Carroll Hall Shelby was born in Leesburg, Texas, in 1923, and died almost nine decades later in 2012. During that time, he established himself as an aviation instructor, a top-notch race car driver, and, perhaps most importantly, the developer of the classic Shelby Cobra and Shelby Cobra Mustang cars.
Shelby drove his first race, a ¼ mile drag in a hot rod with a flathead Ford engine in 1952. That same year he competed in his first road race, driving an MG TC and finishing first in the MG division and then, later that same day, he drove the MG to a win in a mixed division that included Jaguar XKE’s. John Wyer, Aston Martin’s team manager invited Shelby to join the Aston Martin team and Shelby piloted his first Aston Martin DB3 at Sebring, Florida. He was named Driver of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 1956 and again in 1957, the year he opened his first sports car shop in Dallas.
He stopped competitive driving in 1960, but not before winning the 24 Hours of LeMans in an Aston Martin DBR1 300. He broke more than sixteen US and international speed records throughout his driving career but retired mainly due to health reasons. Shelby had been plagued with heart problems since the age of 7 and while he was thought to have “grown out” of them by the time he joined the Air Corps in 1941 he continued to take nitroglycerin pills throughout his driving career and ultimately underwent a heart transplant in 1990.
The man whose motto was “Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, live for today,” is perhaps best known for his Shelby automobiles, especially the classic Shelby Cobra and Shelby Cobra Mustang, the darlings of classic race and street cars to this day. Often copied, with “build it yourself” kits on the market (you can build one for about $18 grand), the Shelby Cobra 427 remains a solid favorite among US collectors perhaps because it’s a solidly American car with Detroit iron under the hood, and perhaps because it’s just damn sexy and kicks European butt. The marriage of Shelby and Mustang, of course, is any sixteen- to twentysomething’s dream car on both continents.
Carroll Shelby was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame on March 2, 2013.
Article by: P.A. Remmell