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Monday, November 27, 2023

Shelby Lonestar: The Singular Marvel That Defied Time

Unsung HERO - Carroll Shelby, a name synonymous with American muscle cars, left an indelible mark on the automotive industry with his creations like the AC Cobra and modified Mustangs for Ford Motor Company. However, among his myriad automotive achievements, there's one gem that remains relatively obscure to the public - the Shelby Lonestar.
One-off fully restored 1968 Shelby Lonestar on display at the at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance 2018 in Florida. (Picture from: WeirdWheels)
The Shelby Lonestar, a car shrouded in rarity, boasts the distinction of being a singular creation, hidden away since the mid-1970s. Its obscurity, in part, stems from the fact that only one unit was ever produced, making it a clandestine presence in automotive history. However, the Lonestar emerged from the shadows in 2018, captivating the world's automotive enthusiasts after undergoing a meticulous restoration. The car made its grand reappearance at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance 2018 in Florida.
The JWAE's Lonestar prototype boasted a 92.8-inch wheelbase, strategically positioned between the Cobra and Ford GT40. (Picture from: Hemmings)
This remarkable automobile was originally conceived as a fusion of the Cobra and Ford GT40, with Carroll Shelby's design input realized through his company, Shelby American. The physical assembly took place under the expertise of John Wyer Automotive Engineering (JWAE) in Slough, England. The genesis of the Lonestar traces back to the mid-1960s when Shelby American, amidst managing the GT40 and developing the Mustang racing car, sought a successor to the Cobra 427.
A sketch of the Lonestar prototype. (Picture from: Hemmings)
The project, initially named Cobra III, took a covert path as Shelby turned to JWAE, their collaborator from the GT40 project, for assistance in design. The collaboration unfolded with distinct perspectives; Shelby American favored the conventional front-engine layout utilizing the Ford V8 engine, aligning with the Cobra's legacy.
The Lonestar as delivered by John Wyer Automotive Engineering (JWAE) to Shelby American in 1967. (Picture from: Hemmings)
Conversely, JWAE, accustomed to the GT40's Lola design, proposed a deviation. Engineer Len Bailey of JWAE envisioned basing the new car on the GT40 but refining it for public road use. Intriguingly, Shelby favored the JWAE proposal, steering the project in an unexpected direction. Subsequently, JWAE developed the concept further, conducting wind tunnel tests on a mini model in late 1966, gaining Shelby's approval in early 1967, leading to the creation of a full-size prototype.
The 1968 Shelby Lonestar in the final stages of restoration. Note the air intake behind the door, added by Shelby American. (Picture from: Hemmings)
The JWAE masterpiece boasted a 92.8-inch wheelbase, strategically positioned between the Cobra and Ford GT40. It armed a 289 engine, coupled with a ZF-five speed transaxle, found its place in a chassis amalgamating Cobra and Ford GT40 design elements, encased in an aluminum body by Gomm Metalworking. Completed in August 1967, the Lonestar was shipped to Shelby American in California the following month.
Rearview of the Shelby Lonestar prototype. (Picture from: ConceptCarz)
The mystique surrounding why Ford opted not to embrace the Lonestar lingers. Speculations include the impractical egress, necessitating climbing over tall and wide sills housing the fuel supply, the projected high cost (double that of the Cobra 427), and the changing regulations for the 1968 model year, eliminating exemptions for low-volume manufacturers like Shelby
Some attribute the Lonestar's fate to its window sticker. The exact reasons remain elusive, leaving the Lonestar to occupy a unique niche in the annals of automotive history, a rare gem waiting to be rediscovered. *** [EKA [13022020] | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | WEIRDWHEELS | HEMMINGS | CONCEPTCARZ | ]
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