Carroll Shelby used to famously say, "I love horsepower."1 No doubt that those very words were the inspiration for cars like the original Shelby Cobra and Shelby Mustang, that to this very day, are considered some of the greatest ever built. We sadly said farewell to this American legend early in May, and we wanted to take just a minute to thank him for changing the face of sports cars around the world.
As a child, Carroll Shelby was afflicted with a heart disease that kept him bedridden most of the time. He "grew out" of this condition as he got older, and regained enough strength to join the Air Force during World War II. Before 1949, he had started two businesses, gotten married, and had two children. By then, however, limberneck disease killed all of his chickens, and he went bankrupt.
Okay, and here's where the story gets really cool: in 1952, he drove in his first race, a quarter-mile drag meet behind the wheel of a hot rod fitted with a Ford engine. By the middle of the year, he was winning races against Jaguars - all while wearing overalls from his full-time job working on the farm. Through the next decade, he'd climb the racing ladder, driving Aston Martins and Ferraris, even being named "Driver of the Year" by Sports Illustrated in 1956 and 1957. In 1959, he would co-pilot an Aston Martin to victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans. Due to health complications, however, he would be forced to retire from racing in 1960.
Which, really worked out in the end, because with racing out of the picture, he now had time to dream up the very car that would make him famous: the Shelby Cobra. He approached then-Ford President, Lee Iacocca, about using a powerful Ford V8 in a lightweight roadster. Iacocca says of their first meeting, "I finally gave him the money [to build the Cobra] to get him out of my office."1 And his persistence certainly paid off - the Cobra would go on to win countless races.
Ford would later approach Carroll in the mid-sixties to develop a high-performance Mustang fastback, which would become the very first 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 - built for the track and the streets of America. Thanks to Shelby, Ford continued to dominate the racetrack for the foreseeable future - including a 1-2-3 finish with the Ford GT-40 at Le Mans in 1966. The GT-40 would go on to take first place in 1967 and 1968.
Shelby would also develop the Viper, the Dodge GLH, and the Ford Shelby GT500. Meanwhile, he was also a philanthropist, Chili-lover and chef, and an expert businessman. We really could go on for days about all of the great things Shelby did during his lifetime, and he'll certainly be missed. His team at the Shelby Performance Parts Company has promised that the legend will live on in cars like the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 - appropriately, one of the world's most powerful production cars to date.
In honor of this great life, we invite you down to our showroom at 3737 Lapalco Blvd Harvey, LA 70058 to see the powerful performance cars dreamed up by Shelby. Simply contact us via our website to arrange a time to meet with us.