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Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years

Carroll Shelby, John Edgar Ferrari 410S, Palm Springs, 1956

By William Edgar | Photographs Edgar Motorsport Archive

Carroll Shelby, as he himself would say, has gone horizontal. He died at age 89 on Thursday, May 10, 2012, at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, after pneumonia earlier this year left him weak and vulnerable to what eventually comes to us all. He knew I was writing this story and I was looking forward to telling him it was published here in Sports Car Digest. The article had been scheduled for posting on May 16, but my dearly loved friend for more than half a century did not live that long. With a salute to the memory of Old Shel, I dedicate this narrative and the images that illustrate it to Carroll’s wife, Cleo Shelby. – W.E.

Carroll Shelby was the rising legend I’d not yet met in February 1956, when I was a young guy and in Palm Springs, California. That was six years before he would make his first Cobra, and another half century until today when the Cobra’s golden jubilee is being celebrated with the newest Shelby creation, a supercharged 5.4-liter V8-powered Mustang called the “Shelby 1000” because, well, it has 1000 horses. So much has changed since those pre-Cobra Shelby years of the 1950s, and that’s where this piece is going—back to when he was wearing bib overalls and driving the livin’ hell out of foreign race cars.

The occasion in ’56 at that southern California desert resort was the weekend’s sports car races on the municipal airport’s old concrete runways and asphalt service roads at the base of snow-capped mountains. On Friday night, February 23rd, out on the south end of town, the cocktail lounge at the Palm Spring Biltmore buzzed with chatter about two new Ferraris that would face-off in the meet. One was a 4-cylinder 857S Monza that my father, John Edgar, had only a week before received by air from the Ferrari factory in Italy. The 3.5-liter tail-finned Scaglietti-body Spyder would be driven by “Big Jack” McAfee, who’d won the main here in 1953 driving an earlier Edgar team Ferrari, our ex-works 340 America. This US-race-debuting 857S was light, powerful and made wicked torque as early as 2,500 rpm, ideal for Palm Springs road race corners. Word was it could damn well beat the other, bigger, V12 Ferrari—Tony Parravano’s 4.9-liter 410 Speciale.

Ferrari 857S
Palm Springs, February 1956. Joe Landaker and Pete Vanlaw push the Edgar Ferrari 857S. Mrs. John Edgar in hat (center) watches at this car’s first U.S. outing.

Smart bar bets said the Edgar Monza would finish ahead of the Parravano 410, even though the V12 car would be driven by Carroll Shelby. But we’d all seen this Texan win his first West Coast race the previous July at Torrey Pines in Allen Guiberson’s 4.5 Ferrari 375 MM. We also knew of Shelby’s brilliant race on a works 250F Maserati in Sicily, and earlier impressive Ferrari drives at Omaha and Sebring, and in “Scuderia Parravano” Maranello-built cars at Seattle, Oulton Park and in the Targa Florio. Except Parravano-owned machinery was sometimes light on race prep, and Tony himself had a habit of last-minute fiddling with them. It all stoked the fires of drama. From the Biltmore at one end of the Springs to the Doll House at the other, packed watering holes rang stridently with opinions.

John Edgar, Jack McAfee
John Edgar and Jack McAfee at the sports car races in 1956. McAfee began driving an MG-TC for Edgar in 1950.

Years later, Carroll would tell me that Parravano’s 410 was one of the best. “Tony and I’d gone to Ed Winfield and had the cams ground,” he said in a way that you knew made him feel good. In those days before he did his Cobras, Shelby was already looking for how to make a car better and go faster. The seeds were there and soil was fertile. As I see it now, it was almost inevitable that John Edgar and Carroll Shelby would, for a few short years in the 1950s, become a winning duo in sports car racing in America.

John Edgar, Carroll Shelby
John Edgar and Carroll Shelby, 1957. They grew up in Ohio and Texas, and formed their sports car racing alliance in California.

Back to 1956 and that Palm Springs February race day morning when I was 22 years old. I saw Shelby there in the paddock, tall, handsome, slack in how he stood and walked. He looked like a fighter ace fresh out of war. I could have gone over, introduced myself, but he was in another camp. Strictly speaking, he was the enemy. Our own Big Jack was going to show him the way—wasn’t he? My father watched both men, both set to drive rival Ferraris belonging to rival owners. Would it be Jack or Carroll, 857 or 410, Edgar or Parravano?

McAfee in the Edgar Ferrari 857S, Jaguar D-Type
Palm Springs, February 1956. McAfee in the Edgar Ferrari 857S (98), Pete Woods in Jaguar D-Type (700); far left, Shelby in Tony Parravano’s 410 Speciale (185).
Carroll Shelby in Tony Parravano Ferrari 410 Speciale
Palm Springs, February 1956. Shelby in Parravano’s 410 Speciale on way to win. (A frame from John Edgar’s 16mm movie camera footage.)

It was Shelby all the way, with McAfee second at the race finish, and that settled it. My father needed more Ferrari muscle than the 857S, or even the quicker 860 that he thought he was going to have from the factory in its place. What he wanted was a 410, not like Parravano’s 12-plug car, but the 24-plug 410 Sport that had been built expressly for Juan Manuel Fangio to drive in the 1955 Carrera Panamericana—a race that was cancelled. When the Fangio car’s transaxle broke in Argentina in January ’56, it was factory repaired and later in the year customer-sold to John Edgar Enterprises, to be raced by his new driver, Carroll Shelby.

