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Remembering Carroll Shelby (1923-2012)

By Art Evans | Photos as credited

All of us have lost one of the dominant figures of the post-WWII automotive era, and I have lost a dear friend. After a long illness, Carroll Hall Shelby died on May 10, 2012, at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. He is survived by two sons, Michael and Patrick, his daughter Sharon, a number of grandchildren, a sister Anne, his wife Cleo plus a host of admirers. For a reason that always remained between the two of us, I am eternally in his debt. As I write this, tears are in my eyes.

On January 11, 2012, Carroll Shelby turned 89 years old. He was married a number of times. His first was Jeanne Fields with whom he had the three children. They were married in 1943 and divorced early in 1960. In September of that year, he married actress Jan Harrison, but this one only lasted a few months. In 1997, his fourth wife, Lena Dahl, was killed in a car accident. Afterwards, he said that he was never going to get married again. Nevertheless, four month later, he married Cleo, an English woman considerably his junior. It’s an interesting note regarding his personality that he maintained good relations with all his exes.

I first met Carroll Shelby—his friends called him Shel—when he burst on our Southern California scene on July 10, 1955 at the wheel of Allen Guiberson’s 4.5 Ferrari, winning the main event at Torrey Pines. I was there shooting pictures with my trusty Rolleiflex.

But even before that, Shel had a distinguished racing career. He started in 1952 in the Mid-South in an MG, then a Cad-Allard. During that year and the next, he ran in 21 SCCA events, winning 12 of them! In January 1954, he took the Cad-Allard to the 1000km of Argentina where he met Aston Martin’s John Wyer. This resulted in factory rides in Europe where he scored a second, two thirds and a fifth that year. He rejoined the Aston Martin team in 1959 and won the biggest road-racing event of all, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Shelby was born on January 11, 1923 in Leesburg, Texas. Leesburg is a small town with a population of about 200, 120 miles northeast of Dallas. His dad was a rural mail carrier. Shel’s earliest remembrance was his dad delivering mail in a horse-drawn buggy in which, on occasion, he accompanied his father. He had only one sibling, a sister, Anne.

According to Shelby, “In high school my consuming interest was automobiles and airplanes, unfortunately not subjects on the curriculum.” He got a part-time job sweeping out hangers at the local airport. Also, his father took him to dirt-track ovals to see racing. Shelby’s education never went beyond high school.

With WWII looming, Shelby wanted to be a pilot. So he joined the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man and ended up at Randolph Field, Texas where his first job was, wouldn’t you know, cleaning out hangers. After basic training, he was assigned to be a fireman on the flight line. The Air Corps was in dire need of pilots then, so qualified enlisted personnel were acceptable. In November 1941, Shelby started preflight training at Lackland Army Air Base. After preflight, he learned to fly in a Fairchild PT-19. He was promoted to sergeant in September 1942—those days they were called “flying sergeants”—and in December of that year, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. He ended up as an instructor flying B-18s, B-25s, B-26s and, finally, B-29s. Occasionally Shelby would fly to Wright Field (now Wright Patterson Air Force Base). It just so happened that some future friends were also there. Interestingly enough and unbeknownst to one another at the time, Sam Hanks, Rodger Ward, John Fitch and Shelby, all flying officers, were at Wright Field at one time or another during the war. Hanks met an 18-year-old civil-service secretary who worked there, Alice Hedrick. They became sweethearts; a relationship that lasted for Sam’s lifetime.

After V-J Day, Shelby left the service, still a second lieutenant. He never flew outside the country. The policy then was to keep the very best pilots in the U.S. to train others.

Shelby had married his boyhood girlfriend, Jeanne Fields, in 1943. Their daughter, Sharon, was born the following year. They moved to Dallas in 1945, but Shelby’s problem, with no skill other than flying airplanes, was making a living. With a little money saved, Shelby put a down payment on a truck. With a friend who also had a truck, the two went into the hauling business. When jobs started to peter out, they sold the trucks and Shelby worked on oil drilling rigs during 1948 and ’49. Next, he decided to get into raising chickens. Unfortunately though, after an initial success with his first batch, the following group of 20,000 all caught a fatal disease and Shelby went bankrupt.

