70 Years of a Timeless Classic, Carroll Shelby.
Written by Jerry Heasley with thanks to Rick Kopeck and the Shelby American Automobile Club for their help in providing the historic information presented here as well as Carroll Shelby who added points never before published. Used by permission of Carroll Shelby: http://www.carrollshelby.com
January 11, 1923
Leesburg, Texas. Carroll Hall Shelby is born to Warren Hall Shelby, a rural mail carrier, and Eloise Lawrence Shelby.
Begins training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, TX. On training missions, Carroll corresponds with his fiancee by dropping love letters placed in his flying boots, onto her farm. As a flight instructor, he did not leave the U.S. during WW II.
December 18, 1943.
Carroll Shelby marries Jeanne Fields.
December 27, 1944.
Sharon Anne Shelby is born.
Carroll leaves the Air Corps for civilian life and starts a dump truck business in Dallas, TX.
November 2, 1946.
Michael Hall Shelby is born.
October 23, 1947.
Patrick Burke Shelby is born.
Carroll goes into the chicken raising business. His first batch of broilers nets a $5000 profit, but he goes bankrupt when his second group of chickens die of Limberneck disease.
Carroll drives in his first race, a quarter-mile drag meet, behind the wheel of a hot rod fitted with a flathead Ford V8.
At Norman, Oklahoma, Carroll drives in his first road race behind the wheel of an MG-TC, taking first place in competition with other MGs. The same day, against hotter competition from Jaguar XK 120s, he wins again!
Carroll Shelby pilots a Cad-Allard to first place in an early SCCA race on a road racing course set up near the little town of Cadd Mills, TX.
Carroll Shelby realizes he'll have to hurry to the track to get in any practice and wears his work clothes-coveralls-from the farm. When his odd racing attire nets him more laughts and publicity than his racing record, Carroll sticks with the striped bib coveralls, which become his trademark.
Shelby attracts the attention of John Wyer, Aston Martin's team manager and meets International Grand Prix driving greats Juan Ganglo and Peter Collins. On the strength of Shelby's racing expertise behind the wheel of the Cad-Allard, Wyer Invites shelby to co-drive an Aston -Martin DB3 at Sebring, Florida.
Shelby goes to Europe and drives an Aston-Martin DBR3 for Wyer, finishing a very respectable second against C-Type Jags at Aintree, leading to a ride with the Aston-Martin team at Le Mans in June 1954, co-driving with Paul Frére. Shelby continues to race Aston-Martins in Europe for 1954, returning to the States in August.
Donald Healey of Austin-Healey in England, invites Carroll Shelby to help set 70 new Class D records at the Bonneville Saft flats in Utah.
Carroll Shelby enters the Carrera Pan Americana Mexico. At the 175-kilometer marker north of Oaxaca, Shelby T-bones a large rock and flips his Austin-Healey four times. Indians find him and offer him strong drinks to ease the pain of his broken bones, cuts, contusions, and a shattered elbow.
Althought Shelby was still undergoing operations to recover from his racing accident, he continued to race with his arm in a specially made fiberglass cast and his hand taped to the steering wheel. At Sebring, Shelby co-drives a 3.0-liter Monza Ferrari with Phil Hill.
Shelby wins the Torrey Pines race with a 4.1-liter Mexico Ferrari, defeating Phil Hill. Tony Paravano, a building contractor in Los Angeles takes notice and asks Shelby to drive a new 4.9-liter 12-cylinder Ferrari. Shelby wins in his first outing and is then asked to go to Europe to race.
Sports Illustrated names Shelby sports car driver of the year.
Carroll Shelby Sports Cars opens at 5611 Yales in Dalles, Texas, with backing from Dick Hall, an oilman from Abilena, Texas, and brother of Jim Hall who built the Chararral cars.
Sports illustrated names Shelby "Driver of the year".
Shelby, driving a double-overhead-camshaft V8 Maserati single-seat racing car, wins a 100-mile race at Riverside. After spinning out on the first lap, he went to the back of the field, then lapped everybody in one of the most amazing feats of his career.