But there were also Edgar-entered Ferraris that Shelby would pilot before the 410 Sport. In the eastern US, where McAfee drove our stable’s Porsche 550s in the spring and summer of ‘56, my father rented Ferraris from Luigi Chinetti for Shelby to drive, with three hillclimb wins in one of the “Indianapolis” 375 GP cars and a 500 TR victory at Brynfan Tydden. Shelby also won two races in New York with the 857S that was now being trucked around in the new Edgar 10-wheel super-transporter driven by Joe Landaker, a former Parravano mechanic who’d helped persuade Shelby to come over with him to the Edgar team. What developed almost overnight was a synergy between John Edgar and the winning Texan that could have been the book for a Broadway hit, I kid you not. The parties, the posh suite at the Plaza Hotel, the interplay with Chinetti and getting the 410 Sport flown to San Francisco where it would be met by Landaker and trucked to Seattle just in time to enter for Shelby in the Seafair race—it was all madcap stuff for a rollicking stage musical.

John Edgar Enterprises race car hauler
Palm Springs, 1956. The John Edgar Enterprises race car transporter pioneered big-rig haulers. It could better 100 mph. The shaded observation deck topside was a cool place to be.
Edgar race car transporter
Edgar transporter interior included 4 bunks, kitchenette, liquor bar, and room for 3 cars.

“The sports car racing we did, me driving, him paying bills,” Shelby said of my father not too long ago, “were some of the best times in my life. His, too. It wasn’t just John’s Ferraris and Maseratis, the finest money could buy, but also the way it all happened race after race. No team now would survive doing it the way we did. The parties alone would ruin any chance of winning today.”

Shelby in those times was easy-going, not at all the serious shaker-and-mover he got to be in his Cobra and Ford GT years yet to come. He partied along with my parents, and every race was an occasion to let loose and still not hinder his seemingly innate talent to win.

On August 10, 1956, when our 410 Sport arrived at San Francisco airport straight from Italy, Landaker and the Edgar team’s big red-and-silver rig were there to whisk the Ferrari to Bremerton, Washington and Shelby’s first West Coast drive for my father. The customized semi, with its hopped-up V8 GMC tractor, could top 100 mph, and Landaker was notoriously hard on the throttle. Also on board for Masten Gregory was the Edgar 857. At Bremerton’s Kitsap County Airport, considered the best airfield circuit in America, McAfee would drive our Porsche 550 to win the Under-1500cc race. In the main, Gregory’s 857 gearbox blew, but Shelby, in his first feature race drive of John Edgar’s 410 Sport, led from start-to-finish to win the Seafair Trophy on August 12th. The man and machine looked like a racing match flawlessly made. Indeed, it was the beginning of many wins for Shelby in our dual-ignition “four-nine.”

John Edgar Ferrari 410S
Joe Landaker works on the Edgar Ferrari 410S big 4.9-liter Lampredi V12 featuring 24 spark plugs and brute power.
Carroll Shelby, Edgar Ferrari 410S, Juan Manuel Fangio
Carroll Shelby drives the Edgar Ferrari 410S, originally built in 1955 for Juan Manuel Fangio.

“That was the most solid Ferrari engine I ever drove,” Shelby has told me. “It was low-revving and had a lot of torque because it had a good stroke. The only thing was,” he said about the 410’s one drawback, “it had the accelerator in the center, and I was never comfortable in the car. Fangio wanted it there, and it would have been a hell of a job to move.” Landaker wanted to change it, but the brake and clutch pedals would have to be re-positioned, too. “We just didn’t want to f@#k with it,” I recall my father saying.

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Continued

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Page Two

After Seafair came Shelby’s two victories in our 857 at Montgomery, New York, then a win in Jim Kimberly’s OSCA MT4 at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, before he was back in the Edgar 410’s seat to contest the SCCA National Road Races at Palm Springs the first week in November, a huge event in West Coast sports car racing. The town was jumpin’. There were parties every night, bongos beating into the dawn of each day. Thing was, they could have been war drums. Phil Hill was in town, just back from his Ferrari factory drives in Europe and armed with George Tilp’s 857 to take on Shelby and the Palm Springs field. Exactly as it was in February, so it was again here in November, with an 857 versus 410 duel to be fought—this time by America’s best, Phil Hill and Carroll Shelby.

Carroll Shelby in the Edgar Ferrari 410S leads Phil Hill in the first Ferrari 857S built.
Palm Springs, November 1956. Shelby in the Edgar Ferrari 410S leads Phil Hill in the first Ferrari 857S built.

As I wrote a few years ago of our 410 at Palm Spring in November 1956: “The 29-year old Hill had matured during his season abroad, netting himself two victories for Scuderia Ferrari. That night, pushing 34, Shelby ate steak—‘cooked through’ as he always had it—and turned in early. The rest of us non-drivers, and even some who’d compete in Sunday’s races, were off to party until the sun rose a fiery spike.”

There are those who say that Palm Springs battle between Shelby and Hill was the best ever seen in sports car racing in the U.S. during the ‘50s. I believe it might have been. It was certainly one of the most exciting to watch. Heading the pack for the entire 30 laps they diced side-by-side and nose-to-tail—Shelby’s 410 quicker on the straights, Hill’s 3.5-liter Monza catching up in the turns, even passing his 4.9-litered antagonist three times. With autumn afternoon light fading, they were still at it right to the flag, Carroll winning a half-second ahead of Phil.

Carroll Shelby in the Edgar Ferrari 410S
Palm Springs, November 1956. Era-famous start/finish flagger Al Torres jumps high as Carroll Shelby in the Edgar Ferrari 410S wins main ahead of Phil Hill’s Ferrari Monza.
Carroll Shelby seated on the Edgar Ferrari 410S.
Palm Springs, November 1956. Runner-up Phil Hill looks on as film actor Susan Cummings pours bubbly for winner Shelby seated on the Edgar Ferrari 410S.

