Many of you may have read that the legendary Carroll Shelby died this past Friday at the age of 89. His life was full of accomplishments that any Hoon here on this site would give anything to have lived, but be careful of what you wish for. He may have been many things: An accomplished Racing Driver, a successful Race Car Builder, and a producer of some of the most memorable performance cars of the 60s, 70s, and today. However, along the way there were many health issues that have taken a toll on the man and his family. This is not the time to dwell on those issues, but a time to look back on the man and his accomplishments…
A lot of other Automotive Sites have already posted tributes to Carroll Shelby, some were quite eloquent, others were not. What I want to highlight was the man and machines that made Carroll Shelby the icon he is today, and I will be doing that all weekend. But first, let’s explore the 50s, in which Mr. Shelby became a one of the preeminent racing drivers of the day. His racing career started in May of 1952. At Norman, Oklahoma, Carroll drives in his first road race behind the wheel of a MG-TC, taking first place in a competition with other MGs. That same day, against hotter competition from Jaguar XK 120s, he wins again. Later that year Carroll pilots a Cadillac-Allard to first place in an early SCCA race on a road racing course set up near the little town of Caddo Mills, TX. He continued to drive the Cadillac-Allard through 1953, earning a few podium spots along the way.
It was during the spring of 1954 that Shelby was going on to greater things. Shelby attracts the attention of John Wyer, Aston Martin’s team manager and meets International Grand Prix driving greats Juan Fanglo and Peter Collins. On the strength of Shelby’s racing expertise behind the wheel of the Cadillac-Allard, Wyer Invites shelby to co-drive an Aston -Martin DB3 at Sebring, Florida. Throughout 1954, Shelby 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, and continues to race Aston-Martins in Europe for most of the year. Shelby returns to the States in August.
It was Donald Healey (Of Austin-Healey fame) who asked Shelby to help set 70 new Class D records at the Bonneville Saft flats in Utah of that year. Later on, Shelby entered the Carrera Pan Americana Mexico in November, with a specially prepared Austin Healey 100-4. It was at this race that Shelby T-bones a large rock and flips his Austin-Healey four times. It has been written that Indians (Native Americans) find him and offer him strong drinks to ease the pain of his broken bones, cuts, contusions, and a shattered elbow.
With fortitude, he goes on competing, in the drivers seat of legendary racing cars, like the 3.0L Ferrari Monza, the 4.1L Ferrari Mexico, a V-12 Ferrari 375, a Maserati Type 61 Birdcage, an Aston Martin DBR1/300, and a Scarab Mk II. He was named Sports Illustrated “Driver of the Year” for two years running, and captured the USAC driving championship for 1960, which was ironically his last year he raced competitively.
During the weekend, we will be taking a journey of discovery through the Swingin’ 60s, the Malaise Era of the 80s, and finally through to the Shelby Companies of Today. This is how Carroll Shelby would want to be remembered, so let’s burn some rubber to the former Chicken Farmer of Texas.