Carroll and Ray Salvadori co-drive an Aston Martin DBR1/300 and win the 24 Hours of LeMans.
Carroll Shelby begins his last racing season in a Maserati 250F Formula One Grand Prix car formely driven by Fangio at Rheims in 1958.
While staying at a friend's apartment in Dallas, Shelby experiences chest pains and begins slipping nitroglycerin pills under his tongue for relief. His doctor incorrectly diagnoses the problem unrelated to the heart. Carroll moves to La Mirada, California, and separates from his wife, Jeanne, who stays in Dallas with the three kids. Shelby opens his Goodyear Racing Tire distributorship.
Doctors diagnose Shelby's chest pains as "angina pectoralis," in which the coronary arteries are starved for blood.
June 27, 1960.
Carroll Shelby, driving a Scarab to first place at Continental Divide Raceways, breaks a course record and sets his sights on the USAC driving championship.
December 3-4, 1960.
Shelby competes in his last race, the Third Annual Los Angeles Rimes-Mirror Grand Prix for sports cars, driving a Type 61 Birdcage Maserati, and finishing fifth. Overall, he wins the USAC driving championship for 1960.
Out of racing, Shelby pursues another career and opens his "Shelby School of High Performance Driving". A $90 ad in Sports Car Graphic returns $1400 in request for literature. Pete Brock, a talented automotive designer, stylist, and driver prepares the curriculum and helps with the teaching duties.
When AC Cars of Thames Ditton, England, loses the source for its six-cylinder Bristol engine for its two-seat roadster, Carroll Shelby airmails a letter of proposal to the company to keep building the chassis for a special Shelby sports car to be powered by an American V8. As yet, he knows nothing of a new lightweight, thinwall-cast, small-block Ford V8.
Charles Hurlock, owner of AC Cars, returns Shelby's letter, stating he would be interested in Shelby's plan as long as a suitable engine replacement could be found in the States. The same month, Shelby finds out about the new 221-cube Ford small-block and dispatches a letter to Dave Evans explaining his idea for a sports car and his need for a V8.
The first 260 Roadster, minus engine and transmission, is air fraighted on February 2, 1962, to Shelby's shop in Southern California. Carroll has a dream revealing to him the name Cobra appearing on the front of his car. In Carroll's words, "I woke up and jotted the name down on a pad which I kept by my bedside-a sort of ideas pad- and went back to sleep. Next morning when I looked at the name 'Cobra,' I knew it was right." In less than eight hours, a 260 HiPo and Borg-Warner four-speed are installed and Shelby and friend Dean Moon test drive the new Cobra, looking to balt Corvettes, but none are found.
Shelby-American begins operations at a shop on Princeton Drive in Venice, California, and hires Ray Geddes, a Ford finance business school graduate who comes aboard at Shelby-American to coordinate the program whith Ford. Among his first duties are his efforts to keep Ford's involvement at a low profile due to Ford's liability concerns.
CSX 2000, the first Cobra, is painted a pearlescent yellow by Dean Jeffries and shipped to the New York Auto Show where it appears in the Ford display. Dealers begin ordering and with deposits in the bank, Shelby-American formatly commits to building its new Cobra.
Shelby promotes his Cobra by offering test drives to the automotive press, who respond with supertatives. The May 1962 issue of Sports Car Graphic describes its acceleration as explosive. CSX 2001 (the second Cobra built) is shipped by air from England (minus engine, transmission, and rearend) to New York and is prepared by Ed Hugas in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. CSX 2002 is air freighted to Los Angeles and built into the first competition Cobra.
Production is slow as Shelby-American wrestles with start-up problems due to the fact that the AC chassis requires extensive engineering. Meanwhile, CSX 2000 is repainted a different color each time a different magazine test drives it, giving the appearance of many cars in production. The Cobra has a 1-ton advantage over the Corvette.
