The Birthplace of the Shelby Cobra

 

Much is made amongst motorsport enthusiasts of the sixties rivalry between Ford and Ferrari – the subject is even salacious enough to warrant coverage by a Playboy writer. Critical to Ford’s success was Carroll Shelby’s company, with his Cobras and performance tuned Mustangs. In Maranello, home to Scuderia Ferrari, the red walled factory with its yellow gates is a unmissable landmark; when Ferrari’s win, the church bells toll; across the road from the factory the Old Man’s favourite lunch restaurant, Il Cavallino remains open, the walls covered in Ferrari pictures and stories – the town is steeped in Ferrari lore.

So it was with some interest that I read this article on “Shelby archaeology” – how would Shelby’s factory compare with Ferrari’s ?

The first thing to say is that Shelby grew quickly, and in so doing moved from site to site. The first location, at 1042 Princeton, in Venice ( a trendy, “hip” bit of Los Angeles ) is almost unchanged from period photographs – compare the windows:

Nowadays, it is used a talent agency for child actors, in case you had forgotten this was LA.

The second location, just around the corner in Carter Street, has disappeared completely with the construction of new condos, so I drove out to LAX, to the third site, at 6501 West Imperial Highway:

 
Today, Shelby has a new facility out in Las Vegas, near the Las Vegas motor speedway. Like Ferrari, he produces a few thousand costly, purebred sportscars each year. Unlike Ferrari, the places where he made those original cars, the cars which build his reputation, bear no trace of his activity. When I first moved to California, I noticed that often the oldest thing on a given street was often a car or a person, not a building. Since everything is new, there is very little sense of the need to preserve anything, and the result is often nothing gets preserved. When I took photographs at Maranello, it was amongst a throng of tourists, yea, tifosi; in Venice, all I got was hostile stares from the parents of the next Angelina Jolie – who is that weird dude with the brown molestor van taking photos ?