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rection. Demands from buyers became

exhausting and clearly something had

to be done. So, a “delivery program”

was begun. Buyers were invited to Las

Vegas to tour the factory and went

through an “indoctrination program”

where they learned about the Series 1

and received a driving lesson in a fac-

tory demonstrator from race driver

Davey Hamilton at Las Vegas Motor

Speedway. Hamilton drove for A.J.

Foyt in the CART and IRL and lived

in Las Vegas. Buyers also received a

custom made Series 1 leather jacket,

numbered to match the car and signed

by Carroll Shelby. It was touted as a

$1,500 item (although Shelby got

them for considerably less). The deliv-

ery program went a long way towards

calming down buyers who were having

doubts about ever seeing a car.

In May of 1999 two Series 1s were

delivered to a government-approved

facility near Riverside, California, for

crash testing. One car would be

crashed front and rear and the second

one would undergo a side impact test.

Crash tests were not mandatory for

small manufacturers, provided that

they could show enough supporting

data simulating what would happen if

a crash took place. However, if some-

thing were to happen in an actual

crash that was not indicated by the en-

gineering data, there could be major li-

ability for the manufacturer. With a

high performance car, crashes were

virtually inevitable; so the decision to

crash the same cars which would be

sold to the public was an easy one.

Both cars passed, which seemed to

surprise everyone.

Production began at Shelby’s Gar-

dena facility and it was painfully slow.

In May, Shelby received a bill from

GM for 530 Aurora engines at $4,000

per engine. This $2,120,000 bill came

as something of a surprise, because it

was not the “grandfather” deal John

Rock had outlined. The invoice caused

an immediate panic because there was

obviously no money to pay for the en-

gines, and they would not be delivered

until they were paid for. In addition to

the cost, the engines still had to be

modified to Shelby specifications.

After a number of hastily called con-

ference calls, Oldsmobile relented and

sent the engines with no up-front pay-

ment required.

Also in May, Venture decided to

close the deal. They would purchase

75% of Shelby American, with Carroll

Shelby retaining 25%. Rumors imme-

diately abounded about how much

Shelby received, but if anybody knew,

they weren’t telling. Venture began

funneling money into Shelby Ameri-

can. Well, sort of. The initial agree-

ment was that they would pay all of

the suppliers, all outstanding bills,

and the payroll. But Venture decided

what bills would get paid, and when.

As Venture’s presence expanded, so

did its influence. Chassis construction

was pulled from the company that had

been subcontracted to build them and

moved to one of Venture’s facilities in

Detroit – even though they had no ex-

perience in the production of welded

aluminum chassis.

By March of 2000, 235 chassis had

been completed. This was beyond the

Department of Transportation’s dead-

line of December 31, 1999, but nothing

was made of it. It meant that all Series

1s would be 1999 models, no matter

how long it took to complete the build.

In order to market them as 2000 mod-

els another round of testing and certi-

fication would have been required and

this would have been prohibitively ex-

pensive. Dealers were faced with try-

ing to sell a brand new car which was

ostensibly a year old, but compared to

past problems this amounted to noth-

ing more than a small speed bump.

John Rock left Oldsmobile and the

Series 1 program suddenly became a

hot potato that no one wanted to

touch. Venture was considering a law-

suit against GM/Oldsmobile for breach

of contract because there was a ques-

tion of Oldsmobile not living up to

their end of the contract. This was

mostly dust thrown into the air by

Rager in order to conceal Shelby’s

shortcomings. A continual revolving

door of Oldsmobile personnel moving

in and out made it almost impossible

for decisions to be made and Shelby’s

people had a difficult time dealing

with Venture’s people.

While all this was swirling

around, Larry Winget was convinced

that the cars were underpriced, and

that dealers were taking advantage of

him. He was intending to retroactively

raise the price, initially to $165,000

but eventually to $174,975. His under-

lings had convinced him that because

the car had Carroll Shelby’s name on

it, they could get away with just about

anything. However, when this was pre-

sented at a meeting with dealers, they

became outraged. Accusations flew

and a dealer from North Carolina who

had sold the most cars was threaten-

ing to go to the state attorney general.

As all this was taking place, only a

handful of cars had been delivered.

The rest were held up by a myriad of

problems. Between Shelby’s sales per-

sonnel; Venture’s people, dealers (sev-

eral had dropped out and now there

were 17) and everyone’s lawyers it was


Initially all cars were produced in

Oldsmobile Centennial Silver and

there were never any plans for varia-

tions. However, customers began re-

questing special colors as part of the

sale. Not wanting to lose the sale, deal-

ers contacted the factory and re-

quested special colors. At first the

factory balked, and then put the price

of a repaint at $7,500. Venture in-

creased that to $30,000 in an attempt

to dissuade customers. One threat-

ened to sue and Venture eventually

backed down, but it was clear they did

not want to go through the trouble of

having cars repainted.

Stripes were another bone of con-

tention. The cars were intended to be

delivered without stripes, but when

they sent a car to the Detroit show

with blue stripes and one to Los Ange-

les with orange stripes, and when a

car on magazine cover was shown with

maroon stripes, suddenly stripes be-

came a popular way to personalize the

cars. Shelby American put a price of

$1,200 on stripes but when the de-

mand became greater than they antic-

ipated, and they realized how

labor-intensive it was, they raised the

price to $2,500 – even for the cars they

had quoted at $1,200.

Oldsmobile announced on Decem-

ber 12, 2000 that they would be ceas-


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