He’s a legend, a racer, and an engineer, but what do you really know about Carroll Shelby?
1) He had a broken heart
Not in the ‘I got dumped’ sense, but in the ‘his heart was knackered’ sense. At the age of seven Shelby suffered from heart valve leakage issues, which subsequently caused him issues for the rest of his life. He even received a heart transplant in 1990.
2) He was a total badass
We all know that Shelby is a hero, both on and off the track, but his hero status was confirmed long before he turned to racing.
After high school he was due to study Aeronautical Engineering at The Georgia School of Technology, but WWII put paid to that. He enlisted in the air force and served not only as a flight instructor, but as a test pilot. As well all know, test pilots are the most badass of the badasses.
Post-war, his badassness only seemed to amplify – while co-driving in the 1955 12 Hours of Sebring he was sporting a hand so broken it needed a special cast made of fibreglass. Rather than bow out of the race, his cast was taped the wheel so he could drive. Oh, and he co-drove the ’59 Le Mans 24 Hours in an Aston Martin DBR1 with dysentery. He won.
3) He wore work overalls to race
Early in his racing career he wore dungarees behind the wheel. This, in an age before Nomex was even a glint in its inventor’s eyes, was still abnormal. Shelby claimed they were more comfortable to drive in, but that wasn’t the whole story. He wasn’t a wealthy man early on, and he was working at a chicken farm all the hours he could. His get up for work was, of course, dungarees. They became his trademark.
4) The man freaking LOVED chilli
We all have a favourite food, and Shelby’s was chilli. He co-founded the world’s first chilli cook off in Terlingua, Texas, and had/has his own brand of chilli fixings as well.
If being a chilli man wasn’t manly enough for ya, he even had his own brand of deodorant – ‘Carroll Shelby’s Pit Stop.’ It probably smelt like oil, testosterone, and winning.
5) A borrowed race car was in the inspiration for the Cobra
The Cobra is one of the most iconic cars of all time, and is a pleasing mix of British and American engineering. Early in his race career he raced an MG TC (very bloody well), and borrowed Cad-Allards. The combo of the dinky Brit and an American V8 stuck with him…