I knew Shelby pretty well by then and was starting to think of him as a member of our family—ten years older than me, kind of like an uncle, or brother, I’m not sure which. He was around all the time. For my parents, Shel, as we were calling him, was the perfect fit—winning races on track for us and fun to be with off track, always. He would later tell me, “When we weren’t racing, we were laughing, either packed into a rental Buick for practice runs up Mount Washington’s hillclimb or living high at the Plaza Hotel and New York’s night clubs. I loved to drive for John because there was always something going on, something that would make a lifelong impression.”

Carroll Shelby in the Edgar Ferrari 410S.
Nassau, Bahamas, December 1956. Shelby in the Edgar Ferrari 410S.

A month after the November ’56 win at Palm Springs, the Edgar team was back at it in the Bahamas at Nassau’s Windsor Field, with Shelby again in the 410 Sport. He won the preliminary there on December 7th and, same day, began the delayed-start 70-mile Governor’s Cup that was soon cloaked in darkness on a road race course marked with black oil drums. In a word, the whole thing was insane. Be that as it may, Shelby drove the 410 hard as ever, winning in the dense sub-tropical night with a literally “blindingly” fast 99-mph average. I was not there for Speed Week, but my fun-loving parents later recounted that Bahamian midnight when Dirty Dick’s bar “turned like a ship in a tempest” with post-race revelers and drivers alike.

Nassau, Bahamas, December 1956. The Edgar Ferraris: 857S and 410S
Nassau, Bahamas, December 1956. The Edgar Ferraris: 857S (88), 410S (98), and Alfonso de Portago (left) with women friends, alongside Joe Landaker (white shirt) and Masten Gregory (yellow shirt).
Nassau, Bahamas, December 1956. John Edgar (brimmed hat, slacks) watches with group as Joe Landaker tightens plugs on the Edgar Ferrari 857S.
Nassau, Bahamas, December 1956. John Edgar (brimmed hat, slacks) watches with group as Joe Landaker tightens plugs on the Edgar Ferrari 857S.

The December 9th Nassau Trophy was the Speed Week’s feature race, 210 miles, and Shelby wanted it to be his third win in the span of three days. Three times as long as the Governors’ Cup he’d already won, he knew the coral composite racing surface this time would be murder on tires. On went a fresh set of Englebert rubber that Chinetti had sent to Miami. Trouble was, they were cotton cord tires, wrong to begin with and vulnerable to what they were required to endure. Shelby pitted from an early lead, his tires shot. Stirling Moss won the race in a 300S Maserati inline-6. About that poignant dénouement I wrote: “Landaker threw a tarp over [the 410], and Speed Week ended appropriately with champagne and decorum served up at Lady Oakes’ Hillcrest House on that long ago Sunday eve in the British West Indies.”

Carroll Shelby portrait
Palm Springs, 1956. Carroll Shelby in one of the author’s favorite photos.

Shelby came away from Nassau with two wins and a broken shoulder he got playing touch football with a coconut at the beginning of Speed Week. And, nothing to sneeze at, he landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “Driver of the Year.” John Edgar, on the other hand, had his mind focused on how the road racing would go in the coming season. Impressed with Stirling’s Maserati win at Windsor Field, my father’s thoughts were turning toward what the Orsi family and Officine Alfieri Maserati in Modena might mean to him, as well as to his top driver and new best friend, Carroll Shelby.

Ferrari 410S
Pomona Fairgrounds, California, 1957. Shelby in Edgar Ferrari 410S that he spun in rain when water splashed up under his helmet visor.

Near the end of January ‘57 we all rode in my mother’s powder blue Mark II Lincoln Continental from my parents’ house above Hollywood’s Sunset Strip out to the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona. It was pouring rain and Shelby was pissed. He didn’t like the layout, and while leading the Consolation race in the 410, as he recalled, “I stood on it and hit a puddle, and I lost it.” The Ferrari went backward off track into a fence. “It was stupid,” Shelby said, “to race a big car like that on that little ‘ol’ chicken-shit course.” He climbed into the Continental with us and we opened a thermos of margaritas.

Havana was the next really big race, but before that came New Smyrna Beach in Florida, just south of Daytona. Landaker hauled the 410 there for Shelby, along with the Edgar team’s aging 375 Plus for former Scuderia Marzotto pilot Piero Carini to drive in Cuba, where Shelby would again be in the 410. The Edgar team’s Porsche driver Ruth Levy was at New Smyrna and Shelby invited her to try the 375 Plus. She did, and turned it upside-down in the sand. Carroll fared a lot better in the 410, winning both the preliminary and main, while keeping the car unscathed and ready for Havana. He called our 410 “the best Ferrari I ever drove.”

Ferrari 375 Plus ex-works Le Mans winning Ferrari rebodied by Scaglietti.
New Smyrna Beach, February 1957. Ruth Levy tries the Edgar 375 Plus ex-works Le Mans winning Ferrari rebodied by Scaglietti. (Photo courtesy Bill Warner Collection.)

An international grid for this inaugural Gran Premio de Cuba in late February 1957 featured some of the world’s most noted drivers—Moss, Castelloti, Gendebien, Alfonso de Portago and Phil Hill, to name a few. Juan Manuel Fangio was there in a factory 300S Maserati, while Shelby grinned from the Edgar Ferrari 410, paradoxically, as you’ll recall, originally built for Fangio. It was frightening to consider what might take place on the Malecón shoreline boulevard and other Havana streets lined with tens of thousands of spectators. In the race, Carini was a DNF. Shelby led for a lap early on in our 410 to ultimately finish second. It was the king, Fangio, in the works 3.0-liter Maser who won the GP and gold trophy presented by Cuba’s president-dictator, Fulgencia Batista.

