Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Carroll Shelby 1923-2012

Carroll was a firstly a racer, and a successful racer at that.

He started in MGs, and quickly moved up to Allards, Ferraris and Maseratis. He joined the Aston Martin racing team, and shared a win of the 1959 Le Mans with Roy Salvatori.

Health issues forced him out of racing shortly afterward, so he set up a driving school.

Ken Miles in an A.C. CobraPen&ink and pencil crayons on corrogated cardboard
© Paul Chenard

His European experience showed him how more advanced the European and British sport car chassis and suspension setups were against their American counterparts.

He reasoned that a British sports car fitted with an American engine could be a successful combination. He ordered a modified A.C. Ace body and chassis and fitted it with a Ford engine. From Autumn 1961 till late Summer of 1962, Shelby American developed the A.C. Cobra into powerful performance sports and race car.

Shelby Cobra 289Pen&ink, paint markers and markers on blue archival stock
© Paul Chenard 2012

Orders flooded in and the car was a success. A further development of the Cobra came as an aerodynamic coupe, in a form more apt to beat Ferraris at the long distance races such as Le Mans.


Cobra Daytona Coupe – Le Mans 1965Pen&ink, paint markers and markers on blue archival stock
© Paul Chenard 2012

The Cobra Coupes beat Ferrari for the 1965 GT Championship, and Shelby was also instrumental in Ford Motor Company’s successful GT 40 wins at Le Mans for 1966 and 1967. At the same time, he developed their new Mustang into successful track car with the GT350. 

Ken Miles in a Shelby Mustang GT350Pencils on white stock, digitally painted
© Paul Chenard

Though working in performance development with mostly Ford, Carroll Shelby also worked with Dodge and Oldmobile. He was a “tuner” before the word was even coined!

Shelby American has also continued creating “continuation” Shelby Cobra roadsters.

Carroll Shelby saw opportunity where others didn’t and followed through with his vision and goals. Very few can match his legacy.

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