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his ears. An infusion of capital would

just about guarantee that the cars

would be completed. And there were

other projects out there on the hori-

zon. Shelby was 75 and at some point

he would probably like to cash out.

This was wonderful news.

Or so it seemed. But Rager was

about to learn a difficult lesson. When

someone shows up with a large infu-

sion of cash, they don’t drop the money

off and drive away. Their “investment”

allows them to dictate a lot of terms. If

you had been making decisions and

giving orders, you were suddenly re-

duced to watching others make deci-

sions and you taking orders.

By December of 1998, Shelby Se-

ries 1s were no closer to being pro-

duced than they had been at the

introduction and open house back in

July. Dealers were calling constantly;

they were besieged by buyers who had

put down $50,000 and were only re-

ceiving excuses second-hand. Soon the

demands for refunds began, and the

staff in the front office became adept

at dealing with these unhappy

campers. Very few refunds were actu-

ally provided but mostly buyers just

wanted information. The problem was

that their expectations were so high –

fueled by magazine road tests and the

usual Shelby snake oil – that they

were just anxious to get their car. The

threat of cancelling their order was

just a way to get someone at the fac-

tory to return their calls.

The automotive hobby just about

comes to a standstill every January

when everyone looks towards Scotts-

dale, Arizona where several high visi-

bility auctions take place in the same

week. The largest one is Barrett-Jack-

son, which is televised live over four or

five afternoons and evenings. Most of

the people who generally attend these

auctions fit the profile of the potential

Series 1 buyer. Don Rager’s idea of

maintaining a presence at Scottsdale

was through involvement with the

Titan Motorcycle Company.

Interest in motorcycles, and espe-

cially Harley Davidsons, skyrocketed

in the 1990s. There were several rea-

sons for this. First, the age of the av-

erage buyer – a male in his 50s – put

him in the bracket where he had a

large amount of disposable income.

Second, Harley Davidson had posi-

tioned itself in the marketplace to ap-

peal to these buyers with a product

that was technologically advanced

(and trouble free) while harkening

back to the days when Harley riders

were considered tough guys or bad

boys. Their bikes were big and loud,

and had lots of chrome. And they could

be infinitely customized so that no two

were alike. Large meets like Daytona

or Sturgis drew hundreds of thou-

sands of riders annually and became

communal events which gave owners

a purpose beyond just going for a ride.

All of this enthusiasm led to small

companies offering their own lines of

custom motorcycles. Previously, own-

ers would either build their own cus-

tom bikes or bring their stock bike to

a custom shop. However, in the late

1980s a cottage industry grew up

around custom choppers. These com-

panies specialized in custom bikes

based on Harley style, V-twin engines

and custom components. One of the

largest was Titan, whose models sold

for between $35,000 and $60,000. It

was there that Rager saw an opportu-

nity. He pitched the idea that Titan

create a special Shelby-Titan model

motorcycle. Rager suggested that

Titan make 500 of them and they

could be numbered the same as the

Series 1. It was a natural: buyers of

Series 1s could have the same serial

number on their Shelby-Titan motor-


Rager must have had what little

common sense he possessed clouded

by looking at too many biker babes

decked out in leather halters, thongs

and chaps because he clearly wasn’t

thinking straight. Nevertheless, he

was able to push forward a joint pro-

motion between Shelby and Titan.

Carroll Shelby would get a bike of his

own (as tribute only; can you picture a

76-year old heart and kidney trans-

plant recipient riding a chopper?) and

a royalty on the sale of each $50,000

Shelby-Titan model. Both companies

would enjoy the publicity from the

cross promotion. When the smoke

cleared (and when Rager was in-

volved, there was always plenty of

smoke) Titan sold only six Series 1 mo-


Production of Series 1s cars was

still not around the corner due to prob-

lems coming from just about every di-


Fall 2016 42

Titan production of the special Shelby Se-

ries 1 bike was intended to match Series 1

production (500 were envisioned) but only

six buyers of the custom motorcycles ever

materialized, demonstrating that cross-

over between Shelby and motorcycle en-

thusiasts was minimal.