A restored one-of-a-kind concept car, known as the Shelby Lone Star, was recently unveiled at the 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. The Shelby Lone Star was to be a successor to the Shelby Cobra that would resemble the GT40. Originally known as the “Cobra III” the name “Lone Star” was given to the car when Ford reminded Shelby that they owned the Cobra name. The Lone Star was unfortunately canceled and hadn’t been seen in public since 1975. That is until Friday, March 11th when a sneak preview was given at the Concours.
Origin of the Lone Star
In 1966 Shelby American commissioned Len Bailey, who had designed the GT40 Mk. III and Mirage M-1, to design the Lone Star. The Lone Star’s current owner, a noted Shelby collector, mentioned to us that noted racing engineer and team manager John Wyer was instrumental in getting the car built. Wyer had run the GT40 racing program, and later the Mirage M-1 and Porsche 917K programs. His company J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. would assist Shelby in engineering the Lone Star.
It would be powered by a 289 cu.in. Ford V8 mated to a ZF-sourced 5 speed transaxle. The sleek aluminum body was built by Gomm Metal Developments of Woking, England and finished in August of 1967. It was shipped to Shelby America in California a month later. This was when the car came to be known as the Lone Star, inspired by Shelby’s home state of Texas.
In a 1976 letter to the owner from Lone Star designer Len Bailey, Bailey states that: “The overall concept was for a cheaper, simplified version of the GT-40 which could be mademore [sic] easily and using existing parts for suspension, wheels and brakes. Those parts are largely derived from AC Cobra, so providing a continuation of demand for existing stock.”
According to a 1967 article in Autoweek, production of the Lone Star “hinged on U.S. legislation that would have exempted small-volume manufacturers from then-new safety standards.” The safety exemption would not come to be. Ford withdrew from racing, meaning no funding would come from them, so the project came to an end.
Aside from a missing front bumper, the car was mostly complete when the current owner purchased it. It would eventually undergo a 12-year restoration by Geoff Howard of Connecticut shop Accurate Restorations.
The car underwent some re-engineering along the way in Geoff’s capable hands to make it serviceable and more drivable. It had originally been built as a prototype where it could be driven but wasn’t developed to the level of a production prototype where it could easily be serviced. The engine and transaxle now have conventional mounts, rather than being welded into the car. After some mild tweaking by a Ford expert, Geoff says it’s making 316 hp. The front and rear body sections can now be removed for easier access for maintenance. They were previously attached with aircraft rivets, covered in body filler and paint. The original adjustable Armstrong shocks are now replaced by Koni double-adjustable shocks. Now-unobtainable suspension bushings have been replaced throughout with radial bearings.
Geoff also described to us how he recreated the front bumper from photographs. It was reconstructed by carefully bending six pieces of sheet metal, with an English wheel, which were then welded together. This was a tricky process, as the heat from welding would cause the bumper to bend, which meant having to bend and massage the metal again along the way to ensure that it would fit the Lone Star’s body before chroming the final piece.
The list of changes, if we were to list it in whole, would be quite long, but Geoff estimates that he’s been able to keep the car about 95% original.
Unveiling at the Amelia Island 2018 Concours d’Elegance
In the early evening of Friday, March 9th, the freshly-restored Shelby Lone Star was unveiled behind the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island.
The next day, the Lone Star was shown again, and to a much larger audience at the Concours d’Elegance. That afternoon, it won the Chairman’s Choice Award.
Here is Geoff Howard being handed the Chairman’s Choice Award by 2018 Amelia honoree Emmerson Fittipaldi.
Now the Lone Star is not only a legendary Shelby performance car but an award-winning one that can be regularly driven and enjoyed out on the road in the future. Congratulations to Geoff and the owners on the completion of such a historic restoration.
All images and video Copyright 2018 Hooniverse/Bryce Womeldurf