Shelby GT500 ‘Eleanor’ Lookalikes Finally Freed After Copyright Battle

A hero car that’s finally ready for more people.

byNico DeMattia| PUBLISHED Dec 12, 2022 1:47 PM
Shelby GT500 ‘Eleanor’ Lookalikes Finally Freed After Copyright Battle
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You don't have to be a car nerd to know "Eleanor," the gray and black 1967 Shelby GT500 made famous by the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. Ever since that movie hit theaters, various different companies have tried to capitalize on the car's popularity and build "Eleanor" replicas, including Carrol Shelby himself. However, each time someone tried to build one, they were sued by Denice Halicki, the surviving spouse of H.B. "Toby" Halicki, who created and directed the original 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds. No longer because the Shelby Trust just won a longstanding copyright battle with Halicki over the rights to build Eleanor lookalikes.

Halicki's argument was that "Eleanor" represented a character whose copyright she owned after Toby Halicki died in 1989. The Eleanor name wasn't only used in 2000's Gone in 60 Seconds remake, it was also used in the original film, as well as Toby Halicki's other movies, The Junkman and Deadline Auto Theft. In all of Toby Halicki's original films, "Eleanor" was yellow and black. So the character that Halicki argued was her own, wasn't as specific as she claimed.

When Shelby—or anyone—built licensed Shelby GT500s as "Eleanor" lookalikes, typically based on the 2000 remake's gray and black car, Halicki sued. That forced the Shelby Trust to sue Halicki to protect its licensees. Ultimately, the  U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled in favor of Shelby, claiming that none of the "Eleanor" named cars in any of Halicki's movies deserve character copyright protection.

According to the court, Halicki and her lawyers' representation of the cars in the movies was “an embellishment, to say the least.” In the court's 41-page opinion, it said Halicki tried to "assign anthropomorphic characteristics" to the cars' character, such as "strength, talent, endurance, and a tendency to always save her leading man."

It's a big win for the Shelby Trust, whose licensees are now safe to build cars however they want without having to worry about a lawsuit from Halicki. “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," said Neil Cummings, Co-Trustee of the Shelby Trust.

It's unclear what's going to happen to other people that have been sued by Halicki, such as the B is for Build YouTube channel, whose 2005 Mustang "Eleanor" conversion build was shut down and handed over to Halicki. However, Shelby's legal issues over GT500 "Eleanor" lookalikes seem to have been solved.

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