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by Austin C. Craig  More from Author

There Is A Lot More Going On Than Building GT350s

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Shelby American facilities in Las Vegas and discovered there is a lot more going on there than just building the new GT350. It was interesting to see the new speed shop, production and modification center, the continuation Cobra assembly area and the thriving Shelby Performance Parts department.

I was very interested to learn more about the Shelby Performance Parts Program that has been taken in-house and totally revamped for 2011 under the talents and guidance of Robert Lane and Sharon Elliott. They both did a great job founding and growing the Team Shelby Club and I was anxious to see first hand the fruits of their latest endeavor.

Shelby American Motorsports

Over the last few years, Gary Davis, Shelby American’s Vice President of Production has wanted to create a speed shop where enthusiasts could bring their vehicles and have them modified, dyno-tuned and upgraded. Gary explained why he wanted to create a speed shop, “Shelby American is a manufacturer and as such can only perform certain operations and modifications in our Mod and Production Shop. I felt we needed a true speed shop with a dyno, a facility that could handle any update a customer wanted to have performed from the addition of headers, the installation of a new Shelby Aluminum Windsor engine, cold air kits, and a dyno tune, a set of Baer brakes or Kicker performance audio system. We created Shelby American Motorsports as a separate division of Shelby American to accomplish our goal.”

One of the keys to a successful operation Gary noted was to have a supervisor who had experience running a successful speed shop operation and a person who would grow the business. Gary Davis continues, “I have known Gil Nevarez for a number of years and had seen first hand his very successful speed shop and some of the very well turned out and fast race and street cars that rolled out of his place here in Las Vegas. We held a number of discussions and I was very happy to have Gil come to work with us as Supervisor of Shelby American Motorsports.”

It did not take long for me to understand why Gary selected Gil. A true enthusiast with a successful 12-year racing background in the NHRA Pro Mod Class, and Nevarez understands how to run and grow the speed shop business. His two successful businesses in Whittier, California, and Las Vegas more than validate his talents.

“While our Ford and Shelby customers represent the largest part of our business since we opened in May 2010, we have expanded our customer base to include all brands,” Gil told me. “The nice thing about the expanded Shelby parts program is that we are now able to buy the parts from Robert and Sharon’s group. In addition we also source parts from a variety of performance equipment manufacturers. We also knew we needed a dyno to be able to get a performance baseline for our customers. After installing the upgrades they wanted we could show the customer their vehicle’s improved performance, which in most cases is substantial,”

Just because Shelby American Motorsports is located in Las Vegas does not mean that is the only area their customers live. Gil said they have customers from Canada, Michigan, Florida and a number of other states.

With over 5,800 square feet, five lifts and a chassis dyno, the speed shop is well equipped to handle to growing customer base. With the chassis dyno, Gill is conducting “dyno days” for a number of brands, where customers get two pulls on the dyno to determine their vehicle’s state of tune. I am always amazed at the number of vehicles that do not perform up to the owner’s expectations, but after car or truck have been tuned, how much better it runs. According to Gil Nevarez, quite a few customers want more power and schedule appointments after their “dyno day” to upgrade their ride.


Shelby Engines

Being able to install complete engines to meet a customer’s “need for speed,” the Shelby American Motorsports speed shop has used the new Shelby all aluminum “Period Correct” FE engines as well as the new Shelby Windsor power plants to meet the “need.”

Ever since1963 when Cecil Bowman built race winning engines for the 289 Cobras in the Shelby American engine shop at the 1042 Princeton Drive facility located in Venice, California, Shelby American-built engines have powered winners on the race track and on the street. Today, the Shelby Engines Division of Shelby American builds complete engines as well as short blocks to meet their customer’s needs. The company can also supply parts from oil pans to carburetors.

The Shelby all aluminum FE engines come in the following displacements:
  • 452 cid 500 horsepower
  • 468 cid 550 horsepower
  • 482cid 575 horsepower

The Shelby Aluminum Windsor engines are available in two displacements:
  • 393 cid 475 horsepower
  • 427 cid 550 horsepower

Every engine comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Carroll Shelby and completed dyno sheets.

Shelby Production and Mod Center

Our next stop was the very busy production and mod shop where a number of the new GT350s were being built and completed. In addition, any number of GT500s were being modified into the ultra fast GT500 Super Snakes. The 2005-2009 Shelby F-150 Super Snake was introduced at the 2009 SEMA Show and orders have been coming from all over the country, as owners of short bed super cabs or supercrews equipped with 5.4L engines have discovered that the F-150 Super Snake delivers additional power and performance with aggressive truck styling. We met shop foreman Phillip Brown who pointed at the modifications being performed on the Mustangs and Shelbys. The new Shelby supercharger systems being installed on the 2011 GT 500s were especially impressive.

As previously mentioned, the production of the 2011 GT350s was in full swing. Both the supercharged and naturally aspirated models are very popular. Like all Shelby vehicles the GT350 is a post title program, where a customer first orders a 2011 Mustang GT and has the Mustang shipped to Las Vegas for the transformation, or a customer can make their own arrangements to ship or drive their Mustang to the Shelby American production facility.

