Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  46 / 113 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 46 / 113 Next Page
Page Background

ing operations. Essentially, that ended

the Shelby Series 1 dealer network.

Orders stopped being taken and what-

ever cars had yet to be delivered, were.

By the end of 2002 a lot had changed.

A few unsold cars were sold through

auctions (most notable was a spe-

cially-optioned car with a super-

charger and other unique equipment

that sold for $217,000 at Barrett-Jack-


Shelby American had parts to

complete 500 cars but only about 250

had been sold. They announced that

they would sell a Series 1 to anyone

who walked through their doors in Las

Vegas. The price was reduced from

$175,000 to $142,000. There is no

record how many cars were sold in

this manner but cars began to appear

on the secondary market at prices

from $90,000 to $125,000.

No attempt had been made to re-

certify any of the cars made after

1999. They had slipped off the govern-

ment’s radar until an inquiring poten-

tial buyer contacted them and asked if

he purchased a car in 2001, would it

be certified. This caused some initial

interest by the EPA, but the number

of cars was so small it was decided to

just ignore them. By March of 2002 all

of the cars had been completed. Shelby

American had installed superchargers

on a handful (the total price was


In March, 2003 Venture filed for

Chapter 11. Larry Winget, sole owner

of the company, is reported to have

sunk $50,000,000 into the Shelby Se-

ries 1 project. The rights to the com-

pany name and unused parts was

unresolved and were in dispute follow-

ing that. In the interim Shelby won

back the rights to his company’s name.

It’s probably something they teach in

a law school course but the details are

far beyond a layman’s ability to com-


In 2006 Shelby American an-

nounced they would use the unsold

chassis, bodies and other components

to build a new model called, appropri-

ately enough, the Series II. It would

have a redesigned front and rear and

would carry a $225,000 price tag.

However it never materialized, proba-

bly due to the excessive cost to produce

it and the fact that it would need to be

federally certified. A company called

Superformance Distribution subse-

quently advertised “specially con-

structed vehicles” without engines and

transmissions but only four were re-

portedly built.

There is no shortage of blame to go

around for the failure of this car. Car-

roll Shelby’s health problems and his

advancing age are probably responsi-

ble for him not taking more interest in

the project like he would have when

he was a younger (and hungrier) man.

As with virtually all small companies

like this, it was undercapitalized and

this resulted in the “Robbing from

Peter to pay Paul” syndrome which is

so common in these situations.

Shelby’s initial unrealistic bluster and

promises of light weight and better-

than-Cobra performance as well as a

$75,000 price tag certainly didn’t help.

And Don Rager caused more problems

than he ever solved, despite adopting

a black Stetson and Tony Llama boots.

The Shelby Series 1 is proof that

even someone like Carroll Shelby can

only get so much mileage out of his

original success. The Cobra is often

used as a recipe for automotive suc-

cess, but that success is a combination

of the vehicle as well as its being in the

right place at the right time and sur-

rounded by the right people. History

happens on its own the first time

around. It cannot be coaxed a second



In the very beginning of the

What-Do-We-Call-It meeting, more

thought was given to what the car


be called. The obvious name

was “Cobra” because that’s what

everyone was already calling

Shelby’s new sports car, but that

name didn’t belong to Shelby any

more. He had sold it to Ford in 1967

(depending on who is telling the

story, the amount paid was either

$1.00 or $1,000,000). However, there

were a few years when Ford didn’t

use the Cobra name on any cars and

copyright laws stipulated that if a

name was not used continuously it

could eventually fall into public do-

main where it could be used by

someone else.

Replica manufacturers, lacking

real legal knowledge, thought this

was a loophole that allowed them to

call their cars “Cobras.” It was a

gray area over which both Ford and

Shelby were at odds because Shelby

wanted to use that name on the cars

he was presently building. Shelby

agreed to call his cars “Shelby Co-

bras” and Ford would go after the

replica companies who were using

the Cobra name without their per-


The image of a poisonous snake

was obviously appealing to everyone

(you’re thinking, “Viper”), but any-

thing remotely close to “Cobra” – in-

cluding its relatives – was off limits.

Shelby was unimpressed with the

whole concept of a car’s name. “

If it’s

a good car the name won’t matter.

And if it’s a bad car the name won’t

save it.

” He had been saying that

since the 1960s when the GT350

was named, and he still felt it was


The only one who seemed to be

making any sense was design engi-

neer Peter Bryant. He reasoned that

if this first Shelby/Oldsmobile model

was a success, a second car was the

logical next step. He suggested they

call the car the “Shelby Series 1.”

This implied other models would fol-

low and everyone was happy with

that. Bryant even created a badge

which featured a mean-looking

snake’s eye over a checkered flag

pattern that denoted competition.

As it turned out, the most impor-

tant name was not the car’s name

but that of Carroll Shelby. Based on

past experiences, his name on a car

was deemed a guarantee of success.

Or, at least, so it was thought.

Fall 2016 44