Shelby Trust Wins ‘Eleanor’ Copyright Lawsuit to Build Replicas of the ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ GT500

Following a twenty-year dispute on one of the most ridiculous cases ever conceived in the automotive world, Shelby has won against a lawsuit that may pave the way for more Mustang builds in one particular fashion.


Unfamiliar with the whole situation? Back in 1974, H. B. Halicki, or Toby Halicki, wrote, directed, produced, and starred in ‘Gone in 60 Seconds,’ a movie that follows the tale of Maindrain Pace, the leader of a car theft ring who tries to acquire 48 different cars for a customer within five days. The targeted cars are given female code names, and among the list of cars is a yellow 1973 Ford Mustang Fastback dubbed the ‘Eleanor.’ An automotive movie classic, a sequel starring both Halicki and his wife Denice was underway, until Toby was killed in an accident on set.


Despite financial troubles after the death of her husband, Denice eventually managed to strike a deal with Disney to produce a remake in the 2000s. Starring Nicolas Cage, the plot was vastly different, but still had the same mission of stealing high-valued cars. This movie also brought the more popular (if not defining) version of the Eleanor Mustang, that being the 1967 Shelby GT500, painted in Dupont Pepper Grey, with dual black stripes extending from the front to back, and a custom bodykit designed by Steve Stanford. Though the movie was a box office success, the rebooted Eleanor was much more memorable and continues to be relevant.


And this is where the absurdity starts. Somehow, the widowed Halicki managed to copyright the modern Eleanor, effectively preventing any reproductions, replicas, or any look-alikes from being built. Adding to the irrationality is how she won a case against Carroll Shelby in 2008 for selling Eleanor replicas. But she didn’t stop there – Denice also sued automotive YouTuber ‘B is for Build’ amidst his Fastback body-swapped Mustang project, and the car was confiscated. No word on the condition of the car has surfaced, though the team did reply that the car will not return to their hands, in response to a recent inquiry on the situation. Predictably, the lawsuit enraged the car community at the time.


The tide turns in favor of Shelby American in December 2022. Denice and her Eleanor Licensing LLC team had attempted to portray the car with anthropomorphic characteristics as part of her defense, which included “strength, talent, endurance, and a tendency to always save her leading man.” We aren’t kidding. This is the reasoning they came to court with.


The courts denied it, stating that her validation of trademarking Eleanor was “an invention of overzealous advocacy.” With that, Shelby Trust is effectively much more free to produce and license replicas of the GT500 carrying the movie car’s appearance. Co-Trustee of Shelby Trust, Neil Cummings, expressed the company’s relief with the outcome. “We can finally tell all our important licensees and Shelby GT 500 owners that Mrs. Halicki has absolutely no right to complain about or file a lawsuit based upon the looks of any car licensed by the Shelby Trust.” He followed up with another statement, stating, “That is exactly why we had to go to the extreme time and expense of pursuing our claims against Mrs. Halicki in court. The true value of all Shelby GT500s is now secure with this news.”


It’s a great, deserved win for the car community, Shelby, and other businesses looking forward to producing replicas of the movie car. The question is what will happen to the Mustangs already confiscated by the widow and her team, but going off B is for Build’s response, it seems that she still gets to keep it. Nonetheless, her case (and perhaps obsession) with her late husband’s character car has to be one of the most nonsensical, foolish, and laughable cases ever conceived in law or automotive history. While she’s had her fortunes in the past, Shelby’s win by pure reasoning is surely sending her over the edge. We expect more positive news from this point forward, but for now, it’s good enough to know that having irrational (and borderline delusional) obsessions with a character (car) is not enough to win a real court case. Eat your heart out, Denice.

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