1999 Shelby Series 1
8-cyl. 244cid/320hp FI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Design work on the Shelby Series 1 began as early as 1994, and it ultimately became the only car designed completely from scratch by Carroll Shelby. While it didn’t quite turn into the successor to the original Shelby Cobra as planned, it did have some impressive performance credentials behind it by the time it launched, including an aluminum chassis and a top speed of 170 mph. Most people remember the car for what it wasn’t, unfortunately.
Original specifications called for a carbon fiber body, a rear-mounted Corvette C5 transaxle, a total weight of 2,650 lbs, and 500 horsepower, but the reality was somewhat more modest. The car’s weight increased to nearly 3,000 lbs as engineers adjusted to EPA mandates, and the installed engine ended up being the Oldsmobile Aurora’s V-8 motor, which offered 320 horespower and a 0 to 60 sprint in 4.4 seconds, instead of an Olds V-8 modified for the Indy Racing League.
From the time the model was announced, buyers lined up and plunked down deposits on a price that started at $85,000 in 1998 then successively rose to about $140,000. Production delays and the shift in the model’s performance proved to be too much for some early enthusiasts, though, and a number of buyers sued to get their deposits back.
The picture had brightened somewhat in about 2000, when a Vortec supercharged version was announced. Performance now approached the original claims, with 450 horsepower, 0 to 60 mph in 3.71 seconds, and a quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 120.03 mph. However the base price had now risen to $174,975 and the supercharged model was $195,000.
By 2003 a new majority owner, Venture Corporation, was in control of Shelby American, and only 249 of the planned 500 Series 1s had been sold, about 80 of them supercharged. Venture went bankrupt in 2004 and Shelby bought the remaining stock, minus engines and transmissions, selling them as CSX5000 “component” cars. This maneuver eliminated the need for EPA and DOT certification since the buyer would complete the car himself, and CSX5000 cars sold for around $100,000.
Today the Shelby Series 1 elicits a mixed reaction—some enthusiasts recognize it as a true sports car with a Shelby pedigree while others bemoan what could have been. Setting aside the back story, however, the Series 1 can provide a lot of fun and exclusivity, and it seems to have run its course of depreciation. Lots of low-mile examples exist, but astute buyers will be more concerned with whether or not the car is equipped with a blower.