Celebrating Carroll Shelby on the Petersen’s Sunday Cruise

This year marks six decades since Carroll Shelby first opened the doors to his Venice, California, store in 1962. Road Mustang on the way and a new Shelby Mach-E concept marking a first step into the future electric.

Now, 60 years later, the Shelby name continues to thrive, fostering an entire community of enthusiasts that only grew after the biopic’s release in 2019. Ford versus Ferrari. Today, the Los Angeles automotive community’s passion for all things Shelby showed once again on the roof of the garage at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Breakfast Club Cruise-In

The original Cobra on display

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by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

Pride of place on a ramp that leads to the Petersen proper, the first Shelby Cobra ever built with serial number CSX2001 stole the show as the star of the show. The chassis served as something of a development stage for future Cobra upgrades, with a 289ci V8 installed at Ed Hugus’ European Cars of Pittsburgh before the first owner sold the car to Lloyd Casner, owner of the Camoradi racing team who would then bolt on a hardtop and take it out for an inaugural attempt at Le Mans in 1964. But four Weber carburetors powering that powerplant only produced 325 horsepower for the 2,100-pound Cobra, which despite the hardtop efforts to improve aerodynamics, have always been battling more powerful, more efficient competitors.

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Modern Shelby incarnations

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by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

The evolution from the first Cobra to today’s modern Shelby Mustangs is evident whenever an ownership group comes together to honor the “free range chicken of Texas.” And many of Ford’s factory Mustangs, as well as the more powerful variants created by Shelby American, showed up at the Petersen, ranging from bone stock to heavily modified examples in a rainbow of paint schemes. aggressive and those iconic racing stripes.

RELATED: Looking Back at 60 Years of Shelby

Cars designed for drivers

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by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

Most Shelbys have arrived in sparkling, pristine condition, whether they’re vintage models, replicas from so many companies over the years, or modern sports cars. But a few proud owners showed off their well-worn Cobras with torn seats, scuffed shift knobs, weathered trim and dirty wheels, demonstrating that no matter how collectible or valuable a Shelby may seem today , Carroll Shelby built cars meant to be driven hard and fast.

RELATED: These Are The 10 Coolest Shelby Cars Ever Made

Introducing Shelby to New Generations

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by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

Matt Damon and Christian Bale’s biopic Ford versus Ferrari helped introduce Shelby and its iconic cars to a new generation, who then took to social media and discovered the passionate community that grew up idolizing the very characters of Shelby himself, Ken Miles, Phil Remington and Bruce McLaren. The photo above shows one of the most entertaining moments I’ve spotted on the rooftop of Petersen’s parking lot, as the owner of a classic Mustang explained to a few teenagers how carburetors mix air and fuel to power the V8 under the hood.

RELATED: 10 Things Every Gearhead Should Know About The Shelby 1000 Ford Mustang

Cobras old and new

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by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

Even Cobra recreations from Superformance and Backdraft Racing can fetch a pretty penny in today’s booming collectible car market, especially because anyone who’s pinned posters to their bedroom walls with slab-side and flared Cobras now know that modern reliability, upgraded suspension design, creature comforts and absurd power can hide beneath iconic exteriors meant to grab attention wherever they drive.

RELATED: It’s the Best Feature of the 1965 Shelby Cobra

Sparkling engines and signs

Shelby Cruise to Petersen
by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

Of course, today’s car culture also includes exactly the kind of aftermarket modifications that Carroll Shelby helped pioneer in the 1960s and beyond. Many cars arrived with bolt-on superchargers, big chrome wheels, and carbon fiber parts that neither Ford nor Shelby might ever have installed new, but this kind of fun DIY fits right in with the community of Proud Shelby owners, though originality still commands a bit more respect (not to mention value).

RELATED: The True Legacy of Shelby American

The famous Offset pedals

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by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

The original cars, however, sometimes feature as many AC badges as Shelby, since the British firm built more than just the AC Ace bodies. In fact, for most of the rest of the world, the Cobra first hit showroom floors as an air conditioner rather than a Shelby. But regardless, the stylistically simple bodies Shelby asked AC to produce required some sacrifice in the name of engineering, resulting in a famously offset pedal design that forces the driver to sit somewhat on the hips while riding any stock Cobra.

RELATED: Here’s What Made the 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 So Awesome

A spacious engine compartment

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by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

The typical explanation for those off-kilter pedals involves theories about stuffing a big Ford V8 and a heavy-duty transmission capable of handling significant power in a tiny British sports car. But in fact, the stock engine compartment offered plenty of space, just not in the right places. In the name of balance, Shelby mounted the Cobra’s engine so far up in the chassis that masses of unused space in front of the V8 left the floor entirely visible from above. The resulting balance allowed the Cobras to at least somewhat compete with the purpose-built Ferraris at Le Mans thanks to the limiting mid-engine weight distribution.

RELATED: Hellcat Vs Shelby: Watch Two Modern Muscle Cars Drag Race

The real mid-engined Shelby

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by Michael Van Runkle/HotCars

But even mounting the Cobra’s engine so far back, the little roadster still struggled to reach high enough speeds on the famous Mulsanne straight, so Shelby eventually switched to the Daytona coupe design – only one of which is introduced briefly to the Petersen – then to the actual mid-engined GT40.

Arguably the original American supercar, the GT40 would go on to finish 1-2-3 at Le Mans in 1966 and dominate the race for the next three years, cementing the storied partnership between Ford and Shelby in the annals of automotive history. Today any GT40 that turns up at a Shelby rally will draw a crowd, especially with the rear hull tilted back to reveal gear stacks, custom headers and a Gurney Eagle valve cover like the car above.

Surprisingly, of all the Cobras, Mustangs, GT40s and that single Daytona coupe, no Shelby pickups showed up at the Petersen this weekend, despite trucks making up 80% of U.S. Shelby sales today. Blame LA’s bourgeois classic car culture for the notable oversight, if you must, but the pickup trucks and future electric SUVs represent Shelby’s ongoing commitment to meeting market demand while remaining at the forefront of the technology and performance, just like Shelby the racing driver, engineer and all-around American icon has been behind the wheel his whole life.

Sources: petersen.org, motorsportmagazine.com, shelby.com, superformance.com, backdraftracing.com and accars.eu.

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