The Shelby Series 1 Could Have Been Carroll's Crowning Masterpiece

It was supposed to be Shelby's comeback for the new millennium. But it was too ambitious.

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"Hell being unavailable, we settled for Phoenix," Brock Yates opens, for his . (Change "Phoenix" to "Texas" and it's a sentiment your author agrees with entirely.) The Series 1 was supposed to be a comeback tour for Ol' Shel, more than a last gasp of relevance but a genuine, clean-sheet, ground-up supercar that—you might figure—he was always been capable of building. 

To wit: carbon fiber body, honeycomb aluminum chassis, 4.0-liter Oldsmobile V8 derived from IndyCar, six-speed transaxle by ZF, independent double wishbone suspension all around, near-50/50 weight distribution, the occasional smattering of GM running gear. An optional supercharger that could send this droptop missile hurtling toward 60mph in just 3.2 seconds. (In the late Nineties, need we remind, this was nothing short of mindblowing.) Custom Goodyear tires. 0.92gs on the skidpad, which in 2000 was a damn good deal. It makes the legendary Cobra look low-tech, which it was. 

And a gorgeous, swoopy shape that hides its inherent GM-ness well—Shelby having now switched Big Three allegiances for the third and final time—and still holds up today: not too retro, and yet instantly familiar. 

Of course, that IRL engine got downgraded to one out of the , the end result was overweight by 700 pounds, deposits were late, the base model price ballooned to $181,824 (which is a cool quarter-million today), Ol' Shel was busy suing everyone to his heart's content, the interior used the dashboard from a Pontiac Firebird, and under two sessions of the car shredded a clutch, ate a nail on a custom Goodyear, threw an engine pulley out of whack, fried a piston, and shredded another clutch. 

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"The Shelby Series 1 is a pure sports car," says Yates—warts and missing cupholders and all. Shelby American managed to produce just 249 examples before the company was sold to an investment firm; after that investment firm declared bankruptcy in 2004, Carroll himself bought back the rights and built a few more continuation examples. As is the case in The House That Shelby Built, nothing stays dead forever, everything is a continuation series.

Concluded Yates: "The Shelby Series 1 is essentially a superb concept but remains a work in progress. When all the bugs are worked out, we're eagerly awaiting another call from the man whose name is on this interesting but still unproved sports car." The Series 1 died in 2005, Carroll Shelby passed away in 2012, and that call never came back. 

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