Shelby American Series 1

Carroll Shelby just couldn’t help himself — the former racing driver never lost his enthusiasm for high speed and every so often just had to create another awesome performance roadster.

He chose to do just that to celebrate his 75th birthday in 1998. This time the beast in question was the Series 1, a more-than-worthy successor to previous greats that included the Shelby Cobra GT350 and GT500. The extended development of the Series 1 (from 1994) had plunged the Shelby American company into financial difficulty, but body supplier Venture Industries rode to the rescue by investing heavily in Shelby.

After endless glitches and problems the first Series 1 cars were produced at Shelby’s Las Vegas factory — the first model engineered from the ground up by Shelby American. The production run was to be 500 cars. The chosen engine was a highly tuned 4 litre Aurora V8 from Oldsmobile. The chassis consisted of extruded aluminium members and the body was made from feather-light carbon fibre.

There were two roll bars and independent suspension all round, complemented by large disc brakes borrowed from the contemporary Corvette. The Corvette also provided the six-speed manual gearbox that was located in the rear to help achieve ideal 50-50 weight distribution.

With all that going for it, the Series 1 provided classic Shelby thrills for anyone lucky enough to drive one. And they could even experience the joys of piloting this muscular sports car in some comfort. The Series 1 sported air conditioning, electric windows, a leather-trimmed cabin and loud sound system.

But it remained a pure driver’s car, with Carroll Shelby refusing to fit an antilock braking system. Unfortunately for posterity, few indeed were privileged to slide behind the wheel of a Series 1. Just 249 cars were built before production was suspended in 2002.




1998 (until 2002)


4.0 l (244 cid) DOHC V8


Top speed of 185 mph (298 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.1 secs


When new regulations required the car to be recertified, this would have been prohibitively expensive – so Carroll Shelby decided to offer the remaining 251 Series 1s as ‘component cars’ without engines, which could then be retro-fitted with a supercharged Olds engine capable of hitting 60 mph (97 km/h) from a standing start in 3.3 seconds.


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