His cars had it too. And his company, Shelby American, which backed up that swagger by winning races all over the world in the mid-1960s. Shelby embarrassed men like Enzo Ferrari and Zora Arkus Duntov along the way, while building some of the world’s legendary street cars. But swagger is fleeting, even for Carroll Shelby. Yes, the man was still brimming with his beloved bluster at the time of his death in 2012 at the age of 89, but swagger has come and gone for Shelby American over the decades. Mostly gone.
Not anymore. Shelby American has its swagger is back, big time. Just a few weeks after letting us drive the first Original Venice Crew 1965 GT350R, the reincarnation of Shelby American’s original Competition Mustang, we’re back at its Gardena, CA facility to see the rest its extensive line up which now includes the rebirth of the Shelby Series 1 and 1967 GT500 Super Snake.
From heritage machines like continuation Cobras, GT40s and Mustangs, to modern Mustangs and muscle trucks, Shelby American is now producing its largest and most diverse lineup of vehicles ever, and it has gone global, with an assembly facility in Europe and dealers in 14 countries.
“If you want to go fast, Shelby has something for you,” says Shelby’s PR man Scott Black with swagger. “While the world keeps talking about autonomous cars, electrics and hybrids with no personality, people keep asking Shelby for more.”
“Fifteen years ago the brand was shrinking,” says Gary Patterson, who has been the President of Shelby American for the past 18 months. “In this business it’s about ‘what have you done for us today?’, and we didn’t have much. But the Hertz Mustangs in 2006 got us back on the map. Vintage cars are our DNA and our heritage cars are important, but our business would be much smaller if that’s all we did.”
Today trucks are 75 percent of Shelby’s business, and the entire operation generates about $30 million in annual revenue and has about 170 employees scattered around the United States. “When you look at the Shelby brand, it’s huge,” says Patterson who joined the company in 1996. “But we’re a small company.”
Shelby is headquartered outside Las Vegas, where it modifies new Mustangs into hotter Shelbys, including Super Snakes with widebodies and up to 1,000 hp. Carroll Shelby International Inc. is publicly traded on Nasdaq (CSBI), although its price of this writing was just $0.05 per share, and its board of directors includes Aaron Shelby, Carroll’s grandson. Shelby American is a division of Shelby International and produces those new Mustangs as well as 950 Shelby F-Series pickups a year, including Shelby Raptors and the recently announced Shelby Super Duty diesel dually with 1,000 lb-ft of torque and 50 state emissions certification.
Shelby Legendary Cars is another division of CSI. It licenses the Shelby name to builders who create the continuation Cobras, Daytona Coupes and GT40s. These builders include Superformance in South Africa and Kirkham in Salt Lake City. The OVC GT350R, the 1967 GT500 Super Snakes, the new Series 2 and other vehicles are also being built under license. About 100 heritage cars are sold each year along with those new Mustangs through 300 Shelby authorized dealers around the United States. Other divisions include the Shelby Engine Company in California’s Napa Valley, which supplies engines to many of the Shelby Legendary Cars, and an apparel division that sells about $3 million bucks worth of hats, t-shirts and decals a year. Mustang guys buy about $1 million dollars in hardware from the Shelby parts business annually, ranging from spoilers to superchargers.
But the company’s largest business partner and revenue generator is the Ford Motor Company, which pays Shelby a per vehicle and volume licensing fee to build the Shelby GT350 and soon again GT500 Mustangs, and sell them at every Ford dealer in America. Patterson, who street raced a 1968 428 Cobra Jet Mustang in the 1970s and has an extensive car collection today, is hesitant to discuss the details of that contract, but confirms that it is a multi-million dollar deal and says Shelby’s relationship with Ford is “really excellent.”
“We work very closely with Ford,” he says. “Our relationship goes way beyond the license of the Shelby name. We work closely on the development of Shelby Mustangs, including the current GT350 and the coming GT500. One of our benefits is that we get CAD data and tech info on the cars and other models, including the new Bronco and Ranger, before anyone else. This allows us to create parts and packages for these vehicles much faster and better than other companies out there, should we decide to. We also work with them on what to stay away from so we don’t step on their future plans.”
Sometimes, according to Patterson, there’s also a hardware share. “If Ford has developed a performance part but isn’t going to use it due to cost, time or other factors, sometimes we’ll put it on one of our cars,” he says. “But it works both ways, they’ve also used our stuff.”
According to Patterson, Shelby will continue to limit the volume of all its models to keep them exclusive and to protect the buyer’s investment. Also, geographic consolidation of its facilities and operations is not in the plans despite the company being spread out all over the country. “This way we partner with experts in their field where they need to be,” he says. “This allows us to remain nimble.”
This year Shelby has entered a partnership with Penske shocks to supply optional dampers for the 2018 Super Snake, which also gets an all-new front fascia with a two snout hood to better cool its available 800+ hp supercharged Coyote. And the Shelby Legendary Cars line up has launched the Bob Bondurant Edition Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and Roadster 50 historically-accurate recreations of the Cobras Bondurant drove to victories and significant finishes in Europe in 1964. Wearing his original Cobra team jacket, which he jokes “still fits”, Bondurant is at the event to dazzle the crowd with tales of driving the Daytona Coupe 197 mph at Le Mans.
Shelby has also issued a challenge to Jaguar and Aston Martin to race their continuation D-Type and DB4 GT models against the FIA-certified OVC GT350R Mustang in a 10-lap winner take all event at Willow Springs, Goodwood, or Silverstone. Winner donates $100,000 to the charity of their choice.
“Racing is in our DNA ,” says Patterson. “We’ll go over there just like Bob Bondurant and Shelby did in the 1960s and kick their ass.”
You just don’t get any more swaggery than that.