Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shelby car factory/museum Las Vegas review

This post will be divided into three sections-- Museum, Factory, Gift Shop.

I. Museum

The Shelby museum and factory are located between the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Interstate 15, just 15 miles north of the Strip.

The museum is the most interesting part of the facility, as it has 22 Shelby cars of various vintages.  Here's a modern GT40.

The first thing you notice is that Shelby logos and signatures are on everything.  And I mean everything.

Though most visitors made a beeline for the 60s muscle cars, I went straight for the cheesy 80s Dodges.  This is the 1983 Dodge Shelby Charger Prototype.

This is the first muscle truck (predates the Ford Lightning and GMC Typhoon), the 1989 Dodge Dakota Prototype.  The 5.2 liter V8 is capable of an astonishing 175 horsepower.  1,500 were built.

This bad boy, the Shelby GLHS, is my favorite.

The controversial Shelby Series 1:

Bottles of Z Max were strategically placed.  Very sad.

This blue model is THE first Shelby Cobra ever.  Carroll Shelby painted it a number of different colors to trick the automotive press into thinking that there was more than one car.  The story is someone recently offered Carroll Shelby $23 million for this car.

Here is a Hertz edition Mustang.  500 were produced.  All were automatics except six.  The six went to Hertz executives.

A couple of Shelby karts.

II. Factory

The Las Vegas factory started life solely to produce the Shelby Series 1.  After that debacle, Hertz contracted Shelby to convert 500 Mustangs into the black and gold rental cars.  Now, the facility is used mostly to convert factory-fresh Mustangs into Shelby Mustangs.

The factory tours are given daily at 10:30.  It lasts for an hour and the guide goes over the factory and museum.  You first go into a smaller workshop where replica Cobras are made.  Then you go to the larger workshop, which has 18 service bays.  These bays are solely for the conversion of stock Mustangs to Shelby Mustangs.  Each bay can convert up to four vehicles per day.

The group I was with had about 50 people.  Surprisingly, about a third of them were from Europe and Australia.  Even more surprising, nearly all of the foreign visitors own newer Shelbys.

No photos are allowed, but this video gives you a pretty good idea of what the main shop looks like.

III. Gift Shop

Not surprisingly, you can buy almost anything with a Shelby logo slapped on it.  Clocks, golf bags, BBQ spatulas, beer can cozies.  You name it.  Even these stickers.  It's kind of unsettling to realize that anyone with a Mustang can just buy one of these and slap it on their car.

It gets better (or worse).  You can have Carroll Shelby sign a piece of a car (dash, glove box door, etc.) in exchange for $250 to his "foundation".  If you just want a photo or piece of paper signed, you will need to make a $150 donation.

Shelby is without a doubt an American icon and automotive luminary.  But the amount of goodwill he has lost over the last three decades is immeasurable.  The public's willingness to still fork over thousands of dollars* for the Shelby name is a real head scratcher.

*The cheapest package you can buy is the GTS.  For $9,995, you can outfit a V6 Mustang with body cladding, lower the suspension, change the exhaust, and of course, affix the exterior and interior with a myriad of Shelby badges.


MattC said...

Interesting take on his museum. I feel the same way about Shelby. He is an automotive visionary but a flawed human being. He has made many enemies over the years and divided some of his most loyal supporters. Let's face it, modern kit car versions of the Cobra are vastly superior(and less expensive) than his originals. Yet he did everything in his power to shut these companies down. He has sued his own fan club and he is willing to slap his name on anything for a fee. I actually like the series 1 and his conversions in the 1980s (my formulative driving years), but his image is a pale shadow of his former self.

F1Outsider said...

That blue cobra is beautiful! When I can afford a replica, it will look just like that. It looks so much better than the 427 Cobra.

Coincidentally, I saw a Series 1 parked in the street outside my job today as I was heading towards the parking garage. I had never seen one before, which is weird because I think South Florida only loses out to Monaco in the supercar-per-mile ratio.

I appreciate the cars and generally turn a blind eye to what their creators do/don't do because they all eventually f*ck up at some point.

Enzo Ferrari was an a-hole.
McLaren F1 was created by Gordon Murrary. Look at the POS he's trying to sell us now.
Delorean was built with Drug money.

Edvin said...

I've never quite understood all the hype about Shelby. Maybe theres something important I don't know about him.. I've always thought of him more as a good businessman than a visionary. Didn't he in essence just take an existing British sports car, change the engine for a V8 and cash in on that?

Anyway, the GLHS is cool, reminds me of the Lotus Sunbeam and of course the crappier European version of the GLHS, the Talbot Horizon.

Alan said...

I think the T25 is brilliant. A small, great handling, well-built, efficient, relatively quick little car with game-changing packaging and manufacturing procedures is just what the automotive world needs right about now.

The McLaren F1 on the other hand was an ill-handling thing with brakes equivalent to an unboosted, all drum early 60s American family car. It's still the single greatest car ever built, but just sayin'...

steve-vh said...

GLHS = Goes Like Hell Som'more!!

Maxichamp said...

@MattC: I don't have anything against the Series 1s. I just remember how unreasonably long it took to manufacture (and how much more expensive it was than originally promised).

@F1O: I remember when I used to browse the DuPont Registry at big book stores (remember those places?) and seeing ads for the Series 1. And they were always for sale in or near Miami.

The blue Cobra is beautiful, but I like the 427 just as much.

@Edvin: I think love for the Cobra is an American thing. I'll bet 80% of the people here who like Cobras don't even know about its British origins.

Edvin said...

Just watched the new Shelby documentary on Netflix, which made me think of my old comment from 2011. Back then I was mostly unaware of the breadth of his racing and business success. I certainly have some newfound respect for the man, although I still don't buy into the hype and have become increasingly allergic to the concept of CEO worship.

Maxichamp said...

@Edvin: Have you seen Ford Versus Ferrari yet?

Edvin said...

Nope, waiting for streaming. Heard a lot about it though.