The Legacy Carroll Shelby Left Behind
In honor of the legend's birthday yesterday, we look back at how much Carroll Shelby has changed our car world...
When the name Carroll Shelby pops up, it is clearly evident as who appears in our heads. When the name Carroll Shelby is mentioned, we cannot help but think of an innovative, intelligent, passionate, and humble man. No matter who your hero is in the car world, Carroll Shelby is always in the top 5 or on the top of that list. Carroll Shelby’s name means two things: Passion and Winning. Not only has the Shelby name left a huge impact and legacy, but Carroll himself has left an even bigger legacy behind him. And he continues to still leave a mark. Legacy defined by book means one thing, yet, the legacy this man left, is more than just one thing.
When His Passion Started
Carroll Shelby was a boy born and raised in Leesburg, Texas. Even though he grew up with humble beginnings, it did not stop him from having enormous hopes and dreams. Born in 1923, Carroll was raised in very humble beginnings, with a father who was a mailman and a stay-at-home mom. Not only that, but Carroll also had a heart condition most of his childhood and life, which prevented him from doing many things. But as anyone else would do, when Carroll got cleared from the doctor, he rushed out of the house and got his hands on anything with four wheels. Shelby would tear apart engines, fix cars, race cars, and do pretty much anything related to motorsport and the automotive industry.
Before he was ever a motoring legend, Carroll worked as a chicken farmer, I mean you need to get the coin someway... am I right?
His passion for racing
In my opinion, the most admirable thing about a person is their passion for what they love. Carroll Shelby is my hero, he is someone I look up to every single day, not because he was a motoring genius and legendary racer, but because he had a true passion. If you watch his old races, interviews, etc. you will notice the way he put his life into his cars and racing, you are truly memorized by his love for cars. Obviously, if you are reading this, you have definitely watched Ford V. Ferrari, and you can see how much Matt Damon (The actor who played Carroll Shelby) tried to exactly portray Carroll's love and emotion for cars and racing. When I watch him on the screen, I am left in total fascination, he lived and breathed cars. And that is something that is truly commendable.
It was evident that Shelby's passion for cars would bring him to racing sooner or later. He would always drive his MG TC streetcar on the track, and once he won his first race, that is when he knew he was hooked on winning. It is no doubt this man knew exactly about going fast, I mean he would beat cars with twice or even triple the horsepower... that's when you know he is legit. No one and I mean no one could reach this guys level, he brought such an exhilarating feel to racing, and that's why people liked him so much, it showed you don't need money to be a good racer. All you need is passion, talent, confidence, and knowledge of what the heck you are doing.
He would race throughout the 50s until his big break was coming along. Carroll Shelby was signed to Aston Martin racing, and Shelby was set to race the Aston Martin DBR1 at the most prestigious motorsport event. The 24 Hours of Le Mans. Carroll Shelby raced his DBR1 liked no one has ever raced, and it paid off in the end, Carroll Shelby took a victory at the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans. He helped Aston Martin achieve their first outright win, crossing the line with a 1-2 finish. That is what started Shelby's love and bond with the 24-hour race.
Fun fact, Carroll also raced at Sebring, and surprisingly he raced in Formula 1 as well. Carroll's first entry in Formula 1 was the 1958 French Grand Prix, and Shelby drove the Aston Martin DBR4 in the Dutch Grand Prix in May, followed by the British Grand Prix. Although, his racing legacy was cut short due to his heart condition returning... His final race was at the Continental Divide Raceway, Carroll Shelby had a nitroglycerin tablet under his tongue, to deal with the excruciating pain. But guess what? He bloody won, that son of gun won, are we surprised? Nope, he was made for speed. After his last race everything changed, Carroll couldn't believe his racing career was over, he knew it wasn't over. He had so much more to give. Yet his racing legacy wasn't actually cut short...
The Cobra Has Come
Carroll starting asking around many manufactures for chassis, he wanted to make a lightweight, V8 powered, race car. While Carroll and his mates were building and working on the cars, he even opened up his own racing school as well. While working on his own race car, he overheard that the British company AC, was in need of a new engine supplier. Which gave him the genius idea to take up the offer. Carroll wanted an insanely powered American V8 roadster, he got the chassis, but where was he going to get an engine? He went to Ford for the engine, and they gladly supplied him with it. The AC Cobra was born. One of the most iconic and praised classic cars of all time. A lightweight body mixed with brutal American power. What more could you ask for? Carroll Shelby took the car community and petrol world by storm with the cobras, nothing was the same after those cars were built.
Most of us probably know the legendary Cobras and their story, so let us fast-forward a bit starting with Le Mans again...
LE MANS - 66'
It was the year 1966 when Ford took the job to challenge their rivals, Ferrari, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ford did not know what they were getting into. It is Lap after lap, hour after hour, gut feeling after gut feeling. Racing for 24 Hours straight, through the dangerous night through tight corners and reaching a top speed of 200 mph on the Muslanne straight, not knowing whether your brakes would fail coming up to that first corner. It was a test against the drivers and death, and most importantly the manufacturer's engineering. It pushed drivers and manufacturers to the limit, and Ford knew exactly the guy they needed to recruit to do that.
Ford signed Shelby to help them develop a car to win and most importantly beat Ferrari. Carroll knew speed, engines, racing, and the Le Mans. Most predominantly, he knew the racer perfect for that job. Ford did not agree with Ken Miles racing, but that did not stop Shelby. He fought for his friend, he trusted him, and he saw something in him that no one else saw. The iconic Ford GT40 was made and developed, with Shelby's and Miles powerful bond and knowledge, they created a car no one has seen before. That beast of a car gave Ford their first victory at Le Mans, while also beating Ferrari. Not only did it give Ford their first victory, but it also went on to win the next three races as well. Well done...
You may know the rest of Carroll's story... building immensely fast cars with many companies and still changing the car world every single time. He has helped many companies, car wise and racing wise. This man has done it all. Remember what I wrote in the beginning? Carroll Shelby’s name means two things: Passion and Winning. Although winning is not that thing that Carroll is truly remembered by, it is his passion that he is remembered by. The passion that lights up his smile and his face every time he got in a car. That is what keeps us going, it is the big hopes, dreams, and passions that motivate us to strive every day. Thank you, Carroll, for being an inspiration to all. Happy Birthday.