My wife Cleo and I flew to Scottsdale for this Arizona event that brings car people in from all over the world. Steve Davis, the auction’s president and a true expert when it comes to Shelbys, ran an outstanding show that had hundreds of the best collector cars in North America going up for auction.
I don’t want to be just a reporter here – I’m too old for that. I turned 85 in January but I’m still a hot rodder, an innovator, and I’m committed to always upping the ante when it comes to performance, and to telling about it. Barrett-Jackson is an important showplace for the rekindling of the muscle car war, and selling Shelby cars is why I build them, for people to want and to buy and to enjoy. Most will be driven, some will go into private collections or museums.
I don’t care which. What I really care about are the cars we’re building today and that we’ll be building a year from now. Chrysler brought its own modern muscle car to Scottsdale, the first 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 with a 372cu-in V8, that went for $400,000. So old Dodge muscle is coming back strong.
At Barrett-Jackson, Jay Leno had a lot to say in favor of GM CEO Rick Wagoner’s 2009 $100,000-sticker Corvette ZR1. Over 600 horsepower, it’s what Zora Duntov wanted to build 30 years ago, but it took until now to get it done by GM’s Corvette Division. Along with North America GM president Troy Clarke, Jay was there to talk about getting the best bang for your buck. It was a hell of a price war for this first ZR1.
Bidder Dave Ressler finally topped everyone with million after upping his own call of $400,000, with proceeds going to charity. Chevrolet went big with this and another high sale of $1.6 million for the one-off 1963 concept Corvette Rondine, bodied by Pininfarina.
The ’63 Ford Thunderbird fastback factory concept Italien, built by Andy Hotton’s Dearborn Steel Tubing and for a while a daily driver in California, sold for $600,000 to the Blackhawk Collection. This was historically significant because Detroit was looking to the Italian design houses for inspiration back then – a time when Henry Ford II tried to buy Ferrari, a story I’ve already told here.
Robert Parker, Ford’s car marketing manager, got up on Barrett-Jackson’s stage and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the muscle car wars have begun again!’ That’s when we brought in our new Shelby King of the Road that we make with Ford SVT and Ford Racing’s collaboration. Actor/racer Patrick Dempsey drove me onto the ramp in that first 540 horsepower, 40th-anniversary glass-roof GT500KR. On stage with my wife Cleo, I told the packed auditorium that we were here for a historic moment with this new KR. I wish Edsel Ford could have been there, but I said Robert Parker and I would do our best to entice everybody to give too much money for this KR of ours because all the money goes to Edsel’s charity, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I put on my black hat and said, ‘Open up your purse and your heart!’ Drag racer Joe Amato started the bidding at a hundred grand and it shot up to $400,000, selling to Ron Pratt, who’d also bought my old Supersnake Cobra at Barrett-Jackson last year for $1.5 million to put into his private museum.
We have almost 10% of all Americans affected by diabetes each year, so the charity’s a vital cause and it’s great to be doing this with Ford. On the car side of it, our new Shelby GT500KR beats them all. We’re doing 1000 of them and they’ll be coming to Ford dealers’ showrooms this spring.
My personal 1969 GT500 red convertible that I’ve owned since new was auctioned too, another big bid-winner at $675,000, going to Ron Pratt again. I’ve owned only one Shelby longer, my original Cobra CSX2000, and it’s not for sale. I’ve turned down million for it. Buyers love low serial numbers, like the auctioned ’65 GT350 fastback, number 69 of the original 100 we built for homologation and which was raced in SCCA – it went for $420,000. And a couple of early Cobras sold at $600,000 and above.
One of our old Hertz Shelby GT350H Mustangs was on the block, a rare blue-with-gold-stripes fastback, still good-looking and one you can bet your shirt that car renters had memorable times with. I smiled when it drew $100,000. I love all our Shelbys and the way people go for them – and how they look for what’s coming from us next.