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The August, 1963 issue of


featured a red Cobra roadster on the

cover. The car was brand new at that

time; it was exciting and was receiving

wide recognition in the automotive



editors rightfully saw

the car as compatible with the “Play-

boy lifestyle.” Shelby American real-

ized that


magazine was,

perhaps, the perfect venue to reach po-

tential Cobra buyers: upscale, sophis-

ticated, knowledgeable and with the

disposable income sufficient to pur-

chase a car that cost as much as two

new Ford Galaxies.

Shelby American’s advertising

budget was very modest at that time;

by August (when an ad would have

had to be placed), only a handful of Co-

bras had been sold. Shelby hitched up

his pants, took a deep breath, and

committed to a full-page, full-color ad



October 1963 issue. The

cost of the ad was probably more than

the list price of a Cobra.

Getting the car in the pages of



was hitting the right target, but it

was very expensive. Better than an ad-

vertisement, and infinitely cheaper,

was getting a car included in


editorial mix. Because the Cobra was

such an exciting and powerful sports

car, it played right into the magazine’s

macho ideology. Cobras (and later

GT350s) from Shelby American’s pub-

lic relations pool occasionally found

their way to the magazine’s offices.

One drive would keep the car on the

mind of an editor for a long time. It

was not a coincidence that Cobras be-

came no strangers to the pages of the


By the time new GT350s had

been in dealer’s showrooms for about

eight months, a full-page black and

white ad was placed in the November,

1965 issue of


for the 1966

model. This was followed, three

months later, by a second ad which

was only run in the magazine’s West

Coast edition. No matter: the Cobra,

and later the GT350, had shown them-

selves to fit into the magazine’s tenets.

By 1967, everything was ramping up

at Shelby American: production, sales,

cash flow, and increased color choices

and options for the cars.



ers were still excellent targets, so ad-

vertising continued.

By 1968, Shelby Automotive took

out four full-page color ads and, in an

attempt to lower their advertising

costs, they entered into a marketing

cross-promotion. Shelby would provide

a few cars from their press/public re-

lations pool to Playboy executives and

personnel at the Playboy Club Resort

in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. In return

the cars would get editorial mention.

In the 1960s, Playboy expanded their

magazine/publishing empire to in-

clude a series of “key club” restaurants

in the larger cities. These were, essen-

tially, upscale bars and restaurants


Summer 2016 79

– Rick Kopec