Havana, Cuba, February 1957. Clipping from John Edgar's Scrapbook shows winner Fangio in #2 Maserati, with mention of Shelby's second- and Portago's third-place finishes.
Havana, Cuba, February 1957. Clipping from John Edgar’s Scrapbook shows winner Fangio in #2 Maserati, with mention of Shelby’s second- and Portago’s third-place finishes.

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Continued

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Page Three

Now even more impressed by the ease with which a smaller 6-cylinder Maserati could embarrass a 2-liter-more-advantaged V12 Ferrari, my father made a deal with Maserati for one of the factory’s newest and most potent creations—the 450S, mega-muscle-powered by a 4.5-liter 400-hp V8. In those days, that was horsepower tonnage.

The packed steamer out of Havana took the Edgar cars back to Miami, and Landaker sped them west to Los Angeles to prepare for the next Palm Springs event in April. But before that there would be Sebring and a dramatic display of two factory-entered Maseratis. Fangio, paired with Jean Behra, won the 1957 12 Hours in a new 450S, while Moss and Harry Schell made it a Maserati 1-2 finish with their second-place 300S. My father felt certain he would have the winning 450S for Shelby to drive at the Springs. But the Maserati factory, with its Fangio-Behra win in Florida, revised the plan. Sebring’s second-place 300S instead would go to the Edgar team, as a loaner, while the victorious 450S would be kept on, for at least a while, with the prospect of winning more races as a works car.

Stepping back to March 17th, a week before Sebring and after hauling the Ferrari 410 to a minor airport course race in Stockton, California, the rapidly-getting-worn Edgar 4.9 DNF’d. It was not the best of times, nor the worst of times. It was more like—limbo times.

Carroll Shelby John Edgar Maserati 300S, Stirling Moss race number 20 from '57 Sebring 12 Hours.
Palm Springs, April 1957. Shelby during practice in Edgar Maserati 300S, still wearing Stirling Moss race number 20 from ’57 Sebring 12 Hours.

Still wearing the Sebring race number 20 of Moss-Schell, Shelby practiced the Edgar-entry 300S at Palm Springs on Friday, April 6, 1957. It howled and, although far from being a 450S, the smaller car looked to be possibly good enough until Maserati delivered a big V8. In Saturday’s 5-lap Preliminary, Shelby, driving the 3.0-liter Maser, was first at the checkered to beat the 4.4-liter Ferrari 121 LM driven by his ongoing challenger, Phil Hill. So, fine and dandy. There was still hope that Shelby, even down 1400cc from Hill’s not-so-new 121, could, as Shelby’s hopes echoed, “Whip Enzo’s cars hands down.” The desert spa’s bongos beat once again, and parties that night seemed a carry-over of last November’s jolliness.

Palm Springs, April 1957. Clockwise from top: William Edgar (w/stopwatch), his mother Geraldine Edgar, Carroll Shelby in Edgar Maserati, and William's first wife Patricia Edgar.
Palm Springs, April 1957. Clockwise from top: William Edgar (w/stopwatch), his mother Geraldine Edgar, Carroll Shelby in Edgar Maserati, and William’s first wife Patricia Edgar.

The center of attention at Palm Springs was on Sunday’s main event. Would it be Hill then Shelby, or Shelby then Hill? The Edgar 300S just didn’t have it, and Hill blitzed the stripe 49 seconds ahead of runner-up Shelby. My father was furious, not at his driver, but at Maserati for not sending the 450S when it should have. To make matters worse, we were looking at Hawaii International Speed Week as the next race, only a week off, and still no 450S. John Edgar would send the 300S to the Islands, and would also ship the 410 there. His contract with Maserati was to not race the Ferrari—but did that necessarily mean Phil Hill could not pilot the 410 in place of Shelby, especially if Shelby drove the 300S there on Oahu? The cars were loaded aboard the S.S. Lurline to sail southwest for the United States Territory of Hawaii, still three years shy of statehood.

The Hawaiian Islands in April 1957 were the way they were long before “The Descendants” movie indicted them to be today—lovely hula hands, versus land development and traffic. My parents took one of the ceiling-fan garden suites at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach. Shelby and Hill were there, too, as were heiress Barbara Hutton and her son, Lance Reventlow, who’d not yet built the Scarab but would drive one of the Edgar Porsches. If all that wasn’t truly “racing-in-paradise” for the Edgar entourage it was as close as it might ever get.

Phil Hill in Edgar Ferrari 410S
Mokuleia, Oahu, April 1957. Phil Hill in Edgar Ferrari 410S after winning speed contest at 165.12 mph. Shelby wears not-often-seen kidney belt for when he races.

The sports car competition at Mokuleia, Oahu was run at the old Dillingham Field air base on the island’s north coast about 40 miles from Honolulu. It was there that the Edgar 410 became an item of debate. Contractually, in papers drawn between my father and Oficine Alfieri Maserati, Shelby was, to reiterate, permitted to only drive a Maserati—in this case, and in lieu of the undelivered 450S, that meant the factory-loaned 300S. But Phil Hill, it was reasoned in the Edgar encampment, could drive our 410 Ferrari, and so he did for the solo speed trap trials on Dillingham’s longest runway, the 3,800-ft Mauka Straight. Hill’s pass in the 410 was certified at 165.12 mph and proclaimed the fastest clocked car of the speed contest.

Duke Kahanamoku
Mokuleia, Oahu, April 1957. John Edgar’s wife, Geraldine, in Hawaiian Easter bonnet, with Duke Kahanamoku, at Dillingham Field races. (“Duke” was the famous swimmer/surfer’s name, not a title.)

