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Carroll Shelby (left) with Edsel Ford II (right)
at SEMA (Las Vegas, USA) 1st November, 2011.

The following statement is attributable to Edsel B. Ford II, member of the Board of Directors of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. Dated 10th May, 2012.

“Today, we have lost a legend in Ford Motor Company’s history, and my family and I have lost a dear friend. Carroll Shelby is one of the most recognised names in performance car history, and he’s been successful at everything he’s done. Whether helping Ford dominate the 1960s racing scene or building some of the most famous Mustangs, his enthusiasm and passion for great automobiles over six decades has truly inspired everyone who worked with him. He was a great innovator whose legend at Ford never will be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.” (copyright image)

Carroll Shelby in 2007
with the 2007 Ford Shelby GT (copyright image)

Carroll Shelby at the Detroit Motor Show with the
Ford Shelby Cobra Concept on 4th January, 2004. (copyright image)

Carroll Shelby - seen here with the late Steve McQueen (c. 1962/63). (copyright image)

This is the model that started the whole "Shelby" thing, the very influential 1962 Shelby Cobra (British body and chassis from AC and an American V8 engine from Ford). The final Shelby Cobra roadster (a "427") was built in March 1967 but it wasn't sold until August 1968.

Production of the Shelby Cobra began in 1962 at Shelby-American, 1042 Princeton Drive, Venice, California. The company moved close to Los Angeles International Airport in 1965, only to lose the lease on the premises in August 1967. Production later shifted to Michigan.

These days, Shelby American is located in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA).

Remembering Carroll Shelby

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17th May, 2012

Carroll Hall Shelby, who died last week (on Thursday 10th May, 2012) aged 89 years, was a respected contributor to the muscle car era in the USA.

Although no cause of death has been disclosed, he died in Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas (USA). He had endured numerous health issues during his life, including heart problems as a child and again in 1960. He had a heart transplant in June 1990 and a kidney transplant in 1996 (son Michael donated a kidney to his dad).

Shelby is survived by his three children from his first marriage Sharon, Patrick and Michael, six grandchildren, six great grandchildren, his sister Anne Shelby Ellison and his wife Cleo.

Shelby will be remembered as a very competitive racing car driver and for his work with Ford Motor Company.

Shelby's most recent collaboration with Ford was with the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500. Working with SVT engineers at Sebring and the Arizona Proving Grounds, at times he drove for more than eight hours – at the ripe old age of 88. He was having so much fun, he didn’t want to stop.

Carroll Shelby had also worked with Dodge on a number of projects during the 1980s. His final efforts with Dodge were in a consultative capacity with the Dodge Viper project in the late 1980s. He drove the pre-production model 'pace car' at the Indianapolis 500 in 1991.

In 1995, his long-established company, Shelby American, opened a facility in Las Vegas at the new speedway to expand his continuing Cobra operations. Later, Shelby worked with Oldsmobile but this turned 'sour' and Shelby began making his own sports car, known as the Series 1 roadster using an Oldsmobile-sourced V8 engine. Other Cobra models were added to the product range.

Early interests for Shelby, following military service, was a successful chicken farming venture in 1949. However, he filed for bankruptcy when disease killed his stock. In 1957 he began a business in Dallas, Texas selling sports cars.

Other interests, over the years, had seen Carroll Shelby run a safari business in Africa for seven years. He was also famous in his home state of Texas for his chilli cook-off antics in Terlingua that led to the marketing of his own brand of chilli in 1976. This product promised, in a bold marketing move, to "shake the meanness out of the most ornery, leather-mouthed chilli-head that ever was born". The chilli business was sold to a very large US-based food company in 1985.

Shelby with Ford

Carroll Shelby was nearly 30 years old before he entered his first car race – a quarter-mile drag meet in 1952. The hot rod he drove to the finish line that day was powered by a Ford V8.

Shelby’s first Ford derivatives were the legendary Cobras and Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s. He was heavily involved in the design and engineering of the Ford Shelby Cobra Concept car unveiled in 2004, and was a key member of the dream team that built the 2005 Ford GT.

Carroll Shelby may have gotten a late start, but he was a winner from the beginning. He drove in his first road race in an MG TC in Norman, Oklahoma (USA) in 1952. Just two years later, Aston Martin racing manager John Wyer recruited him to co-drive a DB3 at Sebring. Within months, the former chicken farmer from Texas was bumping elbows and trading paint with the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill and Paul Frčre. Driving an Aston Martin DBR1 with Roy Salvadori, he won Europe’s prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959.

