As some of you will have spotted in our photo gallery Liam and I recently visited the HQ of Shelby American Inc. in Las Vegas, Nevada (we were very tempted to try our luck on the roulette wheels to finance a new Mustang!). The trip was even more relevant because the week before I’d been to see the movie about Carroll Shelby starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale. I know it’s called Ford vs Ferrari (or Le Mans ’66, depending on which country you are watching it in), but actually, for me, the movie is really about the personalities of the visionary Carroll Shelby and the great engineer and driver Ken Miles.
The Shelby Heritage Center and HQ is situated close to the airport on the edge of Las Vegas, and before our meeting we had a good look at the cars on show. Pride of place of course is the Super Snake, displayed on a plinth as you enter, with a great backdrop of Carroll Shelby. I hear though that the Super Snake is leaving at the end of 2019 to go to its new owner, so it was a privilege to get to see it up close (in fact really up close as we were taking some official photos so got to go behind the barriers).
There are several Shelby Cobras on display, showcasing original cars and continuation anniversary models; the badge is the giveaway as to which models are which.
The Cobras are beautiful, and you just want to jump into one of them and drive off (in fact all the cars had their keys in the ignition… if only there was an open door!). We played the game of ‘which car you’d drive home’, and after ruling out the Super Snake, the Cobras were definitely winning for the dream of that simple, sunny afternoon drive around town!
Shelby American sells the CSX9000 continuation series of the famous Daytona Coupe. The cars are period-correct featuring leaf-sprung suspension and tube chassis frame, and start at $350,000 – expensive but a fraction of what one of the original six would cost you, even if you could get hold of one! There is a fiberglass version starting at a more affordable (!) $179k which is more of an update that includes non-racer luxury such as air-con and more space inside for the driver and passenger.
Also on display was another original 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500, this one in a metallic blue. It’s interesting to see the differences between this and the Super Snake. Note though that the blue Mustang’s hood has been modified at some time in its history as it’s not true to the original spec.
The big difference can be seen under the hood. The following two photos show how the Super Snake had its original engine replaced with the Ford Big-Block FE 427, as used in the Ford GT MkII at Le Mans. We attracted the attention of a few more Mustang enthusiasts who were also visiting the center when we lifted up the hoods for a rare glimpse of the engineering that powers these stunning cars.
The more you look and compare them, the more variations are evident; the position of the front lights, for example, and the special fire extinguisher that’s only inside the Super Snake. The other subtle, but major adaptation to the paintwork is that the Super Snake has three blue stripes running down the length of its body, whereas the ‘normal’ GT500s & GT350s have only two stripes:
The Super Snake was the first of these Mustangs to have its central headlamps moved to the sides of the grille, this was purely to allow more air to flow through the front grille and onto the radiator and the engine compartment to improve cooling at higher speeds (remember the Super Snake was the world’s fastest production car available at the time). Since then, subsequent Mustangs have also adopted this technical modification by positioning the headlamps to the sides, and for me this is an aesthetic improvement as much as a technical one as I think it just looks better!
If you’re in Las Vegas then I’d thoroughly recommend a ride out to the Shelby Heritage Center (about $14 in an Uber). You can at least come away with a T-shirt!