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Those classic Shelby race cars in 'Ford v Ferrari' aren't what they seem

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

When director James Mangold's new movie "Ford v Ferrari" hits theaters Nov. 15, car nuts may find themselves asking where the filmmakers found all those classic Carroll Shelby race cars from the 1960s, which sell for millions of dollars when they become available.

They didn't. The filmmakers borrowed modern versions of those vehicles from Irvine-based Shelby Legendary Cars and its parent company, Superformance, the only companies in the world licensed by the legendary race car designer to build and sell new versions of the Ford GT40s and Cobras that made their namesake into a supercar superhero.

"Ford v Ferrari," from 20th Century Fox, tells the dramatic real-life story of the American car company's quixotic quest to challenge reigning champion Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. Ford executives hired California car maverick Shelby (played in the film by Matt Damon), who in turn drafted maverick driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to mount the assault.

Many of the featured cars driven in the movie -- the Shelby Cobra that Miles races, the Ford GTs that he and Shelby design and test in California, and many of the vehicles that battle for the 1966 Le Mans title -- were built in South Africa and imported to the U.S.

But don't call them "replicas" or "kit cars." Variations of the Cobras and GT40s can be had in those forms, but these are "continuation cars," Shelby Legendary Cars Chief Executive Lance Stander insists -- real Shelby cars, built exactly as Shelby intended, with official Shelby chassis numbers, just like the originals.

If they don't fetch as much as originals, they're still pricey rides. The GT40 models based on the Le Mans winners start at about $170,000 and can climb quickly to $300,000. A Cobra can be had for as little as $100,000 and rise to $250,000. A Shelby Daytona can cost $180,00 to $400,000.


Thanks to the complexities of American import laws regarding automobiles, however, the base prices for those vehicles don't include all the parts. Stander says he sells the cars on a "turnkey minus" basis, meaning that SLC delivers a rolling chassis. The SLC cars are sold through one of its affiliated dealers -- Hillbank Motor Sports, another Stander corporation, for example -- and then it advises the buyer on how and where to buy an engine and transmission and have them installed.

Stander says he's brought about 5,000 cars to the U.S. in this way. Most have remained here, a lot of them in California. About 1,000 were exported, to China, South America, Australia, the United Arab Emirates or the U.K., Stander says.

The colorful CEO came to America from his native South Africa 20 years ago -- "I am African American, just not from Inglewood," he says -- intending to enter the auto salvage business, but soon shifting to auto sales.

It was in his blood. The family fortune, established by his father's Hillbank Motor Corp., was in auto sales. It seems a natural fit. Stander has a broad smile and a salesman's patter. "I have a big mouth. I'm a used car dealer!" he says.


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