In May of this year the automotive industry lost one of its greats with the passing of Carroll Shelby. From humble beginnings, Shelby went on to become a world-champion racing driver. However, he is perhaps best remembered for designing and building innovative and iconic cars like the Cobra, high-performance versions of the Ford Mustang and injecting expertise and testosterone into the development of the Dodge Viper.
During the 1950’s Shelby drove for the Cad-Allard, Aston-Martin and Maserati teams and in 1959 he won the brutal endurance race 24 Hours of Le Mans, co-driving a British made Aston-Martin. A heart ailment forced him to quit driving and in 1962 he founded Shelby-American. It became one of the most successful independent sports-car builders of the era.
Shelby began building his Cobras using the chassis and body of a two-seater from AC Cars of England and packing powerful Ford V-8 Engines into the lightweight British roadsters. The Cobra won the United States Road Racing Championship in 1963 and the Grand Touring world championship in the large-engine category in 1965.
In 1964, Lee Iacocca asked Shelby to help create a high-performance version of the recently launched Mustang. In January 1965, the first Shelby Mustang, the GT350, made its début and a legend was born. Shelby also developed the Ford GT40, the Shelby GT500 and the GT500KR (KR stands for King of the Road). The Shelby-American team’s Ford GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 and 1968 ending a six year winning streak by Ferrari.
Ford Racing put a video together of Carroll Shelby “In His Own Words”. It is fascinating…
The famous Shelby Cobra and the many other high performance vehicles that Shelby designed and built enlivened, and in many cases, revolutionized the automotive industry for the past 50 years. He will be missed but his legacy lives on.
Click here to review our Pinterest retrospective of Shelby production cars.