In a world where the value of words is often diminished by over-use and misapplication, there is absolutely no doubt that the word “icon” applies to Carroll Shelby, who passed away on May 10. The charismatic Texan may be known primarily as the chicken farmer who created the Cobra, but he was originally a first-rank racing driver in his own right, being named Sports Illustrated’s Driver of the Year in 1956 and ’57, finishing 4th in a Maserati 250F shared with Masten Gregory at the 1958 Italian Grand Prix, teaming with Roy Salvadori to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Aston Martin in 1959 and claiming USAC’s Road Racing National Championship the following year.
Forced to give up driving by heart troubles, Shelby created the Cobra in 1962 by mating Ford’s new small-block V8 engine to an English AC chassis, then developed it into a World Manufacturers Championship winner by ’65. Taking over Ford’s underachieving Le Mans program, he produced victories in ’66 and ’67, the latter a spectacular all-American celebration. His Ford team also won the 24 Hours of Daytona in ’65 and ’66, and the 12 Hours of Sebring in ’66 and ’67. He was a founding partner of Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, and his Shelby American team won the Trans-Am championship for Ford in ’66 and ’67 as well. He also served as Goodyear’s racing tire distributor for the Western U.S.
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