Shelby-American submits papers to homologate the Cobra as a GT III car in the eyes of the FIA, the Federeation Internationale de L'Automobile. On August 6, the FIA homologates the Cobra in the more-than 2-liter class for the FIA Manufacturers' Championship. At least 100 cars had to be built within 12 months, but at the time of approval, just eight Cobras had been completed. According to Carroll, he comtemplated switching the chassis and body to an alternative due to continued problems.
October 13, 1962.
Shelby-American enters the Cobra in its first race, a three-hour contest with Bill Krause behind the wheel, opening the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix. Krause, with a poor start, falls back, then takes the lead at lap nine, but breaks a rear hub and does not finish. The Cobra, however, is definitely lighter and faster than the new Corvette Stingray. Phil Remington at Shelby-American goes to work building stronger rear hubs starting with forging blands from Halibrand.
Dave MacDonald and Ken Miles sign to drive Cobras for Shelby-American and place first and second at Riverside, beating the Corvette Stingrays. Miles is so confident, he pits for a drink of water and relaps the Corvettes to finish behind MacDonald. Ian Garrad, an Englishman living Southern California, feels he could imitate the Cobra with a 260 Ford version of the little four-cylinder British Sunbeam Alpine roadster. Ken Miles is first hired to build a prototype "Tiger," a job that is handed over to Shelby-American.
Shelby-American arrives at Daytona for its first international competition. The Ferrari GTO triumphs, after Daytona, Chevrolet drops of racing.
Shelby-American enters four cars at Sebring, Florida, an FIA race. Two of the four have the new rack-and-pinion steering -driven by Dan Gurney and Phil Hill. Although Hill sets the fastest GT lap, the Ferraris win.
Shelby-American completes its first 125 Cobras. Because Ford refuses to finance a Cobra Le Mans effort, Shelby puts together a deal with AC Cars and Ed Hugus, who prepare one car each. The top Cobra finishes seventh.
Shelby begins the Daytona Coupe project, for the roadster lacks he aerodynamics necessary for 200mph down the Mulsanne Straight. Pete Brock is the designer, Cobra production passes 170. The first Cooper Monacos -King Cobra- are ordered. Dan Gurney, in winning the Bridgehampton 500KM in a Cobra, becomes the first American driver to win an FIA race in an American car.
The Cobra does not beat Ferrari in international competition in 1963, it dominates the Corvette and wins the SCCA A-production national championchip.
The Cobra wins the USRRC (United States Road Racing Championship).
Shelby-American completes the first FIA roadster and the first Daytona Coupe, both enter the Daytona Continental. Bob Johnson and Dan Gurney finish fourth in an FIA Cobra roadster, Although the Cobra coupe sets the fastest lap time, it is a DNF due to a damaged differential and a fire.
Shelby-American enters a 427-engine leaf-spring Cobra, CSX 2166, at Sebring to the prototype class. Ken Miles spins off course in practice and hits the one tree in sight, but the 427 test mule is fixed for the race the next day. The Cobras, for the first time, beat the Ferrari GTOs. At Sebring, Carroll Shelby meets with the Hurlock Brothers from AC Cars and Ford design engineer Klaus Arning to develop a big-block Cobra.
After Sebring, Cobra led Ferrari in FIA points for the GT III championship, and Shelby-American decides to go to Europe to race. Two months before Le Mans, the Sarthe circuit is closed off for testing. The Cobras and Ford's new GT-40 are tested at Le Mans. Later, on April 26, the Cobra compete at the Targa Floria. Oddly, the new Porsche 904s truimph over Ferrari, followed by the Cobra.
The Cobras and Shelby-American win the biggest race of all in Europe, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Cobra is fourth overall and first in GT, defeating Ferrari.
Ford asks Carroll Shelby to develop a high-performance Mustang fastback for street and track. Basically, the new car would challenge the Corvette in SCCA B-production road racing. The Cobras score in Europe at the Freiburg Hill climb in the Black Forest, at the Tourist Trophy in Goodwood, England, and at Sierre-Montana Grand Prix De La Montagne in the Swiss Alps.