After that, as Shelby wrote in The Cobra Story, “I wasn’t working regularly, but just making out on a little of this and a little of that; odd jobs.” A friend, Ed Wilkins had built a special with a home-made body and a 1932 Ford V8 under the hood. He mentioned to Shelby there was to be a drag race nearby. Ed wanted to see how the car would go and asked Shelby to drive; Shel ran away from the competition. Wilkins was impressed. “I think you’ve got the touch. Would you like to have a go in a real sports car race?” Wilkins also had an MG TC, so he entered Shelby in an SCCA event at Norman, Oklahoma. The first race was for MGs only, which Shelby won by a good margin. The next was for a bunch of different cars including a number of Jaguar XK120s. Nobody there was more surprised than Shelby himself when he beat all the Jaguars and won again. Next, he borrowed an XK120 from a friend and won again at Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Later that year in his third race, he drove Roy Cherryholmes’ Cadillac-Allard to first place at an SCCA event at Caddo Mills, Texas.

Other successes followed in the Allard, culminating in a good finish at the January 1954 GP of Argentina. Aston Martin team manager John Wyer noticed Shelby’s talent and offered him a drive in a DB3S at the 1954 12 Hours of Sebring. Shelby and his co-driver, Charlie Wallace, were among the front-runners when the rear axle broke on the 77th lap. Wyer asked Carroll to come to England and become a team member. His first event was at Aintree where he placed second behind Duncan Hamilton in a C-Type Jaguar. Next, Wyer teamed Shelby with Paul Frere for Le Mans. At 1:50 in the morning, they had to retire due to a broken spindle. In August, he started driving for Donald Healey and helped set new Class D records at Bonneville in a production Austin-Healey. At the Mexican Road Race—La Carrera Panamericana—in November, Shelby flipped his Austin-Healey and suffered serious injuries that might have very well put a lesser man out of racing.

Carroll Shelby, Allard J2X
Shelby with Jeanne Fields at Turner Air Force Base, Albany, Georgia in Roy Cheeryhomes’ Cadillac-Allard J2X. (Photo: Sharon Shelby collection)
Carroll Shelby family portrait
This Shelby family photo was taken towards the beginning of the fifties. Shelby is holding one of his many trophies with Sharon on his left, then Patrick, Jeanne and Michael. (Photo: Joel Finn Collection)

At the March 1955 Sebring—with his arm in a cast and his broken hand taped to the steering wheel—Shel teamed with Phil Hill in a 3-liter Allen Guiberson Monza Ferrari. At first, they were scored overall winners, but due to a protest, found themselves officially in second. Shelby continued with Guiberson and took an overall win at Torrey Pines in July, lapping the entire field. For the rest of the year, he drove for Tony Parravano in Europe.

Carroll Shelby, Ferrari 375 MM
On July 10, 1955, Shelby won the main event at Torrey Pines in Allen Guiberson’s 4.5 Ferrari 375 MM. (Photo: Art Evans)

In 1956, back in the U.S. Shelby won just about everything there was to win. Entered in at total of 17 events by various car owners including Tony, Carroll won 13 of them. When Parravano’s mechanic, Joe Landaker decided to leave Tony and go to work for John Edgar, he recommended Shelby to John. Shelby got along famously with Edgar, winning many race driving John Edgar-entered Ferrari and Maserati sports cars. At the 1957 Cuban Grand Prix in Edgar’s 4.9 Ferrari, he was second behind Fangio in a 3-liter Maserati. At the conclusion of the 1956 season, Shelby had been crowned the SCCA National Champion and Sports Illustrated then named him “Sports Car Driver of the Year.”

Through the end of the decade, success followed success, culminating in winning the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans—with co-driver Roy Salvadori—in an Aston Martin DBR1. In 1958, he had started competing in Formula One for Aston Martin, but in February 1960 he started to experience chest pains. Even so, that year he won the USAC Driving Championship, but finally had to retire at the end of the season due to “angina pectoralis.”

Phil Hill, Ferrari 857S, Carroll Shelby, Ferrari 410S, Palm Springs
On November 4, 1956, after a race-long duel with Phil Hill in a Ferrari 857S, Shelby in John Edgar’s Ferrari 410S won the main event at Palm Springs. (Photo: Art Evans)
Carroll Shelby, Aston Martin DBR1, 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans
Shelby taking the checkered flag at the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans. (Photo: Dave Friedman)
Carroll Shelby, Maserati Birdcage
On April 3, 1960, Shelby won the main event at Riverside in a Maserati after a duel with Jack Brabham in a Cooper. (Photo: Allen Kuhn)

Remembering Carroll Shelby Continued

Remembering Carroll Shelby – Page Two

As everyone knows, after the 1960 racing season, Carroll Shelby became even better known for creating Cobras and Shelby Mustangs. But perhaps fewer know that he had ventured into car creation before that.