Early in 1962 Shelby drove his second Ford-powered race car. It was the first mock-up for the Cobra, Shelby’s now-legendary lightweight British-built AC roadster body with a small-block Ford V8. By January 1963 he had homologated the car under the FIA’s GT Group III class, and that month a Cobra won its first race, beating a field of Corvette Stingrays at Riverside in California (USA). Not so well remembered these days is the fact that Carroll Shelby had approached GM to supply a small-block V8 which was then in use in the Chevrolet Corvette. However, GM declined the suggestion believing that it may have been too strong a competitor to their established Chevy sports car. This led to Shelby approaching Ford in what has to be seen these days as an offer too good to refuse!

In January 1965 Ford hired Shelby to lend his expertise to the GT40 campaign. Three cars had run the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, but none finished. Shelby began installing the more reliable 7-litre stock car engine in what would come to be known as the GT40 Mark II. It proved considerably faster than the Mark I, and in just two seasons became a strong contender. In 1966 the GT40 began a domination of endurance car racing that would last for four years.

While Ford and Shelby took on Ferrari at Le Mans, at home they raced against Chevrolet Corvettes. The first effort was the legendary Shelby Cobra, a Ford-powered, Shelby-engineered derivative of the AC Ace. The car had a one-ton weight advantage over the Corvette.

Shelby Mustang

In August 1964 Ford had asked Carroll Shelby to develop a street-legal, high-performance Mustang to compete against Corvette in SCCA B-production road racing. By September, California-based Shelby-American had completed the first Mustang GT350.

The 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 was a fastback production model with a functional scoop in its fibreglass bonnet and 306 horsepower from its 289 cubic inch V8 – an increase of 35 horsepower over the stock engine. Suspension upgrades included a larger front stabiliser bar, Koni shocks and rear traction bars, along with race-ready features. It sold for $4,000 (USD), and was instantly recognisable by its Wimbledon White paint and blue GT350 side stripes.

For 1966 the GT350 came in white, red, black, green and blue, and Hertz purchased nearly 1,000 special GT350H week-end “rent-a-racers.” In 1967 Shelby Mustangs sported unique fibreglass bodywork that extended the front end with an aggressive dual scoop and finished the boot lid with an integrated spoiler.

But most important in 1967 was the new GT500, a big-block with 355 horsepower. More than 2,000 of those 428-cubic-inch Mustangs were delivered that first model year.

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In 1968, when the name “Cobra” was first used on a Shelby Mustang, a convertible body style became available as well. Although the Shelby Cobra GT350 was essentially unchanged, later GT500s were powered by the new Cobra Jet 428 engine and thus became GT500KR – for King of the Road.

For 1969, the penultimate year of the Shelby Mustang, engine choices included the optional 351 Ram Air, and the body work incorporated a total of nine scoops – five on the bonnet, one at the front of each mudguard and one on each rear quarter panel. In 1970, with sales slowing, the final Shelby Mustangs built for 1969 were updated to 1970 spec and sold. But the famed run had come to an end.

It would be more than 30 years before Ford and Shelby worked together again, and in March 2001 they reunited, with Shelby coming on board to consult on a new GT40 Concept. In March 2002 Ford gave the 'green-light' for production of the Ford GT. Then, in April 2003 Shelby collaborated on a Ford Shelby Cobra concept car that would pay homage to the original Shelby Cobra (see image above). The concept car stole the show the following year at NAIAS in Detroit (USA) (see image above).

Ford stoked the passions of enthusiasts again in 2004 with the unveiling of the modern Ford Shelby GR-1 Concept at Pebble Beach (California, USA). J Mays, Ford group vice president for Design, said Shelby’s input was reflected in the car’s performance underpinnings.

In 2008, Carroll Shelby’s 85th birthday was marked by the first 2008 Ford Shelby GT500KR to roll off the production line. An exclusive run of only 1,000 units, this King of the Road was a 540-horsepower muscle car. Shelby, who was actively involved in developing it, said, “I’m always looking to up the ante when it comes to performance, and bringing back the King of the Road Mustang is just what we need.”

Carroll Shelby’s final collaboration with Ford was on the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500. This new model is currently being rolled-out across America.


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