Jerry Heasley
March 17, 2005

Would you rather own a GT500E Super Snake or an authentic Orange CountyChopper "theme" bike in the image of that famous car? Both aresupercharged, both have a Shelby heritage, and both are muscle-bound. Wewere fortunate to be close to both vehicles when the American Choppermet the great American musclecar while the American Chopper TV showfilmed the wild event in Las Vegas this past November.

The GT500E is anauthentic Shelby continuation car, based on the '67-'68 Mustangfastback. Built by Unique Performance for Carroll Shelby, the car is acombination of vintage good looks and contemporary speed equipment.Shelby and Unique also offer a second continuation car, the '65 GT350SR.Each of these genuine Shelbys receives a Shelby identification numberand will be documented in the next Shelby American Automobile Clubregistry.

The Super Snake is even more special than the Shelby GT500E.The car may be the most powerful production Shelby Mustang ever offeredto the public. It features an aluminum Shelby 427 engine, a UniquePerformance rear suspension, a Tremec transmission, and other modernperformance features. With the optional supercharger, the Super Snakechurns out over 725 horses. Only 75 total will be built with an MSRPbeginning at $159,000.

The GT500Es are built in a 30,000-square-footfacility in the legendary racer's home state of Texas. UniquePerformance is owned by Richard Kearby (CEO), Douglas Hasty (president),and Chris Layne (chief operating officer).

Most musclecar fans alsoappreciate cool motorcycles and we all know about Orange County Choppersfrom the hit cable TV show, American Chopper. The group's patriarch isPaul Teutul Sr., who used downtime from his Orange County Ironworksbusiness to create custom bikes. In 1999, he recruited his son, PaulJr., as the chief fabricator and designer for Orange County Choppers.The company jumped onto the scene at Daytona Biketoberfest in 1999 with"True Blue," a classic chopper. Today, OCC has grown into what AmericanIron recognizes as one of the world's top-12 motorcycle builders. Theirreality TV show, American Chopper, is a family affair with loads ofdrama and tension from building custom "theme bikes" for customersworldwide. It first aired on The Discovery Channel in September 2002 andquickly became an international hit.

A Chance Meeting

Unique Performance CEO Chris Layne explained, "It's ironic how the OCCdeal unfolded. Douglas, Richard, and I had business with a company inNew Jersey. At the time, Richard wanted one of those cool bikes. Thiswas the early part of 2003 when American Chopper, the TV show, was onlyabout six months old."

Hasty recalls, "Richard had been following theirTV show. While we were in the Montgomery, New York, area on business, hewanted to run by this company called Orange County Choppers. I had notseen the show yet."

The trio drove to the OCC shop and priced somebikes. While they were there, the Teutuls walked in. Out of curiosity,they pulled up Unique Performance's Web site and ogled cars. Chrisexplained, "Paul Sr. saw the GT500E and was wild for the car. Heimmediately pulled his producer into the trailer, and we spent a coupleof hours talking about different things." During the lunch break,Richard brought Doug up to speed on the Teutuls and what they did ontheir show. Doug remembers becoming "pretty excited and pumped about thepossibility of a Shelby theme bike." After lunch, they brought up thesubject of a Shelby GT500E theme bike. The Teutuls accepted the idea asan "unbelievable challenge," Doug recalls. Before the trio of TexasShelby builders left New York, the wheels were in motion to build a carand a bike.

At the time, there was no formal talk of a trade. It wasmore like, Hey, maybe you guys could do a theme bike for us and we coulddo a car for you. This all took place in early 2003, which was a yearbefore Unique Performance signed a deal with the TV show Rides to do asegment on The Learning Channel. Also, American Chopper hadn't yetgained the notoriety it has today.

Chris remembers, "They were on theedge of becoming huge." Coincidently, so was Unique Performance.