Elvis’ jet goes for chump change, Mazda returns to a rotary, Shelby International to debut new model


Elvis’ jet sells, finally, at Mecum

Intake: The 1962 Lockheed JetStar once owned by Elvis Presley, which had been stripped of its four engines and some avionics and has languished on the ramp at the Roswell, New Mexico, airport for 35 years, sold Sunday at Mecum’s Kissimmee auto auction for a gavel price of just $260,000, despite an in-person pep talk from Priscilla Presley, 77, Elvis’s former wife, who asked the crowd to honor her ex on Elvis’ 88th birthday with some high bids. The faded plane still has the plush red velvet seats Elvis ordered, and such luxuries as a microwave oven and a small theater. According to AINonline.com, this was at least the third time the jet had come up for auction. Kruse International tried to auction the plane in 2008, but despite estimates of $700,000 to $2 million, reserve was not met. There was another auction in 2018, with GSW Auctions estimating the value at between $2 million and $3.5 million. Wisely, Mecum Kissimmee did not include an estimate of the value, but the auctioneers, and likely the unknown owner, were clearly disappointed in the price, especially since Elvis’ Stutz Bearcat brought almost $300,000 in a Las Vegas auction.

Exhaust: Afterwards, Mecum auctioned off a 15-minute meet-and-greet with the stunningly well-preserved Priscilla — possibly due to her use of Cilla, her commercially-available skin serum ($75), with the proceeds of the meeting going to a cancer charity. The clearly surprised and slightly confused crowd came up with a bid of $8500. —Steven Cole Smith

Shelby Centennial Celebration to include a new model introduction

Shelby Mustang front three-quarter
Brandan Gillogly

Intake: In honor of the man’s 100th birthday, a Carroll Shelby Centennial Celebration will be hosted by Carroll Shelby International on Saturday, January 14, 2023 at Shelby’s Gardena, California, headquarters. The event will feature the debut of a new Shelby anniversary vehicle and will include a car show for Ford-powered performance vehicles sponsored by the Shelby American Automobile Club.

Exhaust: Shelby American produces pickups, Cobras, vintage Mustangs, and new Mustangs, so we’re not sure what to expect as far as the new product goes, but we’d bet on a special set of badges that feature Carroll himself on a particularly exciting version of a 2023 Mustang. That just seems the most fitting and the timing may be a bit too early to expect a look at a Shelby Mustang based on a 2024 model. —Brandan Gillogly 

Finally, the rotary returns

Mazda rotary logo

Intake: After countless delays, and well over a year since registering assorted new e-SKYACTIV-R trademarks, Mazda will finally reveal a new rotary engine at the Brussels Motor Show on January 13. The spinning dorito motor is set to power a plug-in hybrid version of the MX-30 compact crossover, thereby significantly extending the car’s paltry 100-odd mile range. The small single-rotor engine will be mounted up front and acts only as a generator, with an electric motor providing drive to the front wheels as in the MX-30 BEV. The car will be available in Europe from the spring.

Exhaust: You’ve got to admire Mazda’s determination to do things differently, even if it’s taken far more time than planned. The MX-30 was designed to have the rotary range extender right from the start, but getting it to run efficiently and cleanly obviously wasn’t a simple task. Now that they’ve finally got it functioning dare we hope that more exciting developments will follow? —Nik Berg

GridLife announces 2023 schedule

Intake: GridLife, a club racing sanctioning body notorious for epic festivals and excellent competition, recently unveiled its 2023 season schedule. Unlike past years, the 12-race slate is divided into two six-date sub-schedules — GridLife Festival Tour and GridLife Club Weekends. According to the group, the Festival Tour will feature “an elevated fan and spectator experience,” as well as GridLife Touring Cup points races and a live broadcast. Club Weekends, on the other hand, are more of your typical club racing dates, with a focus on track time and paddock experience for drivers. The first-ever GridLife was held at Michigan’s Gingerman Raceway in 2014. Since then, the schedule has ballooned to its current form. Gridlifers will, once again, return to the track that started it all. This year, though, the group will blow into western Michigan twice, with a Club Weekend date and a Festival Tour date a couple weeks later. West Coast fans of the festival-style events, which feature full-track exhibition drifting, will enjoy the new addition of Laguna Seca to the calendar. The entire schedule is here.

