A Cobracobralogo

Carroll Shelby

"the AC COBRA ... a way of living"

I am always looking for COBRA stuff, like pictures, stories, clubs, etc.. If you have any of that, please send an email to: Luuk de Boer luukb@xs4all.nl Thanks.

Carroll Shelby: A Life in The Fast Lane

Carroll Shelby: A Life in The Fast Lane

More than four decades of building, and influencing, great sports and racing cars

There isn't much that hasn't been said or written about Carroll Shelby. Strip away all the legend and lore, however, and you'll find a tough Texan who, perhaps more than anything else, loves to build cars.

After a successful career as a race car driver, culminating in an historic win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an Aston Martin, Shelby hung up his driving overalls and set out to become an automobile manufacturer. That he's certainly done, being the only independent carmaker who has joint-ventured projects with Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.

Motor Trend's March 2004 cover story reveals the details behind and underneath the new Ford Shelby Cobra concept car, the darling of this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Concurrently, the Petersen Automotive Museum has assembled a compendium of Shelby's previous automotive creations that have lead up to this possible future Cobra. The exhibit, which runs through March 28, includes that very first Cobra of 1962, and many other memorable automobiles which have influenced Shelby's career -- and vice versa.

For more information on the exhibit, Carroll Shelby: A Life in the Fast Lane at the The Petersen Automotive Museum, call 323/930-CARS, or visit http://www.petersen.org/default.cfm?docid=1025.

It all started here: Chassis CSX2000 is the very first Cobra, assembled in February 1962. Powered by a 260-cubic-inch Ford V-8, it was painted several colors in its early days, so car magazines and potential buyers would think there was more than one. It has always remained in Shelby's personal collection, and is by all accounts, priceless.

Before Carroll Shelby cut his deal to buy engines from Ford, he was negotiating with Chevrolet. He, Gary Laughlin, and Jim Hall worked with Italy's Scaglietti to build three aluminum-bodied Corvette Italias to compete with the likes of Ferrari and Maserati. The deal failed -- but the cars were certainly beautiful. All three exist today.

Speaking of Ferrari and Maserati, what's this Vignale-bodied Ferrari 375 MM doing in a Carroll Shelby exhibit? Simple: in his racing days, the lanky American scored some of his most memorable sports car victories driving Italian sports and GT cars, including this one. The background photo shows Shelby at the wheel of a Maserati Type 60 Birdcage.

This '65 GT350 performed yeoman duty at the Carroll Shelby School of High Performance Driving during 1965/66. Shelby opened the school at Riverside International Raceway a few years earlier, and it was run by Peter Brock, who later designed the Daytona Cobra Coupe. Now that's our idea of Driver's Ed...

Shelby American built just five of these competition "FIA"-spec Cobras in 1964, which were powered by higher-performance 289-cubic-inch engines. Notice the cut-down doors and other racing trim. This FIA, the first built, is highly original and worth a fortune - yet it's a regular road rally and vintage race competitor.

Without question one of the most beautiful sports cars ever is the Peter Brock-design Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe. Just six of these handsome, purpose-built racers were constructed, and they conspired to take a class in at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1964, and the World Championship for Makes GT class crown the following year.

No, Shelby did not build the original Ford GT40s. But it could be said that he and his Shelby American team drivers, mechanics, and engineers "taught them how to race." They did a lot of work to make it both more reliable, and better aerodynamically. It ultimately dominated big-bore sports car racing, and inspired today's new Ford GT.

Although the 1969/70 Shelby Mustangs were no longer built by Shelby, and are not considered the most popular of the Shelby models, they are still good performers and prized collectibles. This '69 GT350 belongs to the collection of Motor Trend founders Margie and Robert E. Petersen; its only previous owner was Shelby himself.

For many, the first Shelby Mustang will always be the best Shelby Mustang. This '65 GT350 is the car that launched the legend. Know how to spot the difference between the 1965 and '66 models? For 1966, the vent grilles in fastback roof panel were replaced with glass; the car also grew small side scoops just aft of the doors.

During his association with Chrysler, Shelby sought to bring back a cost-effective version of the old Can-Am series. The result, logically enough, was called the Shelby Can-Am, and the SCCA established a spec series around it. Powered by a Dodge V-6, the SC-A made for good racing between 1990 and 1997. Approximately 76 were built.

Here are two modern-day sports cars that took their inspiration from the original Cobra. On the right, the Dodge Viper RT/10, with which Shelby was involved as spiritual advisor, during the Chrysler era. At left, the Olds-powered Shelby Series I of 1999, of which fewer than than 300 were built.

Over the years, Shelby has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Britain's AC Cars, the small British company that supplied Cobra bodies and chassis. At right is a 1981 AC 3000 ME, which Shelby was trying to help import into America. On the left is one of America's original sport compacts, the turbocharged Dodge Omni GLH-S of 1986.

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