Two days later, on April 21st, Easter Sunday, Hill and the Edgar 410 were ready to go ahead and join the start grid for the 1-hour “Gold Cup Challenge” feature race. It was widely expected that he would be in it. Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku was there among other prominent islanders waiting to see Hill and the big red Ferrari from the Mainland in action. But in its re-reading, the Maserati contract insisted that John Edgar under no circumstances was permitted to enter a Ferrari in a sports car road race. To breach the agreement would surely end Maserati’s promise of a 450S.

Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill and Joe Landaker
Mokuleia, Oahu, April 1957. Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill and Joe Landaker when Maserati contract forbade Edgar Ferrari 410S to be raced here, sidelining Hill.

Hill and the best-bet 410 were left on the sidelines, while, slow in the corners, Shelby drove the 300S Maser to third place behind winner Pete Woods in a Jaguar D-Type and runner-up Chuck Daigh’s Troutman-Barnes Special. Once again almost certain victory was denied Shelby because Maserati still hadn’t delivered its pledged V8.

John Edgar Maserati 300S
Mokuleia, Oahu, April 1957. Shelby seated in Edgar Maserati 300S with which he would finish 3rd in Hawaiian International Speed Week’s Gold Cup Challenge.

As footnote to the disappointing episode for Hill on Oahu, a month later and still no 450S, my father, having more or less said to hell with the Maser contract, let Phil drive our 410 at Santa Barbara on a weekend when Shelby was in the east winning at Cumberland, Maryland with a rented 300S Edgar entry. Hill’s same-day tight-course Santa Barbara race in the long-wheelbase 410, after an early lead, allowed him a class win but only third-place finish overall.

Phil Hill, John Edgar Ferrari 410S
Santa Barbara, May 1957. Phil Hill finished 3rd in the main driving the Edgar Ferrari 410S, after placing 11th in this rain-drenched preliminary.
Carroll Shelby, Maserati 300S
Cotati, California, May 1957. Shelby in the Edgar Maserati 300S (Edgar team manager Steve Mason sitting on car) wins here crash shifting with no clutch.

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Continued

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Page Four

A week on, Shelby was back in California at Cotati’s flat farmland airport course near Santa Rosa, re-united with the Edgar 300S. When the car’s clutch broke at the standing start, he had to drive the 30-lap race crash shifting gears—and won! A week later he was in Eagle Mountain, Texas, again with the 300S, where he DNF’d. At Lime Rock, Connecticut, another week into June, he won in the rental 300S once more, then two weeks later was at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin with a DNS for the Maser that was followed by a DNF at Maryland’s Marlboro Motor Raceway in mid-July. Then came Lime Rock, again, this time a non-National regional race. The date was July 28, 1957, an exasperating delay of 127 days after Fangio and Behra won the 12 Hours of Sebring in a 450S that we thought would then be our car.

Carroll Shelby, John Edgar Maserati 450S
Encino, California, July 1957. Shelby in the Edgar Maserati 450S at long last to serve him well, months after it had been promised then raced by Moss and Fangio in Europe.

The July 28th Lime Rock date was significant because it was also the first time Shelby raced the long-awaited Edgar 450S Maserati—not the Sebring winning 450S, but a newer one that had been driven by Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson in that year’s Mille Miglia and again my Moss and Fangio at the ’57 Nürburgring 1000-km, resulting in DNF on both outings. That 450S was then repaired and re-numbered at the factory, and shipped to the States.

Shelby recalled how it all came about. “Maserati screwed us around,” he told me a year or so ago, repeating the story, “and said we were going to get one, and then we didn’t.” Finally, as the summer of ’57 wore on, he told my father, “Let’s just buy it!” Amazing how fast hard cash turns delayed promise into quick delivery. Twenty grand did just that. Shelby’s first drive in the new Edgar-owned 450S Maser at Lime Rock Park was a resounding physical and psychological victory and virtual warm-up for Virginia International Raceway’s inaugural a week later in Danville. By far the fastest car at VIR, Shelby in our 4.5 Maserati shut out Briggs Cunningham’s D-Type Jaguars and the rest of a Ferrari-dotted field in both VIR’s 23-mile Preliminary and 65-mile Main.

Carroll Shelby, Maserati 450S
Virginia International Raceway, August 1957. Shelby poses with a VIR official after winning the VIR Inaugural in this Edgar Maserati 450S.

Virginia Raceway double-done and won, Joe Landaker was ready to haul the 450S back to Los Angeles as fast as the transporter would go in order to prepare the car for the up-coming Road America “500” at Elkhart Lake on September 8th, and then back to California’s new Riverside International Raceway opening two weeks after the Wisconsin 500-miler. But wait! First there was another race in the east, at Montgomery, New York, where Shelby and the 450S could squeeze in an important showing for car and driver points on August 18th. He grabbed pole there in timed practice, but the main event’s standing start trashed the big Maser’s gearbox and it went nowhere. Landaker suddenly had even more to do to put the 450S in shape for Elkhart and Riverside.

Ferraris 375 Plus, Ferrari 410 Sport picture
Joe Landaker’s pride and joy was the Edgar team’s 10-wheel transporter with hotted GMC V8 tractor. Displayed are Edgar Ferraris, 375 Plus (left) and 410 Sport.

“He lived for horsepower and the road,” Shelby has told me of Landaker, “and he was my best sports car mechanic in the 1950s. Joe could drive that transporter coast-to-coast in two days, living on cheese snacks and soda pop, and never once stopping to sleep.” Landaker, too, had a special way with a race car’s body damage. Not how expensive coachwork on these same sports cars is refurbished today, Joe back then did the job right in the race paddock with mallet and tin snips. Plus he was a whiz with engine and drive train work and applied early-learned truck mechanics for making innovative fixes from scratch. “All-nighters with wrenches and hammers,” said Shelby, “were just regular hours for Joe.”