Exhaust: Corkscrew? Drift cars? The Laguna Seca date promises to be raucous. Last year, I attended my first GridLife festival at Gingerman and was blown away by the enthusiasm and authenticity. Anyone who has ever doubted automotive enthusiasm’s future should attend any of these events. When we interviewed founder Chris Stewart last year, he touched on the group’s ability to scale up while maintaining the authentic, inclusive environment that they set out to create with their shows. This year’s increased festival presence and expansion to new venues will require more of this care. No doubt, the GridLife crew is up to the task. After successfully spooling a Midwest meet of angle-parked Hondas into a schedule of multi-day festivals and race weekends, a few new changes in 2023 should be another day in the ’Life. —Cameron Neveu

Chip shortage still cutting into 2023 auto production

300mm silicon wafer closeup

Intake: It may feel like life is normal again, but the microchip shortage remains, with AutoForecast Solutions estimating that 2.7 million vehicles globally should be cut from production estimates due to the chip shortage, with over 900,000 of those vehicles being North American products. Automotive News says 2022 finished with nearly 4.4 million production cuts related to the chip shortage. In 2021, more than 10.5 million vehicles were lost.

Exhaust: That number doesn’t count the already-built vehicles that are waiting for chips, and expect to get them by the end of 2023. —SCS

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    Not surprised about the scrap value price on the Elvis Lockheed JetStar. Putting engines on it would cost millions, plus another mil or so to get the cockpit in shape with modern avionics. Obsolete when it was parked and stripped, by the time that the jet was made airworthy, the new owner could buy two modern jets, that would be just as fast, burning half the fuel (or less). As a tourist magnet, maybe it would be viable, but even then, prepping it for people to actually enter the cabin might cost an additional mil, especially if one wanted to re finish the cockpit with authentic, but non working instruments, and work out all the safety requirements for static display. Then there are the disassembly, transport and reassembly costs. All in all, the bid was actually more than what the aircraft was worth.
    Comparison to the Elvis Stutz is silly. A single airworthy engine (4 are needed for the JetStar) cost more than the $300,000 Stutz sale. The thing will never fly again. As a tourist trap, maybe, but the cost to move it and position it on site will cost far more than the Stutz. ‘Looks like this one is going to be cut up.
    Maybe donate it to the National Air and Space Museum?

    An outfit I consulted for in Anchorage had two JetStar II’s back in the early 90’s. I spent many an hour flying to their project sites in Alaska and the west coast. The cabin was so cramped that I spent most every flight in the jump seat up front. One was a bare bones corporate jet with the other being all decked out for the owners use. Neither was anything to write home about! I see where one in “flyable” condition has an asking price at $495,000. Ain’t enough Elvis velvet to entice me to buy one. It’s a short hop fuel hog that requires a two pilot crew. Nope.

    I wouldn’t call the price for that Lockheed “chump change.” I saw photos of the panel, and the only thing left in it is a couple of “steam gauges.” The engines aren’t exactly thick on the ground these days either, though there may be others that are certified for the plane. I’d guess it’ll take over half a million to make that thing airworthy. Spiffing it up as a roadside attraction might be reasonable, though.

    The Elvis Jet is a joke. It’s a junky old plane and would bury it’s owner in costs to make it fly.

    Chip shortages still in 2023. The joke that doesn’t end.

    Thank you as always and Happy New Year. In the US we’re off to a rocky start.
    Elvis’ Jet is an interesting buy and I don’t know what the purchaser had in mind; certainly an enormous wallet to do a restoration.
    Shelby always did interesting things and the latest iteration of Mustangs I’m sorry to say I think is fat and ugly.
    Mazda has always been individualistic and interesting as well. They always are.
    The chip shortage is a result of very poor business judgment, politics, and other artificial issues having nothing to do with what could have been avoided in the first place.

    Maybe they got the numbers mixed up: maybe the jet brought $8,500 and someone paid $260,000 for Priscilla. I mean, since she’s well-preserved and all…

    Yeah, the Shelby is a bit fat. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. Fat & ugly has been the desciptor for the “new” Camaro since day one.

    Mojo Nixon said that everybody in outer-space looks like Elvis in his song so I guess his old plane sitting in Roswell was strangely appropriate.

    Can’t believe someone overpaid that much for that useless plane. Just because something was owned by a celebrity doesn’t automatically equate to higher value. That plane couldn’t be any less air worthy even if it were just a pile of parts on the ground. At least the car can be driven.

    And its really hard to understand why Mazda would waste so much time and money to create a gimmick generator for a hybrid. If the new rotary was going to be the actual engine for the car, that would have been cool. It just seems like a poorly thought-out marketing gimmick at this point.

    Surprised they got that much for Elvis’ JetStar. Beyond the fact that Elvis owned it, what is left isn’t worth much more than scrap value. It was largely parted-out; No instruments or engines. To make if flyable again would be next to impossible and would make no economic sense anyway. Even restoring it as a static museum piece would likely cost at least a million and would still be difficult to monetize. Can’t imagine what the new owner thinks they’re going to do with it.

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