The Venice area building that once housed the company renowned for making the Shelby Cobra race car has been sold.
The approximately 11,000-square foot property at 1042 Princeton Drive recently sold for $3 million along with two other office buildings totaling 23,000 square feet at 1038-1040 Princeton Drive that sold for $3.5 million in January, said Lee & Associates broker James Wilson, who helped negotiate the transaction.
The 1042 Princeton site served as the early offices of former professional race car driver Carroll Shelby, whose Shelby American Inc. made the AC-based Shelby American Cobra and later the Mustang-based performance cars for Ford Motor Company. Shelby’s company operated out of the offices from its founding in 1962 until 1964, when it relocated to a facility on Imperial Highway adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport.
Wilson described the structures at the industrial/office complex at 1038-1042 Princeton as “sister buildings,” noting that they were built around the same time in the 1950s. The 1038 Princeton property was vacant for a number of years and formerly operated by a vacuum manufacturing company, while the 1042 site was most recently used for creative offices of an apparel company, Wilson said.
Prior to Shelby American, the shop was used by race car driver Lance Reventlow, who built Scarab cars, which had lightweight aluminum bodies with V-8 engines, said Randy Richardson, president of the Los Angeles Shelby American Automobile Club.
Richardson said the small Princeton Drive shop was essentially the birthplace of the Shelby Cobra, a limited edition series of vehicles that were specially modified. The building has a key role in the history of the Shelby American company, considering the achievements that took place during its time there, he said.
“It was extremely significant, primarily because when you look at the 50-year legend of Shelby American and what they were able to accomplish in a very short period of time it’s pretty amazing,” Richardson said.
“Shelby American is still producing cars and its legacy is still alive over the last 50 years. When you look at how it started at Princeton Drive, it was pretty phenomenal what the employees did there building cars.”
The company developed cars not only to sell to the public but to race, and their vehicles dominated the racetracks, Richardson said. Other Shelby race cars that were designed during the time at the Venice facility included the Daytona Coupe, with only six produced, and the King Cobra, which raced in 1963-64, the Shelby club president said.
Based on its connection to Shelby lore, the Princeton Drive property is a popular visiting spot for fans, he noted.
“It’s an iconic location that people who are familiar with the legacy of Shelby American want to go there even today to visit the outside of the building,” he said.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebration for the Cobra at a Monterey race event in August, Ford Motor Company is planning to reproduce the interior of the old Princeton Drive offices with Cobras on display to allow visitors to envision the 1960s-era shop, Richardson said.
Wilson noted that Lee & Associates has brokered transactions involving other historic properties, and while they are focused on the quality of the investment they like to recognize the historic aspect as well.
“We like the histories of properties and we like the stories. When we go to show the properties, we use that to sell them,” he said.