The boutique automaker that builds replicas of the Shelby Cobra and Ford GT40 cars featured in last year's hit movie "Ford v Ferrari" is seeing an insatiable demand that accelerated with the coronavirus pandemic.
Lance Stander, CEO of Shelby Legendary Cars and Superformance based in Irvine, Calif., said he initially worried about the impact of COVID-19 on the business that sells vehicles priced at $80,000 to $500,000. These heritage cars, which are continuations of the original designs built in the 1960s, are identical to the classics except for safety features and materials.
In 2018 and 2019, the company sold 350 to 400 cars. This year, the company expects to sell 500.
"We were totally blown away," Stander said. "It started in March and it got crazy. We used to have guys call and have us ship their car. Now they fly or drive in. We had a customer drive all the way from Chicago to buy a $240,000 GT40. Another owner flew down from North Dakota. Lots of people from Washington state and Northern California."
Todd Andrews, the company's vice president, said that interest in the cars isn't limited to the United States.
"This morning I dealt with people in Indonesia, Belgium and Switzerland," he said. "I just sold an anniversary Daytona Coupe for $250,000 to a guy in France."
This specialty carmaker used to cater mostly to white men ages 55 to 80. Buyers this year are younger, more racially diverse and often bring their wives to test-drive the cars.
Many of these new shoppers say they were inspired by the 2019 film about iconic car designer Carroll Shelby (played by Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), who built the revolutionary race car for Ford to defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. As people have remained at home during the pandemic, fans continue streaming the movie, which grossed more than $225 million worldwide.
From actors, athletes to dads
Many people say the luxury purchase is made possible with low-interest loans and money saved not traveling or doing other things for months during COVID-19.
Buyers include Hollywood actors, professional athletes, corporate executives and entrepreneurs.
Colton Whitney, a property broker in Irvine, just ordered a 1965 MKIII-R Cobra for $120,000.
"I've got a 13-year-old daughter and she's into speed and cars, and it'll be a fun way for us to spend time together," he said. "My daughter likes hanging out with her friends; dad's not cool anymore. Anything I can do to change that ... I'm hoping to get it before Christmas."
Peter Miles, now 70, is featured in the film spending time with his father and watching the races. Regarding the popularity of these cars now, Miles said, "I think it's nice that they keep history alive in the way that they do."
Aaron Shelby, 49, serves on the board of Carroll Shelby International and the Carroll Shelby Foundation, which helps pay bills for children with major medical issues.
Seeing the growing interest in cars designed by his grandfather is inspiring, Shelby said. While people need to social distance and change their ways, driving is always a way to celebrate life and enjoy time alone.
"With people being quarantined and stuck in their houses, they're starting to come back to a passion they had but maybe didn't have time for. All of a sudden, now they do," he said.
"People are going out on their own, riding through the countryside. I mean, look at the Cobra. It just looks fun. Get behind the wheel, and it is. This is not something used to commute to work every day. It's for when you can get out in the late afternoon, when the sun is going down, and just get out on a nice long drive."