Cobra Assembly Shop

The Shelby 289 Cobras became the first and only American made car to win the prestigious FIA World Manufacturers Championship in 1965. Not resting on his laurels Carroll Shelby created the ultimate expression of power and performance with the 427 Cobra S/C. The 289 FIA, CSX 7000 Series and the original “slab side” 289 street CSX8000 Series plus the 427 S/C and 427 street versions CSX4000 Series are being produced today using improved materials and components.

Cobra Shop Supervisor Tony Emmert gave us a tour of the shop and pointed that all the employees have worked in the Cobra shop for an average of 11 years. I asked Tony how long it takes to build a Cobra once they get the car from the paint shop, he said four weeks. Judging from the attention to detail I saw that goes into every portion of the build, I can see why. The cars, offered in both aluminum like the ’60s Cobras, or fiberglass, are shipped to dealers where the customer’s engine of choice is installed.

Shelby Performance Parts

In January of 2010 Shelby American brought their performance parts business in house. Robert Lane and Sharon Elliott were given the task and responsibility of growing the business. I had seen the new magazine ads and updated website, but was eager to learn more about the Shelby Performance Parts business and Robert and Sharon’s vision for the future. Unfortunately Sharon was out the day of our visit, but Robert was very pleased and happy to update us on the transformation and growth of the Shelby Performance Parts business.

I have known Robert for a number of years and always liked his enthusiasm for whatever task he undertakes. Nothing has changed as his excitement for the parts program and its future is boundless. “When we started, we sold mostly ‘bling’ and accessories, which to my mind was not what Shelby performance is all about,” Robert began. “We want to develop and sell true Shelby-branded performance parts, not some other branded part our customers can purchase anywhere. We know our customers want the Shelby name on all our performance parts and that is what we are working towards,” Lane concluded.

To Robert, customer service is the lifeblood of the company and towards that end he has built a dedicated, knowledgeable staff to handle any and all customer needs. Customer satisfaction is the number one priority and Robert and his staff work hard to see that every order of their growing list of performance parts are shipped with the correct part and in a timely matter. When a customer has questions, they are answered in a very timely manner.

Building a good working relationship with the speed shop was critical, especially when the new parts started to enter the system. This relationship has grown and Robert sees a great source of sales through the Shelby American Motorsports speed shop. Building a dealer network that is profitable and with a complete line of Shelby parts is also a priority and Robert told me they are working hard to accomplish this goal.

By the time you read this there will be a Shelby Performance catalog with over 100 pages packed full of performance equipment. Since the company is adding Shelby branded parts all the time, supplements will be printed throughout the year. Being a master of the Internet and websites, Robert will continue to not only add Shelby parts and accessories to the company’s website, he has and will continue to make a visit to the Shelby Performance Parts website a very enjoyable experience.

Our visit to Shelby American was educational as well as very enjoyable. When in Las Vegas, stop by and visit the Shelby American museum and gift shop. The museum car and memorabilia displays are constantly evolving, with Carroll Shelby’s first Cobra as a centerpiece. The gift shop stocks the latest in Shelby apparel and merchandise.

You can also sign up for a facilities tour while you are there and see for yourself all the exciting areas of Shelby American facilities. It will be time well spent.


A partial view of the speed shop showing the variety of vehicles being worked on.


Gary Davis (L) Shelby American, VP of Production and Gil Nevarez, Shelby American Motorsports Supervisor pictured in the lobby of the new Speed Shop.


Shelby’s Speed Shop performed all of the work on this 2004 Cobra – including the supercharger, cold air intake system and the aircraft quality branded lines.


This 2004 Cobra has undergone a number of updates including a Whipple supercharger and power cooler. Here Gil points to the new 123mm mass air meter and intake recently installed. The bottom end has been reinforced with a Kellogg crankshaft, JE pistons, Carrillo rods and ported heads. The Cobra now puts out 750 horsepower at the rear wheels.


A new Kenne Bell Shelby Super Snake supercharger is being installed on a customer’s GT500. A substantial horsepower increase will occur when the driver pushes down on the pedal.


This F-150 will have a supercharger system installed along with other performance enhancements.


This GT500 KR is slated for extensive engine upgrades including an upgraded supercharger and cold air intake system.


Up-fitted with a supercharger and more effective cold air intake system, this 2007 Shelby GT will be a force to be reckoned with.


A new 2011 GT350 undergoing the assembly process in the Shelby Mod and Production Center.


Gary Davis, (R) supervises the installation of new parts on a GT350.


In the Cobra Assembly Shop, Stubby Leveck installs suspension components on a new CSX4000 Series 427 Cobra.


Tony Emmert, Cobra shop supervisor proudly displays a CSX4000 Series 427 Cobra ready for shipment to a dealer.


The Shelby Performance Parts customer service team takes a minute to have their photo taken with Robert Lane, front row with Shelby shirt. Robert heads up the parts program and the Shelby parts business has grown dramatically since this group took over the program.


A small section of the Shelby Performance Parts inventory. New Shelby branded performance parts are being added on a regular basis.




Carroll Shelby Engine Co.
(310) 538-2914

Shelby American, Inc.
(702) 942-7325

Shelby Performance Parts
(702) 405-3500


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