Forgotten Cars: Shelby Series 1

Image: Road&Track

It was supposed to be the car that showed that Shelby still had it going into the 21st century. But some called it “too ambitious”. And in a way it was. Surprisingly made for over 7 years (from 1998 to 2005) the Series 1 was, in essence, an almost new age Cobra. Almost. Well, not quite, but that’s what they would like you to believe. Designed by Shelby himself and produced by his company, it was supposedly the only car designed and engineered from scratch by Shelby himself.


Rather than go to Ford for parts, Shelby went to GM which resulted in the car being rather odd in my opinion engine wise. It was powered by Oldsmobile’s 4.0 L47 V8, which itself, was a variant of the Northstar engine but this variant only saw duty in the Auroa. Power output was 320 horses and 290 ft/lbs of torque routed through the rear wheels by a 6 speed manual. It was light as well owing that to its carbon fiber body and honeycomb aluminum chassis weighing only 2,650 lbs. Because of this, it could reach 60 in 4.4 seconds and do a ¼ mile in 12.8. A supercharger option could take that 0-60 time down to 3.2 seconds which was insane in the late 90’s.

Car mags at the time fawned over it. But when the time came for the car to be given to the public, some things made the car not as great as Shelby had hoped it to be.

The car ended up being 700 lbs overweight, the price ballooned to nearly 200 grand, customer deposits were late, and a Car and Driver review made the car look to be more small time kit car than what one would expect from a legend like Shelby. Under Car & Driver testing the car nuked 2 clutches, threw out an engine pulley, got a nail in the tires (which were custom designed specifically for the Series 1) and destroyed a piston. On top of all this, Shelby was having legal troubles at the time, which eventually lead to his company going bankrupt.


The icing on all of that shit cake was the fact that Shelby raided the GM parts bin for the Series 1. So much so that the car used the entire dash from the Pontiac Firebird. The Firebird in all its late 90's plastic glory. I’ll never understand why he did that. It was a good effort by Shelby and plans were for a Series 2, but they never came to pass. It was a pure sports car in the best and worst way.

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