled. The event was billed as an open

house and a Series 1 demonstration.

Invitations were sent out to every

Oldsmobile/Series 1 dealer and every-

one who had ordered a car (125 at that

point). The local Las Vegas press was

also invited, as well as the families of

all the Shelby employees. Additionally,

Motor Trend

magazine had been

promised that they could drive the car

prior to the event so they could get

some driving impressions.

About 100 people were on hand

when Don Rager welcomed everyone

and introduced Carroll Shelby, who

said a few words. The temperature

was 106° (the track temperature was

130°). More than 60 dealers and buy-

ers were shuttled between Shelby’s

building and the track, where race

driver Scott Maxwell gave them each

one hot lap around the banked oval.

Work on the car had been a continual

thrash until the day of the open house.

Although virtually untested, the car

performed flawlessly; its engine tem-

perature never went above 200°.

Motor Trend’s

Editor, C. Van Tune,

drove the car the following day and it

continued to perform exceptionally

well. He was well aware that this was

a hand-built, pre-production prototype

and although his resulting article ac-

knowledged some obvious faults, over-

all it was very positive. The November,

1998 issue led off with a statement

that the Shelby Series 1 was “

the most

significant car Carroll has ever pro-


.” So much for the Cobra.

Larry Winget was the sole owner

of Venture Industries. He had started

a small plastics molding business in

Ohio and now found himself with a

large Detroit company that did a bil-

lion-plus dollars worth of sales all over

the world. Winget somehow decided

that he wanted to become involved in

the automobile business. Prior to Ven-

ture’s becoming a supplier for the

Shelby Series 1, Winget had never

heard of Carroll Shelby. His people

were aware that the Shelby project

was having problems: production was

behind schedule, costs were higher

than estimated and there was never

enough money to pay bills. Venture

was owed $19,000 for every car pro-

duced and they had yet to see a frac-

tion of that money. Still, Winget was

interested and when Rager was told

that Venture had an interest in buying

into the company, he could not believe


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