Repairs and prep done, and back on the road, the whole shebang was at Elkhart Lake and ready for the 500-mile race on September 8th. For the third time, the featured face-off was Shelby and Hill again. Hill arrived straight from Europe with runner-up factory Ferrari finishes at Reims and Kristianstad; his weapon at Elkhart being the ex-works 315S Ferrari in which Piero Taruffi won 1957’s Mille Miglia. Race strategy here caused Shelby some pause. Landaker could unload either the 450S or its back-up sibling 300S. Two Maseratis, which one to pick? Shelby had up-coming races planned for the 450S at Riverside, Palm Springs, Laguna Seca and again at Riverside, and he figured 500 miles on the 450S engine at Elkhart might put at risk the big Maser’s reliability for those close-succession contests yet on his dance card. So—he would do “The 500” in our 300S. Even though Shelby drove the distance with no driver change, Hill, also going solo, won the race in his Ferrari. Shelby’s only consolation was the 450S had remained fresh for Riverside’s inaugural.

Edgar Maserati 300S
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, September 1957. Shelby, with then-wife Jeanne, takes a break, sitting on the Edgar Maserati 300S he drove to 2nd place here.
Road America
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, September 1957. Shelby, in the red Edgar Maserati 300S, passes the dirt “pits” on the 4-mile track where he will finish 2nd in the Road America 500.

Riverside International Motor Raceway, as it was first called, opened September 21, 1957, barely ready for action after my father paid dearly for its construction when initial funding dried up in the track build’s earliest stages. It was a blistering hot race weekend, and Shelby fired up the 450S for practice on the brand new 3.275-mile road circuit. Not through his first lap, he lost traction in a sandy corner and stuffed the big Maser front end first into an embankment. Shelby’s face required 70 stitches and the Maserati’s nose needed much more than Landaker’s mallet. The 450S and Shelby were categorically DNS for the race, but the kicker was Richie Ginther won the opener’s main in none other than the Edgar 410S Ferrari, and Bill Pollack took third in our 300S. If anyone wondered, my father by then was totally ignoring any indenture to Maserati, and freely ran his Ferraris seated with drivers of his choice. After all, the 450S was no contractual freebie as originally anticipated, but rather fully paid for and owned outright by John Edgar.

Maserati 450S wreck
Riverside International Raceway, September 1957. The heavily damaged Edgar Maserati 450S after Shelby spun it into a dirt embankment during race practice.

While the 450S underwent extensive repairs, Shelby healed. Car and driver were ready to race again for the Edgar team at Palm Springs the first weekend in November, with Shelby in the 450S winning both the prelim and main with little effort, while Ginther, again in our 410, finished sixth. From there it was on to Laguna Seca the following week where Shelby elected to drive the more nimble 300S on the twisty new road circuit that for the first time replaced Pebble Beach’s historic but deadly car chase through the Monterey Peninsula forest. Shelby put our little Maser on Laguna’s pole for the track’s initial main. Understeer and brushes with hay bales in the Corkscrew relegated him to only fourth at the finish. Our old 857S was there, too, by then sold to its next owner and driven to fifth place by Ginther. As for our “borrowed” 300S Maser, this Laguna Seca was its last appearance as an Edgar-entry, the car going back to Maserati as we headed south again for Riverside.

Carroll Shelby Maserati 300S
Laguna Seca Raceway, November 1957. Shelby goes wide in the Corkscrew driving the Edgar Maserati 300S. In front is John von Neumann’s Ferrari 625 TRC. Pete Lovely (left) will win in this Ferrari 500 TR.
Edgar Maserati 450S
Riverside, September 17, 1957. A cold day author William Edgar (far right) well remembers for the hot win in the Edgar Maserati 450S by Carroll Shelby (far left). Next to Shelby is John Edgar, Race Queen Jan Harrison and William’s first wife, Patricia Edgar.

And so came our return to Riverside Raceway for November 17th’s SCCA National. Windy and bitterly cold, the 82-mile big-bore feature got underway with Shelby in the 450S taking the lead on Lap 4. On Lap 5 he spun the big Maser and a flock of front runners flew past before, furious at himself, he was back in the combat.

Carrroll Shelby
Riverside, November 17, 1957. On his way to winning, Shelby in the Edgar Maserati 450S leads Walt Hansgen in Briggs Cunningham’s D-Type Jaguar.
Dan Gurney, Ferrari 375 Plus
Riverside, November 17, 1957. Shelby in the Edgar Maserati 450S (right) chases down Dan Gurney (Ferrari 375 Plus) on Carroll’s way to winning the track’s first SCCA National.

In the next hour of arguably his best driving ever, Shelby mowed down the leaders and won the race. Coming second in the ex-Parravano 375 Plus was a young local no-name known forever after as Dan Gurney. At that moment, though, Carroll Shelby was on top of the world. He’d won an important National in an Edgar car on John Edgar’s track. And, to add even more icing to the big-picture cake, behind Gurney then Gregory’s Maser and Walt Hansgen’s D-Type, Ginther brought my father’s 410 Sport home in fifth spot. That night, the Presidential Bar at Riverside’s Mission Inn was all about celebration.

“Riverside,” Shelby has said, “was a fine European-type circuit, and I think one of the best we had in America in those days.” Then, he told me, “It tickled your father for years that I’d won that race after getting ‘Texas Mad.’”

Carroll Shelby
Riverside, November 17, 1957. Victorious Shelby perched on the Edgar Maserati 450S, with John Edgar (sun glasses), Race Queen Jan Harrison, Shelby’s future wife (far left), holding checkered flag.

