Featuring a collection of some of the rarest Carroll Shelby cars on the planet, the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center and Museum in Irvine has created some pristine parking space for a fleet of more than 60 historic Shelby-designed automobiles, including the first 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500 ever made.
For context, Carroll Shelby was an American automotive designer and race car driver, best known for his work with the British automotive company AC Cobra, and for his work on the legendary Shelby Mustang he created with Ford Motors.
Recently opened in October, the Shelby Event Center and Museum is owned by well-known Orange County residents Rae and Ted Segerstrom, who have spent their lives tinkering with cars, and years pouring over countless details of classic Shelby-designed AC Cobra and Mustang restoration projects.
Construction on the new facility started in January 2020 and was abruptly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We looked at several places and we found this one, and we thought we were just going to move in. We’re still doing little things, but it took until October of last year until we could finally open the doors,” Rae Segerstrom tells us during a phone call with Irvine Weekly.
Prior to the new location, the Segerstrom’s historic collection was located in Irvine, but they decided to sell and relocate, prior to the pandemic.
“We originally had a building, it was a moving and storage building in Irvine, right by John Wayne Airport, but we needed another space to park our cars,” Rae explains. “Before, it was kind of like a used car lot, the cars were just lined up. This one, there’s a lot of information, there are time capsules all around – one wall dedicated to the military for all they’ve done for us.”
Working closely with her husband Ted, Rae Segerstrom shared the details behind this impressive collection of rare cars and spoke about how the husband and wife team hopes the new Shelby Event Center and Museum will benefit the community at large.
“We want people to come enjoy it. We want people to come and learn from it. But we would also like people to come and make their memories – have their family reunion, have their wedding there,” she says. “The net proceeds that we have for our building will go to the Carroll Shelby Foundation, which helps kids that need transplants, and will also go to the Shriners For Children Medical Center in Pasadena.”
Thursday, Jan. 20, will mark the official grand opening for the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center. During the event, the Segerstrom’s will announce an official partnership with the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
Both husband and wife learned to appreciate cars on their own, with Rae adding that she worked on cars with her father, leaving behind traditional tasks.
“It’s just something we enjoy – since a Mustang was his first car, my husband is a Mustang guy,” she says. “My dad, his first job was a gas station attendant. I grew up around working on cars with my dad. I learned how to do that instead of cook!”
Today, the husband and wife’s attention to detail has led them to own close to 100 Shelby designs. They are now hoping to share their modest collection of automotive history with the community.
“As far as collecting goes, my husband’s very first car was a hand-me-down from his sister — a 1966 Mustang. Then in 1973, he got a 1972 Mach 1 [Mustang],” she explains. “Then, he got his first Shelby, a ‘67, a GT 500, then his second was a GT500KR, which we found out was a one-of-one because of the color combination of it. So, we started looking for another one, and we found one back east.”
This has become a consistent trend for the Segerstroms over their multi-decade stint in collecting and restoring relics of American automotive history. However, through their search, the Segerstroms have uncovered revered pieces of American automotive engineering, including a set of identical twin Shelby GT500 KR.
“While the [1968 GT500 KR] was being restored, a gentleman found another one from Nevada, and just happened to bring it back to the same restoration guy,” she explains. “Well, they had consecutive serial numbers. They looked farther and they had consecutive Shelby ID numbers, and they pulled the build sheet on them and they were identical twins.”
However, the trend became somewhat problematic for the Segerstroms, as the value would outweigh the vehicle’s utility.
“OK, now we have two more that we can’t drive,” she added. “That’s kind of how the collection started. We were looking for a car that he really liked to drive. We kept finding these, and looking for things that were really rare.”
In terms of rarity, Irvine’s Shelby Center and Museum has the first of every AC Cobra model ever created – except for the 2000 model, which is currently parked inside a AC Cobra Museum in Colorado.
The rarest car in the building? A 1966 Paxton GT350, with a supercharged engine, which had a special owner.
“They made 11 Paxton in 1966 – only one of them was white and only one was an automatic – and that was Carroll Shelby’s. We know for sure that it’s his because a friend of ours used to work for Shelby, and when he walked in and saw that car the first thing he said was, ‘I know that car,’” she says.
The Segerstrom Shelby Event Center is located at 5 Whatney, Irvine, CA 92618
Hours of operation
Thursday – Sunday
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
For more information on visit www.segerstromshelbyeventcenter.com/