William Jean, Jr. was sitting on a bench outside the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum on April 21, the day of the Ford-Cobra-Shelby Reunion, when I noticed him. It was the regalia: a Hawaiian shirt with Carroll Shelby’s autograph, for one thing. A name tag hanging from a lanyard marked Mr. Jean as an original Shelby American employee.
When he was just out of Venice High School, he went to work for the company at 1042 Princeton Avenue, in L.A.’s Venice neighborhood. His father was a fabricator there—the man, according to his son, who welded the fender flares onto 427 Cobras.
The younger Mr. Jean worked as a detailer, preparing cars going on the transporter, a six-car trailer pulled by an old Ford cab-over tractor.
Now sixty-seven years old, he said he viewed the celebration as “a little bit of history.” I had him repeat the line when I took the picture. It didn’t make the cut with my report for the New York Times, so I thought I’d post it here.