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The Petersen Museum on Wilshire Blvd is an iconic spot in Los Angeles. In addition to excellent displays that rotate every few months, there are monthly car gatherings on the 3rd parking floor that have their unique theme. This month, the museum event organizers celebrated Carroll Shelby, a name synonymous with high-performance automobiles built here in Los Angeles.

In 1962, Shelby founded Shelby American, Inc. here in town, building the most iconic of his creations, the Shelby Cobra. A marriage of a British AC Ace chassis and body and a Ford V8 engine. The Cobra became a formidable force on the racing circuit and a symbol of American muscle cars.

In 1965, the Mustang Shelby GT350, based on the all-new Mustang Fastback, was another success. The GT500 in 1967  further solidified Carroll Shelby’s legacy in American sportscars. Shelby transformed the Mustang into a high-performance machine, and the “pony war” started. These cars featured powerful engines and enhanced suspensions, and designer Peter Brock provided distinctive styling cues that captivated enthusiasts.

Lee Iacocca, then a Ford executive, recognizing Shelby’s expertise, approached him with a few challenges: Win Le Mans, transform the Ford Mustang into a competitive racing car, and show the world the American ingenuity. This collaboration between Iacocca and Shelby became a turning point for both men and the American automotive industry.

Today, the allure of Shelby’s creations lies in their rarity, performance, and the sheer charisma of the man behind them. The limited production numbers of cars like the Cobra and Mustang Shelby variants contribute to their collector’s item status. The mystique surrounding Carroll Shelby, coupled with the racing successes of his creations, has elevated these cars to iconic status among enthusiasts and collectors alike.

At the Petersen gathering, which I attended on my own 1965 Mustang Fastback, we could see some of the original sixties cars driven to the show by their proud owners. Additionally, this was a great Mustang show. More than three hundred cars filled the parking lot. Mustangs from the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, and all the way to 2024s’ made a statement about what a Shelby badged car is. A valid extension of gearheads that love the V8 motor rumble of the most selling sportscar in America. 

All participants enjoy an early coffee and bagels and then admission to the museum. There was also an excellent talk led by car collector Bruce Meyers, who is a GT350 owner himself, that brought back memories of the company based next to LAX. 

This car cow demonstrated Carroll Shelby’s impact, which shaped the ethos of American muscle cars. His legacy lives on in the hearts of automotive enthusiasts around the world. I want to add that Mr. Shelby is the only person to win the Le Mans race as a driver, team manager, team owner, and racecar manufacturer. Check out the calendar and the Petersen Museum for the upcoming events. 

Petersen Museum 

6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

https://www.petersen.org/