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Hot-rod maker Shelby American moving to new Las Vegas headquarters

June 25, 2013|By W.J. Hennigan

Shelby American Inc., the hot-rod maker that bears the name of late automotive icon Carroll Shelby, is consolidating its headquarters in Las Vegas as it gears up for global expansion.

The company announced it will open a new 135,000-square-foot facility by Dec. 1 near the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip and bustling McCarran International Airport.

Currently Shelby American’s more than 110 employees work in five buildings on the outer fringes of Las Vegas putting together powerful Shelby Cobras and manufacturing a catalog of high-performance car parts.

The new headquarters will put the entire production process under one roof.

“Shelby American is gearing up for global expansion,” company President John Luft said in a statement. “Our new facility allows us to be more nimble and accessible to our customers while dramatically improving production and operational efficiency.”

The building fronts Interstate 15 and is one block off of Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s a prime location, the company says, to gain exposure to tourists who would not otherwise make the 20-mile trek to see its current facility near Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Shelby American wants to bring people through its sprawling automotive museum and daily factory tours as it moves into the European and emerging Asian markets.

“The decision to move operations into our new headquarters is consistent with what Carroll did many times in the past,” Luft said.

In March 1962, Shelby launched Shelby American Inc. from a red brick shop in Venice Beach. That year, Shelby, a retired race car driver, took a lightweight two-seat roadster and married it with a powerful V-8 Ford Motor Co. engine.

The first Shelby Cobra sports car was born.

In the mid-1960s, Ford hired Shelby to pump up the performance of its Mustangs. Before he got his hands on the car, Shelby called the Mustang a “secretary’s car.” By 1966, Shelby Mustangs were winning on racetracks and drag strips across the country.

To keep up with production, Shelby later moved his company to a larger facility near Los Angeles International Airport. Over time, the value of original Shelby Cobras skyrocketed.

Shelby was caught in controversy in the early 1990s after he sold several Cobra 427SC cars that he billed as original 1965 versions cobbled together from long-lost parts — for hundreds of thousands of dollars — when it was discovered that the chassis were in fact new. This meant they were worth far less than the true original Cobra 427 models.

After the fallout, Shelby relocated his company from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. He focused his attention on building and selling the chassis and fiberglass or aluminum bodies of the Shelby Cobra, which the company still sells today starting at $80,000.

A decade later, Shelby and Ford rekindled their relationship. Shelby American now makes the cult classic GT350 and GT500 Cobra, as well as other vehicles.

The GT500 kicks out 662 horsepower, making it the most powerful production V-8 in the world. It's currently the only pre-titled car — meaning officially a Ford product — with the Shelby name. Ford pays Shelby a licensing fee.

Shelby died in May 2012 at age 89.


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