Spoiler alert! Better get some coffee and a few extra minutes!
It's been a few years since the last time I participated in COCOA's (Cobra Owners Club of America - Orange County) Concours de Nice Shelby Show. This annual event occurs in June around Father's Day. The Club's 42nd annual and 21st consecutive show in the same location, was on June 11, a week before Father's Day.
There's something to be said about that show location, too: it's one of the best around. Located in the Park Mall, just across the street from South Coast Plaza. It's bucolic, rolling, grassy, and treed. Among the trees is a paved 'walkway', where we park the show cars. And the vibe is laid back and casual. All this among some very expensive iron, the Show cars!
This year, I entered the Daytona Cobra Coupe, a first time for this show. Since my Daytona is a replica, I didn't know what to expect. By contrast, in 2008, my '66 Shelby G.T. 350 was awarded 1st Place for "Shelby Original - '66".
In 2017, the COCOA Club's Show was heavily focused on the "Evolution of the Ford GT", so there were far fewer genuine Cobras & Shelbys than previous years in an effort to highlight the GTs. This in no way diminished the show, as you will see in a moment!
One unique entry was the Lola GT, below. Here is the car, the 1963 Lola Mk6 GT, designed by Eric Broadly, which led to the legendary Ford GT. But more on that a little bit later in this ShelbyStory.
But first, here's a few photos from around the Concours de Nice Shelby Show...
It starts with pre-staging in a large parking structure, so the cars can be appropriately grouped on the Show grounds. Yeah, the photos are dark, but you get the idea!.. and it was early and overcast! In fact, I ran through a rain shower on the way to the show! Think of these 'garage photos' as a prelude to the glorious day ahead!
After pre-staging (and some light rain!), the cars rolled out the Show!
This was the Cobra replica group.
The following images should give you an idea about the show's setting...and the variety!
An "AC" Cobra
Panteras and Tigers...
Early Shelbys were rare at the Show.
And a few late model Shelbys...
A little art mixed in...
As a major Show sponsor, Hillbank-Superformance was very well represented with a variety of Cobras.
And now, to the heart of the Show, the Ford GT 'family', beginning with that lovely jewel, the Lola GT (prototype), which incidentally. is owned and was restored by Allen Grant. Yes, THAT Allen Grant, seen below looking at the back of that easel.
The Lola GT, then begat the Lola GT Mark6 racecar (which I have borrowed from the Internet, with attribution to: Creative Commons).
So here begins the heritage trail present at the Show, following the Lola: Beginning with a Ford Mark I GT40 in Gulf colors...
Next up, a Ford Mark II GT40
Then there's the roadgoing Ford Mark III GT40 (from the Petersen Museum).
And bringing up the rear of the Ford GT40s, a Ford Mark IV GT40.
And now, we go full circle to the more 'modern' Ford GT lineage. And of course, there's a storyline here, too! A young Ford designer, Camilo Pardo, was asked to re-design the classic Ford GT race car. This project developed the 2002 Ford GT concept car, upon which Camilo’s team delivered the 2005 and 2006 production Ford GT. A few examples follow:
And, Camillo's personal Ford GT...
So even when you put them nearly side-by-side, across a 50-plus year timespan, the resemblance is uncanny!
About The Ford GT Lineage
Since the Show's focus was Ford's evolution of the GT, we've got to go waaaaay back in history a bit...to the early '60s to dig into the lineage of Ford's GTs, to find the Granddaddy that sort of started Ford's entry in FIA racing.
This new racing initiative was intended to enhance Ford's at-the-time "Total Performance" marketing, a global promotional advertising campaign by the Ford Motor Company during the 1960s. The program aimed to succeed in a variety of motorsport venues, and then, emphasize performance in their mainstream vehicles with the interest that successful racing might generate.
At around the same time, Ford wanted to buy Ferrari and after negotiations and very large sums of money spent by Ford to evaluate the deal, Ferrari abruptly pulled out. This move thoroughly ticked-off Henry Ford. It was then that ol' Henry decided they'd do it Ford's way and trounce Ferrari in their own sandbox: Europe and the FIA.
In a parallel universe, Carroll Shelby was having great success with his Cobra venture here in the States (with Ford's support) and a modicum of success in Europe with the Cobras and Daytonas. Then in 1964 & 1965 Carroll was pursuing the FIA Manufacturers Championship. There was already bad blood between Carroll and Enzo Ferrari (when in the late '50s, Ferrari semi-jokingly told Carroll The Driver that he should pay Ferrari to drive his cars, rather than Ferrari pay Carroll). So now Carroll is insulted by the brash Italian and of course the Texan was ticked-off. In fact, Carroll was also angry that many of his Ferrari driver friends were dying while driving Ferrari's cars. This sentiment was triggered largely because Mr. Ferrari pitted one driver against the other driver.
So here you have two angry Americans (C. Shelby & H. Ford) who are working nearly in unison and merging talent (and huge sums!!) to beat E. Ferrari at his own game.
Then came the final straw. In 1964, near the end of the FIA season, Shelby American was on it's way to outright win the FIA Championship. They just needed some success in the last race of the year at Monza...an obvious shoe-in for a win. However, (and very slyly), Mr. Ferrari had that last race in Italy canceled, causing Ferrari to win by default and Carroll unable to garner the necessary points to win outright. So at the end of near-miss season, Carroll let it be known, "Next Year, Ferrari's Ass Is Mine!".
And Carroll's prediction was spot on! On July 4th, 1965 at Reims, France the Shelby American team garnered enough FIA points to overwhelmingly take the'65 FIA racing season, with Bob Bondurant and Jo Schlesser driving a Daytona Cobra Coupe CSX2601.
Then in 1966 (and not only in 1966!), the Ford-Ferrari 24-Hour War was on...in earnest. This was now Henry's turn (again with Shelby American campaigning the GT40s) to kick Ferrari's ass, this time at Le Mans., still to this day, the Big Kahuna of racing. Which they did, quite soundly in '66, '67, and '68!...in a variety of GT40s!
About Allen Grant's Lola GT (Prototype)
Yes, THAT Allen Grant! Allen Grant purchased the car in 1965; paid $3,000. It had no engine and no transmission. The 'shell-of-a-car' sat, undisturbed, for the next 50 years or so, here in the US until Allen had the time and resources to begin a very, very painstaking ground-up restoration.
Ford Cortina taillights, weight 1700~1800 lbs. It runs on unique-to-the-car magnesium wheels and original Dunlop 'green spot" tires. This one-of-a-kind car is truly a jewel. You simply must see it in the flesh. I could go on, but here's my recommendation. The yet another half-hour and watch Jay Leno and Allen Grant tell you the Lola GT story. Here's the link:
I promise that you won't regret it, it's that interesting!