If there was ever a personification of what the American Dream re-imagined for a car lover would be it was every inch the man called Carroll Hall Shelby (pictured in the middle above). After serving our country in WWII Carroll returned to his home in Texas and tried his hand and running a business. It was during his time as a part owner of a sports car dealership when Shelby caught the customization bug after building a handful one one-off Corvettes. Meanwhile he was also using his other side businesses like chicken farming to fund his new found addiction for racing. He was so good that it wasn’t long before the humble Texan was racing internationally for the likes of Aston Martin and eventually won the 24 Hours of LeMans. He was kicking ass all over the world in just about everything with wheels until he was forced to step out of the driver’s seat due to a heart condition.
With no ride and little to no cash most people would have phoned it in but not Carroll. He decided that this time in his life would be a great time to try and realize his dream of creating the next great American sports car. He came across an English company AC who built chassis but recently lost their engine provider contract. He felt that their “Ace chassis” would be the perfect home for a powerful American engine like say, a racing tuned small block Ford V8! Carroll married the two components into the “Cobra” and the rest is history. After that Carroll went back to kicking ass on every race track in the world as a manufacturer and team owner.
I unforuntately never had the chance to meet Carroll Shelby but damned if I was not a fan. Most people who know me will tell you I am not fond of the Ford Mustang but what no one really knew is that I always made the exception for the ‘stangs that had Shelby’s name on them and even though a lot of my American car affinity is with Dodge and Chevy I have always wanted to build my own Ford powered Cobra kit car. Hopefully some day I get to do that. If you do not know much about Mr. Shelby’s life and his creations I encourage you to seek out books and other info about his life. A good place to start is the short biography posted on the Shelby American Inc. website. If you like American cars or not Carroll’s story will inspire you.
[Photo: Shelby American Inc]