IRVINE, Calif. – Imagine more than 9,000 square feet of premium space dedicated to your Shelby Mustang, Cobra, and high-performance Ford collection, all in the name of raising money for charity. No need to imagine anymore: The long-awaited Segerstrom Shelby Event Center is complete, and now open in Southern California.
Rae and Ted Segerstrom cut a wide path and cast a long shadow in Orange County, California. They are big-game real estate developers and investors, and are the title sponsors of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. Their fingerprints are also all over the South Coast Plaza, among America’s most highly rated shopping and entertainment complexes. Lots of hard work, blended with considerable good luck and timing, have made the Segerstroms wealthy beyond words – so much so that grand-scale philanthropy now occupies a considerable amount of their time and attention.
Mr. Segerstrom’s first Shelby Mustang was a used ’69 GT500, back when he was a much younger man, and when a second-hand Shelby was a special, yet a not outrageously priced, used car. As so often happens with such pursuits, he loved it -- and one Shelby Mustang became two, then three, then Cobras . . . and you can see the pattern here. What began as a single Shelby Mustang passion soon became nearly 100 cars, including Bosses, Machs, and other special high-performance Fords. The Segerstroms became personal friends, and ultimately platinum level VIP customers, of Carroll Shelby himself. It also wasn’t long before they had cars stashed here and there, in warehouses and garages, when they divined the kernel of an idea -- a place where their fleet of special Shelbys and Fords could live and be shared together.
The realization of that dream is the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center, the culmination of a five-year-long dream and concentration of hard work and investment. To make it look and work how they envisioned, they engaged the services of The Scenic Route, a creative and architectural company that builds big things such as massive movie sets. This is the same company responsible for the nearby Mullin Automotive Museum and the massive remodel and reinvention of the world-famous Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
The Segerstrom Center isn’t, technically, a museum, but it certainly has that look and feel. A few of the cars on display are on loan from one friend or collection or the other, but most everything you see belongs to the people whose name is on the door. The spaces are airy and permeable, with high-tech LED lighting and brilliant, elegant “museumcraft” in terms of videos, vehicle placards, information walls and multi-use spaces. Besides the housing of a world-class car collection, the Segerstrom is very much a working event venue – you can hold your wedding, corporate meeting, bar mitzvah, anniversary party or other event surrounded by Shelby Mustangs, a myriad hot Fords, an outstanding collection of Petroliana (gas pumps and lighted globes), and towering walls wearing brilliant, glowing vintage automotive neon signage.
The 7,000 square-foot Grand Salon accommodates 250 seated or 350 standing guests, with a grand staircase to the upper floors and a built-in full-service wet bar. This breathtaking space also includes a projector and a 13x24-foot drop-down projector screen. An 18x24-foot stage will hold your band, and of course a public address and audio sound system are built-in and high-tech. An adjacent outdoor patio accommodates another 50-100 guests. Upstairs, the 1,600 square-foot Thunderbird Suite offers a dressing area, restroom, stylist stations and a smaller wet bar. Or belly-up to the Mustang-shaped pool table in the 580 square-foot Cobra Suite. Need to do serious business or presentations? You’ll be plenty comfy in the 650 square-foot Conference Suite, which has full AV capability and seats 14-16 people.
And the cars? The photos tell much of the story. Nearly every model and color variation of original-era Shelby Mustangs are on hand, from superb ‘65s through the ’69-70 production runs. These include prototypes, drag racers and road racers, too. You’ll be pleasantly blown away by the recreated fascia of a Hertz Car Rental outlet, replete with about every year, model and color Hertz Rent-A-Racer Shelby Mustang. The Segerstroms have also invested heavily in late-model Shelby American Shelby Mustangs, from the GT-H of 2006, various KRs, to current production.
Major Fun Fact: Guess how many 1968-1/2 Shelby GT500KR 4-speed convertibles were built? Five. And these folks own them all, and displays them as Ragtop Royalty. Because they are. In fact, Shelby American, Ford and Barrett-Jackson Auctions recently used the venue to introduce its new, 900 horsepower GT500KR.
All of the Segerstroms Cobras are post-60s era official Shelby American continuation pieces. They prefer and seek-out early VIN production vehicles, and often buy multiple sequential VIN examples (meaning 001, 002, and 003, or more of a certain model) Shelby 100, 3000, 4000, 4550, 5000 (Series 1), 6000, 7000 and 8950 CSX series Shelbys. Other Shelby vehicles from Carroll’s model runs based on Dodges and Chryslers are also on hand. Plus Mrs. Segerstrom’s fabulous, concours Thunderbird Gray ’56 LittleBird and a WWII era Ford-built jeep.
Vitally important to this property, these people and this marvelous collection are the Segerstroms’ charity partners, which include the Shriners Hospital Los Angeles in Pasadena, California, The Carroll and Cleo Shelby Children’s Foundation, and the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. In fact, during one of our visits, supermodel/author/philanthropist/business entrepreneur Kathy Ireland was on hand to recognize the Center as a prime donor partner supporting its activities.
The graphics, displays, videos, ephemera, and other Blue Oval and Shelbyana are fabulous, beautifully designed and arrayed, in elegant presentation. Every inch of the property is pure class, and the good news is that you can see it. This private-yet-now-public collection maintains open-to-the-public hours, and the ticket costs are modest. It must be a part of your next SoCal visit, but if you have no such plan, then this marvelous place is worth the special trip. It’s Freeway and John Wayne Airport close, and if you simply must drown yourself in Shelby automotive history, and high-performance Ford and Mustang mania, the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center is worth your effort and travel time, no matter where you come from.
Hours and details can be found at: SegerstromShelbyEventCenter.com
5 Whatney, Irvine, CA 92618 / (949) 969-4368 / email@example.com
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COURTESY INSPIRED COMMUNICIATIONS INC. / MATT STONE