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Continued

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Page Five

It was back to Nassau in December ’57, where Shelby in our 450S was second in the 5-lap Sprint Race, third in the Governor’s Cup 15-lapper, and tailed the 50-lap Nassau Trophy race-winning Stirling Moss’ Ferrari 290MM to the flag as runner-up and only Maserati to survive the race’s 250 miles among a field of finishers that included a dozen Ferraris. Oh, and our 410 was at Nassau, too, under Ginther again, knocking off a pair of seconds and two fifths during that race-filled week in the Bahamas. Even now, over 54 years later, it’s exhausting to think about.

Into 1958, as Scott Fitzgerald, had he lived to see 62, might have written then and in fact did decades before … “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Truth was, our cars in the Edgar stable were showing their age against an analogous current of new stuff arriving on the sports car racing scene in North America.

Carroll Shelby Ferrari 410S, Cuban Grand Prix
Havana, Cuba, February 1958. Two screen-shot frames from William Edgar’s in-progress 1950s sports car racing film show Shelby in the Edgar Ferrari 410S with Joe Landaker, and (right) Cuban GP starting line-up.

The first big deal in ’58 was to go back to Cuba near the end of February. Edgar HQ was for a second time a suite at the Hotel National overlooking the Malecón and Caribbean that included a sighting of Ernest Hemingway with drink in hand on the balcony below. Red race cars were everywhere and forming the grid. It all appeared so festive and bright. Gregory was seated in our 410, and Shelby in the Edgar 450S. But in a bizarre incident to embarrass the Batista regime, Fangio was absent and would not start—he had been kidnapped from his hotel the night before by Fidel Castro-supporting rebels and was being held in a room somewhere. But the worst was yet to come. Five laps into the delayed race, Cuban driver Armando Garcia Cifuentes’ 2.0-liter Ferrari Testa Rossa skidded out of control and tore through spectators crowded at the edge of the race course, killing 7 and injuring more than 30.

1958 Cuban Grand Prix
February 25, 1958 Havana’s El Avance Criollo newspaper clipping showing accident aftermath (from John Edgar’s scrapbook).

The Cuban GP was stopped on Lap-6, only 12 minutes after it began. Even though the Edgar 410 with Gregory was leading when the race was called, he was accredited second—Moss in a 4.1-liter NART Ferrari 335S had passed him under the red flag and consequently was first to cross the Lap-5 finish line. 12 hours later race officials declared Moss the winner—because Gregory had slowed and Moss crossed the line first. Gentlemanly, Stirling and Masten decided among themselves to split their pooled prize money. Shelby in our yellow-nose 450S was third, leaving in his mirrors the illustrious likes of Wolfgang von Trips, Harry Schell, Jo Bonnier, Jean Behra, Maurice Trintignant [substitute driver for Fangio’s 450S], Porfirio Rubirosa, Phil Hill, Bruce Kessler and Jim Kimberly.

Shelby’s 450S strategy at Havana had been to start heavy with full fuel so he wouldn’t have to stop during the 310-mile race, having no idea of the tragedy that would end it after only 20 miles when Cifuentes’ Ferrari slid in oil on the racing surface. Some figured the fluid slick was from support races run earlier. Other believed it was put there by rebels to further disgrace the Batista government, saying that the oil was green, just as it might have been poured fresh from a can rather than spewed from a hot engine. The next day, Fangio was released unharmed near Havana’s Argentine Embassy. By then, most everyone had gone home.

John Edgar
Palm Springs, April 1958. John Edgar (light hat) sits with band-leader Paul Whiteman. Edgar Maserati 450S (right) and stand-by Edgar Ferrari 410S are ready for the race weekend.

While the Edgar camp re-grouped back in Los Angeles and Shelby was getting himself ready to head for Europe and join the Aston Martin and Centro-Sud teams, our Maser 450S and Ferrari 410 were made fit for the next Palm Springs race in early April. Shelby would drive the four-five Maser, and the four-nine Ferrari would stand ready as back-up.

Carroll Shelby, Maserati 450S
Palm Springs, April 1958. The Edgar Maserati 450S waiting in line for practice; John Edgar (hat) sits between driver Carroll Shelby and Edgar team chief mechanic, Joe Landaker.

It was good to return again to the desert classic. The springtime mountains wore snow-tops, the weather was sunny and hot, and Lance Reventlow had brought out his new 5.5-liter Chevy-powered Scarab to play with the predominate foreign sports cars. Of course there were the far-into-night parties all over again, and those beating bongos, but a new period in ‘50s racing seemed to be ushering in on that April ’58 weekend. Would our 450S, already getting tired, be able to hold its own?

Carroll Shelby, Maserati 450S
Palm Springs, April 1958. Shelby drives the Edgar Maserati 450S toward winning the preliminary on the desert airport course far below snow-capped San Gorgonio Mountains.

In Saturday’s 5-lap Sprint, Shelby proved our Maser V8 could still win, even though the car’s drum brakes were sacrificed. Bob Oker’s 3.0-liter Aston Martin DB35 was second. Reventlow’s third-place Scarab, after wooing everyone with its looks and speed would fail to start Sunday’s main because of a cracked engine block.

Carroll Shelby
Palm Springs, April 1958. Carroll Shelby, John Edgar and Joe Landaker in the Edgar Maserati 450S. The preliminary Sprint race, the last drive and win for Shelby in this big Maser, killed the car’s drum brakes.