During the fifties, Shelby, Jim Hall and Jim’s brother, Richard, had a dealership in Dallas—Carroll Shelby Sports Cars, Inc.—and were the Southwest Maserati distributors. In 1957, Brian Lister designed a chassis and body that incorporated a Jaguar engine and transmission. His cars enjoyed considerable success in the UK and on the continent at the hands of Archie Scott-Brown, Masten Gregory and Stirling Moss among others.

It occurred to Carroll and Jim that the Lister could accommodate a small-block American V8. So they went to England, met with Brian and came home with six rollers. Five were sold and Jim installed a Chevrolet engine in the sixth and raced it. Their idea was to become the U.S. Lister distributors. Brian’s 1958 model was to be a production version, but Archie Scott-Brown crashed and died at Spa, so, as Lister said, “The stuffing was removed from my little Cambridge team.” Production petered out and stopped after 1959.

The experience, however, gave Shelby an introduction into putting an American V8 in a British chassis. Hall remarked that, “For me, the Lister was my first step towards building my own car.” (As an aside, Lister-Jaguars did well for a time in the U.S. when the Cunningham Team ran them at the hands of Walt Hansgen, Dick Thompson, Eddie Crawford and Briggs himself).

In 1959, Shelby and Hall dipped their toes into the constructor water. By then, Corvettes were dominating their production-car class. But as tourers, they weren’t in the same class as Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin. Shelby and Hall got the idea of mating a Corvette chassis and drive train to an aluminum body with luxury accouterments.

Carroll Shelby portrait
I took this photo of Shel in the Laguna Seca paddock during a Monterey Historics. He was sitting with his back against my car which was covered at the time. When I finished shooting, I looked around and there was a large crowd looking on, but in complete silence. (Photo: Art Evans)

They teamed up a with wealthy Texas-oilman friend, Gary Laughlin, who was a sports-car-racing enthusiast. Shelby presented the concept to General Motors Vice President Harley Earl and Chief Engineer Ed Cole. Laughlin and Hall were Chevrolet dealers in Texas, so GM ended up selling them three Corvettes sans bodies with 283-CID running gear and Rochester fuel injection, producing 315 bhp.

Next, they made a deal with Italian coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti (Carrozzeria Scaglietti of Modena) to design and build aluminum bodies and coachwork. Scaglietti, then known as Ferrari’s “in-house” fabricator, had designed what many consider one of the most beautiful cars ever made, the 250 GT Ferrari Tour de France. Scaglietti was also responsible for the famous pontoon-fendered Testa Rossa. The Carrozzieria designers came up with something with looks similar to the 250 GT. The result was a car about 400 pounds lighter than a 1959 production Corvette.

The combination of European dash and luxury coupled with American practicality would undoubted appeal to a large number of aficionados. Since the car was actually a stock Corvette masquerading in luxury clothing, it could be serviced by any Chevrolet dealer at a fraction of the expense experienced by Ferrari owners. At the same time, performance was excellent. Surely it was an idea whose time had come!

Variously dubbed the Corvette Italia or the Scaglietti Corvette (later the Chevrolet Cobra), the three were completed and delivered. But when the partners went back to the factory for more Corvette platforms, they were refused. Cole gave all sorts of excuses, but the bottom line was that the General Motors honchos wouldn’t support something they thought would compete with Corvettes. So the project had to be abandoned.

Each of the three—Shelby, Hall and Laughlin—ended up with a car. None however, kept his. Over the years, all have passed through a number of different hands. The Shelby car is now in the collection at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Although ultimately unsuccessful, the two projects—Lister and Italia—were the beginning rather than the end of the story. As the world knows, both Shelby and Hall soon went on to larger and greater things.

Shelby School School of High Performance Driving
Shelby (left) with two students and Pete Brock (right) at the Shelby School School of High Performance Driving. (Photo: Shelby Collection)

After retiring from racing, Shelby’s first venture was the creation of the Shelby School of High Performance Driving opened in 1961. He made an arrangement to rent Riverside Raceway during weekdays. The idea was to teach one student at a time for a week. Shelby hired Pete Brock to manage the school as well as provide much of the instruction. Such was Shelby’s fame that a single $90 ad brought 1,400 replies, each containing a one-dollar bill for the school brochure. John Timanus later joined Brock and Carroll as teachers. One of the students was a young John Morton, who later went to work for Shelby, first as a janitor, then a driver.

In the meantime, Shelby had obtained distributorships for Goodyear racing tires and Champion spark plugs. He operated out of a small office and space rented from Dean Moon at Moon’s shop in Santa Fe Springs, California.

