Past Into Present: A Conversation With Lance Stander, CEO Of Superformance, Builders of Iconic American Race And Street Cars
Lance Stander has been the ultimate expert in the high-speed, high end automobile industry for nearly 40 years. In 1999, he opened Hillbank Motor Corporation, a company that specialized in building the Superformance Cobra, the Shelby Daytona and the Ford GT40 cars. Then, in 2005 Lance purchased Superformance, which is now the world-wide distributor for all Superformance built cars. Superformance LLC is based in Irvine, California.
He is also the builder and distributor for Shelby’s Continuation Sixties Cobras, and his is the only company licensed by Shelby to build the Cobra MKIII. In addition, the company also builds versions of the Shelby Daytona Coupe, Ford GT40 and Corvette Grand Sport, among others.
We spoke with him recently about the allure these automobiles possess, an attribute that consistently attracts a multitude of buyers, from millennials to senior retirees.
JD: A luxury product has to engage in four dimensions: craftsmanship, legacy, scarcity, and worth. How do Superformance cars such as the Cobra, Daytona Coupe, and GT40 relate to those four criteria
Lance: The mission of Superformance is to make iconic American race and street cars from one of the golden ages of motorsport. Our cars really focus in on the period of the 1960’s when a band of hot-rodding American upstarts led by Carroll Shelby beat Ferrari racing on the world stage at Le Mans, and, repeatedly.
Personally, I believe the beauty of our cars rests in such iconic moments. Anyone alive back then knows the story well. And, anyone who has an appreciation of motorsport or beautiful exotic cars alive today knows the legend of Carroll Shelby and Ferrari. There is a certain joy to that classic underdog story that people everywhere respond to. Superformance specializes in bringing arguably the three most famous American race cars ever made to the public, today: the Cobra, Daytona Coupe, and GT40.
JD: For those who have driven a Cobra or a Daytona Coupe or a GT40 —Is there a purer driving experience to be found behind the wheel of these machines?
Lance: In a word, yes. The purpose of these cars is to offer collectors and enthusiasts a chance to own the car that was a poster on their wall as a kid. But one caveat is that our Superformance vehicles offer a taste memory of the past, plus a lively essence of the present. As examples, our GT40 is built almost exactly as the original, but ours features A/C, better brakes, and a much nicer interior finish. The Superformance Cobra is a perfect dream car canvas. Our Cobra features a dimensionally and aesthetically correct body style alongside contemporary power brakes, a hydraulic clutch, standard leather interior and heater with available soft top, 18” wheels, and power steering. All these features meld with the classic look and spirit of the Cobra.
And, the Superformance Daytona Coupe is a whole new beast.
The Daytona race cars were far too impractical to bring back to the streets. So, Superformance worked with the original Daytona designer, Peter Brock, and then added in several modern features inspired by Carroll Shelby himself to our Daytona Coupe models. Our new CSX9000 Daytona Coupes carry Shelby continuation VINs but are larger and feature modern suspension as well as frame designs. They also include A/C, power steering, power windows, and power door locks as standard equipment. The interior appointments for the Superformance Daytona Coupe feature high-back leather seats and Alcantara accents. Our Superformance Daytona Coupe is built to be more of a daily driver than the others.
JD: Passion investing is a phrase that is used in understanding motivations in purchasing everything from classic cars to great art, real estate, and even wines. It is the line where a person’s passions intersect with an investment opportunity. Can Superformance vehicles be considered passion investments?
Lance: Absolutely, our customers have the opportunity to not only own their dream car, but to truly enjoy it. They don’t have to put the ropes around our cars and mothball them in a garage to never see the light of day again. Superformance cars are meant to be taken outside and opened up. We have customers who have owned and driven our most popular car, the MKIII Cobra, for decades and then turn around and sell it for a profit. We also have customers who invested early in our GT40 and Daytona cars and found them to be excellent investments as little as five years later. This is especially the case with any of our Shelby limited-production models.
JD: Why are these cars so relatable, so potent, so seductive, after all these decades?
These cars have been legendary because they offer a chance to feel some of the purest driving experiences available. When you get behind the wheel, there is this remarkable feeling of exhilaration of the present, while bringing back decades of memories past.
JD: Is there some common thread to be found in Superformance clients?
Lance: Most have an acute attention to detail. They are perfectionists. Many are engineers. Most are adrenaline junkies. They enjoy excitement, adventure. They are also quite passionate about raw speed and the feeling of driving a car. Most of our customers appreciate the beauty and timelessness of our cars and the fact that they are not tucked away in some garage.
JD: Is there a Holy Grail of a driving experience you haven’t experienced yet?
Lance: That would be a Formula One race car from the Michael Schumacher era. I want to drive one and feel the speed and music that this car possesses. There is poetry in this type of driving, and once you experience it, you want to return to it again and again.