The first '65 Shelby mustang GT350 race cars and street cars are built.
The prototype 427 Cobra, under development, is tested at Silverstone in England and later in the States.
Shelby-American completes the 427 Cobra prototype. The 289 Cobra Roadster again wins the SCCA A-production national championship.
She SCCA accepts the GT350 in the B-production road racing class, as cars are being completed at the Venice, California shop of Shelby- American. Enzo Ferrari holds his annual press conference and announces he will not contest the GT III championship without his LM Ferrari, in effect, giving no factory Ferrari competition to the Cobra team for the upcoming 1965 FIA season.
The 427 Cobra, featuring a tube frame, aluminum body, and coil spring chassis, is unveiled at a press introduction at Riverside International Raceway. Shelby-American begins its move to Los Angles International Airport facility. Ford turns its GT-40 project over to Shelby- American. The 1965 GT350 debuts.
With Shelby handling the racing program, Ford's GT-4, painted in Shelby Guardsman Blue with two white stripes, wins its first race, at Daytona. The Shelby Mustang GT350 also wins its first race, at Green Valley, Texas. Shelby-American begins production of its Ferrari-beating missle, the coupe version of the 427 Cobra Roadster. At Daytona, the Cobra Daytona Coupe, with Jo Schlesser and Harold Keck driving is first in the GT class.
Production of the GT350 moves to Los Angeles International Aiport after the first 250 cars are completed. The GT-40 Mark II (427 big-block) is under development. Jo Schlesser and Bob Bondurant pilot the Cobra Daytona Coupe to first overall in the Sebring 12-Hours.
The Cobra team flies to Europe to continue its winning season. With team Ferrari out of the picture, Shelby-American dominating. Bondurant and Grant are first at Monza, Italy, in the Daytona Coupe. Meanwhile, the FIA denies the 427 Cobra certification because 100 cars are not finished. The first 427 street Cobra is finished.
At Oulton Park, England, Sir John Whitmore takes first in the GT class in a Cobra Daytona Coupe. Bondurant is second in a Coupe at Spa, Belgium. Back home, the first GT350 drag car is built.
Shelby-American and Ford stage an assault on Le Mans with two 427 GT-40 Mark IIs, four 289 GT-40 Mark Is, five Cobra Daytona Coupes. The GT-40s all drop out, while one Daytona Coupe finishes.
July 4, 1965.
Shelby-American, racing Cobras at the 12 Heures De Reims in France, scores enough points to assure the FIA World Championship of GT cars, wrestling the title virtually owned by Ferrari for more than a decade. The Paxton supercharger GT350 prototype is completed.
Production of the '66 GT350 is underway. The first 15 competition 427 Cobras are delivered to customers for SCCA A-production racing.
The brand-new '66 GT350 Shelby fastbacks go on sale, and Shelby-American proposes a special Hertz racer. A prototype GT350H is built.
Hertz likes the GT350H and gives Shelby-American a contract for 200 cars. The FIA certifies the 427 for the 1966 racing season, and the '66 GT350 again wins the national B-production road racing championship in the SCCA.
Hertz ups its contract for GT350H models to 1000 units.
The Ford GT-40 Mark II wins at Daytona. Shelby-American builds a Mustang notchback prototype for the brand-new Trans-Am racing series.
Henry Ford II watches proudly as a trio of GT-40 Mark IIs cross the finish line at Le Mans, 1-2-3. The specifications for the '67 GT350 and new GT500 are finalized.
Ken Miles is killed at Riverside International Raceway.
1967 production begins at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). Jerry Titus wins at Riverside and Ford wins the Trans-Am Manufacturer's title.
The first of the '67 Shelby GT350s and GT500s are delivered to dealers nationwide.
The last 427 Cobra Roadster is built.
Ford again wins at Le Mans with its Mark IV GT-40.
Shelby-American loses the lease on its LAX facility.
