nighttime shot of the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center entrance

NOW OPEN: The Segerstrom Shelby Event Center

Rae and Ted Segerstrom cast long shadows in Orange County, California. They are big game real estate developers and investors, and they are the title sponsors of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. Their fingerprints are 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.

The Segerstrom Shelby Event Center plaque in the front lobby

The Story of the Segerstroms

Rae and Ted Segerstrom

Mr. Segerstrom’s first Shelby Mustang was a used ’69 GT500, back when Mr. Segerstrom was a much younger man (and when a secondhand Shelby was a still-special, but not yet outrageously-priced used car). As so often happens with such pursuits, he loved it—and one Shelby Mustang became two, then three, then several Cobras. You can see the pattern here.

Segerstrom soon owned nearly 100 cars, including Bosses, Machs, and other special high-performance Fords. The Segerstroms even became personal friends and 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. That’s when they were struck by an idea: to find a place their fleet of special Shelbys and Fords could live and be shared.

Side shot of a red Ford Mustang

The realization of that dream is the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center—the culmination of five years of dreams, hard work, and continuous investment. To make it look and work the way they envisioned, they engaged the services of The Scenic Route (a creative and architectural company that builds big things like blockbuster movie sets). This is the same company responsible for the nearby Mullin Automotive Museum and the massive remodel of the world-famous Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Inside the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center

The Segerstrom Center isn’t technically a museum, but it certainly has that look and feel. A few of the cars on display here are on loan from various friends or collections, but almost everything you see belongs to the people whose name is on the door.

Various Ford Mustangs on display

The spaces are airy and permeable, with high-tech LED lighting and brilliant, elegant “museumcraft” (videos, vehicle placards, information walls, and multi-use spaces). Besides housing a world-class car collection, the Segerstrom is also a working event venue—you can hold your wedding, corporate meeting, bar mitzvah, anniversary party, or pretty much anything else surrounded by Shelby Mustangs, myriad hot Fords, an outstanding collection of Petroliana (gas pumps and lighted globes), and towering walls covered in brilliant glowing vintage automotive neon signage.

The 7000 sq. ft. grand salon accommodates 250 seated or 350 standing guests, with a built-in full-service wet bar and a grand staircase leading to the upper floors. This breathtaking space also includes a projector and a 13 x 24 foot drop-down projector screen. An 18 x 24 foot stage will hold your band, complete with high-tech public address and audio sound systems.

Attendees looking at Ford Mustang collection

An adjacent outdoor patio accommodates another 50-100 guests. Upstairs, the 1600 square foot Thunderbird Suite offers a dressing area, a restroom, several 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 deliver a presentation? You’ll be plenty comfy in the 650 square foot Conference Suite, which has full AV capability and seats 14-16 people.

Cars on Display at the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center

Recreation of a Hertz Car rental outlet with Shelby Mustangs

And what about the cars? That’s a story best told in photos. Nearly every model and color variation of original-era Shelby Mustang is present here, from the superb ‘65s to 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 of 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 and various KRs to those currently in production.

Yellow Shelby GT500KR on display

Major Fun Fact: guess how many 19681/2 Shelby GT500KR 4-speed convertibles were built? Five. And these folks own them all, displaying them as Ragtop Royalty—because that’s what they are. In fact, Shelby American, Ford, and Barrett-Jackson Auctions recently used the venue to introduce its new 900 horsepower GT500KR.

Silver 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 with other cars in the background

All of the Segerstrom’s Cobras are post-60s 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) of Shelby 100, 3000, 4000, 4550, 5000 (Series 1), 6000, 7000 and 8950 CSX series cars.

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.

Man addressing Segerstrom attendees

A Mecca for All Shelby Lovers

Kathy Ireland giving a speech

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 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 and support its activities.

Display of the history of the Shelby Cobra

Display lights at the Segerstrom Center

The graphics, displays, videos, ephemera, and other Blue Oval and Shelby memorabilia are fabulous—beautifully designed and elegantly presented here. Every inch of the property is pure class, and better yet, you can see it for yourself. This private collection maintains open-to-the-public hours, and the ticket costs are modest. It simply must be a part of your next SoCal visit—but even if you have no such plan, this marvelous place is worth the special trip; it’s close to both the freeway and John Wayne Airport. If you want to drown yourself in Shelby automotive history and satisfy your high-performance Ford and Mustang mania, the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center is worth your effort and travel time, no matter where you come from.

Ford GT parked outside the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center

Segerstrom Shelby Event Center Address & Contact Info

Address:

5 Whatney

Irvine, CA 92618

Phone: (949) 969-4368

Hours and details at: SegerstromShelbyEventCenter.com

Email: [email protected]

Segerstrom Shelby Event Center Photo Gallery

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