Our Maserati’s brakes shot, Shelby on Sunday seated his old Ferrari ride—Enzo said it was the best car he ever built—the Edgar 410 Sport. He had not finished a race with the 410 since his second place behind Fangio at Havana more than a year ago. Now, at Palm Springs, he led the main in it, but not without a mid-race brakes problem. Gurney in the shortened 375 Plus got past Shelby on Lap 20, and young Dan—it was his 27th birthday—came home the winner, 11 seconds ahead of Shelby at the checkered flag. So that was that. Although this would be Shelby’s last drive in our 410, the car would be driven by others—Pete Woods, Bonnier, Gregory, Jim Rathmann, Chuck Daigh—in a few subsequent contests, and even win under Bruce Kessler at Nassau’s Ferrari Race in December 1958.

Dan Gurney
Palm Springs, April 13, 1958. Winner of the main, Dan Gurney gets congrats from his Ferrari 375 Plus owner Frank Arciero (hat, far left), pal Skip Hudson and ’57 Indy 500 winner Sam Hanks, on Dan’s 27th birthday.

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Continued

Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years Page Six

Ironically, Shelby’s drives at the April ‘58 Palm Springs National—Sprint in the 450S, Main in the 410—were the last times he would race a Ferrari and Maserati for John Edgar. Gurney would DNF our 450S at Tracy, California in May ’58. The Maser’s engine expired under Woods at Riverside in June ’58, and Landaker implanted a 6.3-liter Pontiac V8 in the car, while later still it underwent a conversion to a 5.7-liter Maserati marine engine. Neither power plant proved successful. The last race for the Edgar Maserati was Daigh’s DNF when the transaxle let go at Riverside’s Times Grand Prix on October 11, 1959. Early in 1960, my father, after fielding his remarkable sports car équipe for the past ten years, got out of the game entirely when he sold all of his race cars and interest in Riverside Raceway.

Carroll Shelby, Maserati 450S
Carroll Shelby, taming Edgar Maserati 450S muscle as he so often did during his many times at the big Maser’s wheel. The car and its driver seemed made for each other.

About my father’s big 4.5-liter Maserati and driving it in the 1950s, Shelby has told me, “I thought the four-five, especially after the 5.7 engine was put in it, was probably the end of the line for the big sports cars—and it was the best one. It handled good and I won a lot of races in it.” Shel then gave his stamp of approval for the car, never done unless he truly meant it, saying, “I liked it.”

Carroll Shelby’s final win in a sports car, a year after he and Roy Salvadori won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 co-driving an Aston Martin DBR1, occurred at Continental Divide, Colorado in a Meister Brau Scarab on June 26, 1960. Prophetic in what Shelby would later do with his Cobras, Ford GTs and Mustangs, that Scarab was American made with an American motor.

At Laguna Seca four months later, on October 20th, Shelby drove his last ever sports car competition in a Tipo 61 “Birdcage” Maserati owned by Frank Harrison, finishing an overall second after two demanding 102-mile heats. His life-long heart condition by then had made driving an exhausting effort, and during this farewell pursuit he used nitroglycerin pills to get him through the race to his final checkered flag.

Carroll Shelby portrait, Maserati 450S
Carroll Shelby, the one and only, near the end of his sports car racing years in the 1950s, before his Cobras and Mustangs would take him into even greater dimensions of fame and fortune.

Where are the Shelby-driven ex-John Edgar Ferraris and Maseratis today? Our old Ferrari 857S (serial number 0588M), for a while owned by Andy Warhol, has recently been restored to its April 1956 Edgar team condition and livery, superbly executed by David Cottingham’s DK Engineering in England. The Ferrari 410 Sport (s/n 0598CM) belongs to Roger Willbanks, who displays the car at the Shelby American Collection in Boulder, Colorado. The 300S Maserati (s/n 3071) is in New York, owned and vintage raced by Tony Wang. The 450S Maserati s/n 4506 (factory renumbered from s/n 4505), after a list of post-Edgar owners, went to a former president of Bugatti Automobiles, Dr. Thomas Bscher, who has driven it many times in European historic races. The Le Mans-winning 375 Plus (s/n 0396AM), though never raced by Shelby but frequently an Edgar team paddock stand-by, became a celebrated jewel in the Pierre Bardinon collection near Aubusson, France.

John Edgar Ferrari 857S
The ex-John Edgar Ferrari 857S immediately after its complete restoration in 2011 by David Cottingham’s DK Engineering in the UK.
Ferrari 410S
The ex-John Edgar Ferrari 410S at Shelby American in Gardena, California, when current owner Roger Willbanks (standing with Carroll Shelby) brought it to Carroll’s Fabulous Fifties party in October 2006.
Carroll Shelby, Maserati 300S
The ex-John Edgar-entry Maserati 300S, when owner/vintage racer Tony Wang took it from New York to the Monterey Historic Automobile Races in August 2008.
Carroll Shelby, Maserati 450S
The ex-John Edgar Maserati 450S during the August 1991 Nurburgring’s Oldtimer GP driven by owner Dr. Thomas Bscher, who has historic raced the car and won with it many times.
1954 Le Mans winning Ferrari 375 Plus
The ex-Ferrari factory 1954 Le Mans winning 375 Plus was owned by John Edgar (seated here at Nassau in ’57) from 1954 to 1960. It was later restored to its original Pininfarina profile and held in the Pierre Bardinon Collection in France.

As a matter of fate, none of these cars were locked away in a barn and the key given to me. I never owned any of them, but hold each in lasting memory, as I also cherish those times and places that made up Carroll Shelby’s Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years in the mid-to-late 1950s. To quote Ol’ Shel on the subject, he once told me in that gravely drawl of his, “It’s an era that’s gone and won’t ever come back.” I like it that it was he and my father who did so much to make it happen, and that I could be there for it.

[Source: William Edgar; photo credit: Edgar Motorsport Archive]