Production of '68 Shelby Mustang moves to Ionia, Michigan, and the A.O. Smith Company. The Lone Star, to be the successor to the Cobra, constructed in England by John Wyer's JW Automotive Engineering.
Shelby-American takes the '67 Trans-Am Manufacturer's title for Ford. Shelby-American completes construction of a Cougar-Cobra Can-Am racing car.
Shelby-American racing moves to Torrance, California, as '68 Shelby production begins. The '68 Shelby Mustang convertible joins the lineup. Shelby holds his first Chill cook-off.
The '69 Shelby GTs are finalized. Again, a GT-40 takes first place at Le Mans.
The last brand-new 427 Cobra Roadster is sold by Shelby.
Shelby opens a Ford dealership in Lake Tahoe, California.
The only Lone Star is offered for sale for $15.000, the price it was to retail for if it had made production.
The 1969-model year Shelby Mustang production begins.
At Lime Rock, In the Trans-Am racing series, Sam Posey pilots a Shelby team car to the company's last Ford victory.
Carroll Shelby begins marketing his famous Chili mix.
The Shelby Mustang project is ended as sales slow dramatically. The leftover '69 models are updated to '70 specifications and production ends.
At Riverside, in the Trans-Am, Shelby fields his last Ford team race car.
Shelby Automotive Racing Company closes.
Ford ends its longterm racing agreement with Carroll Shelby.
The Shelby-Dowd Wheel Company is started.
The Shelby-American Automobile Club (SAAC) is started.
August 19-21, 1976.
SAAC-1, the first annual convention of the Shelby Automobile Club of America is held in Oakland, California. About 600 people attend. It's the first time since the Sixties that Carroll Shelby gets together with his team drivers, such as Lew Spencer and Bob Bondurant.
Carroll Shelby contracts with Chrysler to create performance cars based on Dodge products.
Prototype Dodge Shelby Chargers are built and displayed.
Shelby sells his chili company to Kraft.
Shelby sues Ford for using GT350 for its '84 Anniversary Mustang.
the Viper is first shown at the Detriot Automobile Show. Shelby is there.
Shelby begins his 427 Cobra S/C project, continuing production of "leftover" S/C models from 1966.
The lawsuit with Ford is resolved.
Carroll Shelby receives the heart of a 38-year-old gambler from Las Vegas in a long-awaited and overdue transplant operation.
August 10, 1990.
Carroll Shelby marries Helena Dahl, his present wife, in Beverly Hills, California.
Less than a year after his transplant, a hale and hearty Carroll Shelby paces the Indy 500 in a Dodge Viper. Shelby takes the physical exam and doctors say his heart is as strong as the drivers in the front row of the race.
Carroll Shelby starts the Shelby Heart Fund. Donations can be mailed to Dept. MF, 19021 S. Figueroa St., Gardena, CA 90248.
The Palm Springs Vintage Road Races feature the cars of Shelby-American and honor Carroll with a dinner featuring his life long buddies and friends. Proceeds go to the Shelby Heart Fund.
At SAAC-17 (17th annual convention of the Shelby American Automobile Club), Carroll Shelby gives club members high-speed rides around the racetrack in his new 427 S/C Cobra.
At the Fall Festival at Lime Rock, Shelby races a '65 Shelby "R" model GT350 for the first time, a car belonging to SAAC's Rick Kopec. Shelby, now 69 years old, runs 1:09 lap times, just 0.4 second off the record set in '65 by Bob Johnson in a '65 R-model Shelby.
October 1, 1992.
Carroll Hall Shelby is elected to the Automotive Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the Westin Hotel in Detroit, Michigan.
December 30, 1992.
Shelby helps introduce the Viper concept coupe at the Los Angeles Show.
CS came to the UK both to launch the European branch of his heart foundation and to give his seal of approval to the Cobra replicas produced by RAM Automotive in Essex. These are (as far as I know) the ONLY Shelby approved replicas and as such are allowed to use the Shelby name and they carry chassis numbers starting with CSX4001.
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