Carroll Shelby goes after 2 former business partners

Carroll Shelby: "I'm tired of them. I want the registrations and the records under my control."
LOS ANGELES — The tangled business affairs of Carroll Shelby grow more complicated by the day. The 84-year-old racing legend is now in disputes with two key partners.

Shelby says he won't renew a licensing agreement with the Shelby American Automobile Club, a 5,000-member organization that keeps records on Shelby cars and verifies their authenticity

In another development, Unique Performance Inc., a company near Dallas that refurbishes 1960s Shelby Mustangs under license, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to liquidate the company. Some consumers who fear they have lost their deposits now want to sue Shelby's company, Shelby Automobiles Inc.

Unique Performance refurbished under license 1960s Shelby Mustangs such as the 1965 Shelby GT350, shown here. Unique has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Club plans to fight

In a Nov. 14 letter, Carroll Shelby's lawyer demanded that the Shelby American Automobile Club return all Shelby-related merchandise and turn over its financial statements, demands that club director Rick Kopec says he will fight. The club's license expires Jan. 31.

Carroll Shelby says he is angry with the 33-year-old organization, which has been licensed by Shelby since 1996. He says Kopec and other club directors have excluded him from decisions on how the club is run and have not shared financial information.

"I'm tired of them," Shelby says. "I want the registrations and the records under my control. They've made a lot of money but never counted me in on anything. I don't want my legacy to go down under their thumbprints."

Shelby says he wants to bring the club in house. Kopec says he doesn't mind if Shelby wants to end the license and start his own club, but the group won't hand over registration information or comply with other demands.

"It came as a shock; we were blindsided" by the letter from Shelby, Kopec says. "We have put a lot of hard work into this club."

Kopec would not say how much income the for-profit club takes in. "The club pays for itself," he says. "There is no money left over."

He says revenue comes mostly from dues, which are $47 for the first year and $40 annually thereafter. The club also makes money from its annual convention.

License pulled over lawsuit

Meanwhile, Shelby is immersed in the problems at Unique Performance, which since 2002 has partnered with Shelby to re-engineer and refurbish vintage Shelby Mustangs. With Unique in bankruptcy protection, Dallas lawyer Scott Palmer says he is investigating a multiplaintiff suit against Shelby.

"Shelby's name was the whole draw," Palmer says. "It was a licensing agreement, but Shelby's name was attached to the marketing and advertising. That's what made people jump up and give the money."

Last month, police in a Dallas suburb seized 61 cars from Unique Performance. Each of the 58 Mustangs and three Chevrolet Camaros confiscated had false vehicle identification numbers, according to police.

Before Unique's Nov. 12 bankruptcy filing some consumers who paid deposits but never got their cars sued Unique and Shelby. That prompted Shelby to pull Unique's license in October.

"It's a disgrace that (Unique) did that," Shelby says. "I would be very angry myself. That's why we canceled with them." 

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