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Haunted Highways: A Series Exploring The Ghosts of Cars Gone By (Quickly)

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On: Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 12:22PM | By: Lou Ruggieri


Haunted Highways: A Series Exploring The Ghosts of Cars Gone By (Quickly)

With the recent passing of one of this writer's personal heroes, we thought it was time to take a look back on one of Carroll Shelby's greatest creations. Although it was only built for one model year, the Shelby Series 1 may be one of the most underrated sports cars of all time.  

The Series 1 was the first car that Carroll Shelby created from scratch. Really? Yes, really. Think it over -- all of the other cars Shelby is known for were already in production: the Cobra was originally an A/C Ace, the GT350 and GT500 were Mustangs, even the Dodge GLH was an Omni before it became one of the first pocket-rockets. The Series 1 however, was nothing before it came into existence  It was an idea, at best and then became one of the crown jewels in the king's garage.

So what was it? Well for those of you who were not as car-savvy 13 years ago, the Series 1 can almost be thought of as a modern-day Cobra, if it were built by GM instead of Ford. Almost. Basically, Carroll Shelby wanted a car that could do everything well, and as an accomplished racer, he knew that the key to that goal was weight. So carbon-fiber was the material of choice for most of the body, resulting in a unit that was not only stronger than metal, it weighed a scant 130 pounds. The chassis and suspension were comprised of aluminum, while unsprung weight was kept to the lowest minimum possible giving the Series 1 a curb weight of just 2650 pounds. Several hundred pounds lighter than a C5 Corvette or even a Porsche Boxster.

Speaking of the venerable Vette, the Series 1 did borrow some bits and pieces from the GM parts bin. See, although the Series 1 was designed completely from scratch, having a billion dollar company backing you makes producing cars like this quite a bit easier. Shelby knew this intimately and utilized his connections with GM to make the Series 1 as production friendly as possible. That would account for the C5 brakes, and six-speed matching transmission mounted C5-style in the rear via a torque tube to achieve perfect 50/50 weight distribution. The engine was borrowed from of all places Oldsmobile (they used to be a GM car company for those of you who are too young to remember). Using the Aurora V8, Shelby did what Shelby does, and cranked it up a few notches to meet his power demands. The net effect was a 320 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque.

That power combined with a 4.22:1 rear gear helped the little roadster haul some serious tail with no small contribution from the solid contact patch provided by the Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar P265/40ZR18/P315/40ZR18 rear tires. 0-60 mph was completed in 4.4 seconds, 0-100 in 11.0 seconds, through the quarter mile in 12.8 seconds at 109.9 mph, and a top speed north of 170 mph. In 1999, those times were good enough to outrun just about every car on the road short of a Viper. Braking from 60 mph was done in 129 feet, while it only took 345 feet to stop from 100 mph. Lateral acceleration was an impressive 0.94 g, while the little coupe could hum through a 600-ft slalom in a slippery 67.0 mph. This was all done with an EPA rating of 16/27 city/highway mpg. Not bad Shelby, not bad. Oh, and this time around Shelby decided for 100k owners should be entitled to air-conditioning, power-windows, power-steering, power-brakes, leather-trim interior, and even a stereo! There was no ABS, or traction control, but then, who really needs them anyway?

The only problem the Series 1 did encounter was that in 1999 federal regulations required the Shelby car to be recertified after year's end. Apparently the cost was more than Shelby was willing or able to afford, so production ceased after only 249 units -- half of the planned 500 units. So Shelby then sold the remaining cars as "component vehicles" in which companies would take the same Olds engine and install them post-purchase.

In pure Shelby tradition, Carroll somehow was not satisfied with creating one of the best-balanced and most visually striking American cars of all time. Not long after the introduction of his very first true creation, good 'ole Shelby decided to slap a supercharger on the Series 1. The rest they say ... is history. Thanks for the memories Shelby -- you will be missed.


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