EXCLUSIVE: We Drive the Segerstrom Shelby Mustangs

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Segerstrom Shelby Mustang Collection

Ted and Rae Segerstrom are channeling their love for Shelbys to make way for a lasting legacy, and to alter the course of history.

If I were to write a book about Ted and Rae Segerstrom’s connection to Shelby Mustangs, I’d title it Ted and Rae Segerstrom: The Shelby Mustang Obsession That Changed the World. The above photo would be my cover image.

Regular Mustang enthusiasts like you and me have spent years of our lives flipping through parts catalogs and wrenching on our cars on nights and weekends. At best, when children admire our pony cars, perhaps sparks of joy will propagate though their hearts. Ted and Rae Segerstrom have elevated the impact of their Mustang addiction 32 levels higher. Their passion for Mustangs is saving children’s lives.

The Segerstroms are preparing a new building in Irvine, California, larger than the one pictured above, to house what is believed to be the largest Shelby Mustang Collection in the world at around 80 strong. Ted and Rae want a departure from the museum experience, which they argue feels a bit too common. In a world where “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” the Segerstroms want their events center to be a place where you can bring your kids to be wowed, and teach them about the good ol’ days, or maybe even use the facility as a place to host your wedding.

Ted Segerstrom, Rae Segerstrom and Tim Lea

All proceeds for their upcoming events center will benefit the Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles.

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Ted and Rae, as well as Tim Lea, the gifted craftsman in charge of restoring portions of their Shelby Mustang collection. Rae prompted the most touching point of our conversation when she asked Ted to recount a story about how working with the Shriners Hospital for Children has impacted him.

He began to recount the story of a child who had walked up to him to give him a hug. A few months earlier when Ted had first met the child at the Shriner’s Hospital, the youngster was unable to walk. Through the rapid onset of tears, Ted could barely get out the last sentence of his story. At the same time, Rae, Tim and I began to well up ourselves.

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Rae and Ted are Earth-based angels. Sitting with them at their eponymous Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California added even more gravity to that feeling. Getting to drive three of their classic Shelby Mustangs completed the experience.

Segerstrom Shelby Mustang Collection

Full disclosure, I only got to drive the Mustangs in circles on the roundabout in front of Segerstrom Hall. Yes, I would have preferred to have blasted them down the front straight of Big Willow at more than 100 mph, but I felt special even just sitting inside these legendary cars.

Their red 1966 Shelby GT350 H fastback was the first car I drove, and was my favorite of the three. It was the lightest, rawest, and consequently, the most visceral of the bunch. The Hertz car surprised me. I thought the orange 1969 Shelby GT500 would be my favorite instead.

1966 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 H fastback from the Segerstrom collection.

A sucker for cars with a grand-touring bent, I expected to be wowed by the GT500’s opulent interior, and trick (for 1969) AM-FM Stereo. Instead, the car reminded me of a floaty station wagon from that era. Perhaps my opinion would have changed if I were able to stomp the loud pedal to make the 428 Cobra Jet shine, but at slow speeds, this car felt vanilla.

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I’m even more certain slow speeds did no justice for the yellow 1968 Shelby GT500 KR convertible. I think it may have had potential at higher speeds, but I can’t be sure. As best as I can tell, it parks its tires firmly on the middle ground between the GT350 H’s readiness to start a prison brawl, and the orange GT500’s preparedness to file insurance claims for the brawl’s aftermath. The KR felt like a three-piece-suited police lieutenant that might appear calm, but when prodded, would have no problem fist-fighting each and every one of those brawlers.

Still, the GT350 H was the only car that proved to me that it was a badass. Also, for it to pass the giggle test at less than 11 mph is a testament to that particular Shelby flavor.

Even if all three cars were utter crap, getting to drive them, and getting to spend time with Ted, Rae and Tim — three of the coolest people I’ve ever met — would still have been special. I can’t stop being blown away by how the Segerstroms’ enthusiasm for Shelbys is being channeled into a major force of change in children’s lives. Ted and Rae are adamant about leaving behind a lasting legacy.

They undoubtedly have done so with my inner child.

Images via Drew Phillips

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