A successful sports car at the time was the British AC sporting a 2-liter engine based on the famous pre-war BMW. In 1961, the engine manufacturer—the Bristol Aeroplane Company—which had obtained the rights to the design from Germany due to war reparations—decided to stop producing the engines. This put AC in a bind and Shelby heard about it. In September he sent a letter proposing that AC make rollers and ship them to him in the U.S. for the installation of a small-block American V-8.

Initially, Shelby had the venerable Chevrolet engine in mind, but then he heard Ford had developed a new casting process that let them make a lightweight V-8 at a low cost. Charles Hurlock at AC wrote back that he would be interested if a suitable engine were available, whereupon Shelby got in touch with Dave Evans at Ford. To make a long story short, Evans sent Shelby two of the new engines and they arrived at Santa Fe Springs in November 1961.

In February 1962, the first AC roller arrived at the Santa Fe Springs shop. In only one day Shelby and Dean Moon installed a Ford 260-CID engine and a Borg-Warner 4-speed transmission. Then the two friends test-drove the car. Sometime later, Shelby named it the Cobra. He said it came to him in a dream while the car was on its way from England to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Lance Reventlow had decided to wind up his Scarab project. The facility—located in Venice, California–became available, so Shelby moved his operation and took over Lance’s lease on the Princeton Drive shop in March 1962. Warren Olson, his wife Simone, and Phil Remington had been working for Lance. Without missing a day, they continued on for Shelby. All of Lance’s tools and machinery were included in the deal.

The new business was named Shelby American and Ray Geddes from Ford came on board to coordinate because Shelby was not experienced with dealing with a large corporation. One of Geddes’ first duties was to keep Ford’s involvement at a low profile due to concerns regarding liability. The prototype Cobra—CSX 2000—was completed in April and shipped to the New York Auto Show where it was featured in the Ford display. As a result, Ford dealers began to place orders along with deposits. In addition, some others signed up to be Cobra dealers. (CSX 2000 is still in Shelby’s personal collection).

Shelby Cobra CSX2000
Shelby and his assistant, Joan Sherman going for a ride in the prototype Cobra shortly after it was made in 1962. (Photo: Tam McPartland)

The second car (CSX 2001), which became the first production Cobra, was shipped from AC in England directly to Shelby’s buddy (and mine), Ed Hugus—who had a large dealership in Pittsburgh—where an engine and transmission were installed. (CSX2001 presently resides in the Bruce Meyer Collection). Shelby appointed Ed, also a successful race driver, as his first dealer and later distributor for the Eastern United States. Hugus got the next two rollers. Tasca Ford in Providence, RI, also got a few more rollers to complete for East Coast dealers.

Production started in Venice, but it was slow because extensive alterations to the AC chassis were necessary. Nevertheless, in August 1962, papers were submitted to the FIA—the Federation International de L’Automobile—for homologation in the over 2-liter GT class. Acceptance by the FIA meant Cobras would be allowed to compete with other production cars. The FIA requirement, however, was that at least 100 cars had to be completed within 12 months. The FIA ended up approving the application even though, unbeknownst to them, only eight had been made by then.

On October 13, 1962, a Cobra was entered by Shelby American in the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside. Carroll selected Inglewood, California, Honda dealer Bill Krause to drive in the three-hour enduro for production cars that preceded the main event. The race was not only the first ever for a Cobra, but also was the debut of the new model Corvette, the Stingray. At the start, Dave MacDonald in a Stingray led off, followed by Krause. But Dave went out early on with mechanical problems allowing Krause to take over. Bill led for the first half-hour, but then the new Cobra suffered a broken wheel hub. Doug Hooper inherited the lead and won in another Stingray. Afterwards, Shelby remarked, “It was a tough break, but at least it was a consolation to know we were in front when the hub broke.”

Remembering Carroll Shelby Continued

Remembering Carroll Shelby – Page Three

By November, the Shelby American Cobra production line had been worked out to produce one car a day. Meanwhile, Norman Garrad, the Western States distributor for another British car manufacturer, the Rootes Group, took notice of the Cobra. Rootes was making the Sunbeam Alpine, a great but underpowered car. So an engineless Alpine was delivered to Shelby American with an order to install a small-block Ford. At the same time, another roller was sent to Ken Miles, who had a nearby independent shop, with the same order. Miles, with Garrad helping, completed the job over a single weekend. It took a little longer at Shelby American, but that Shelby one turned out to be the prototype Sunbeam Tiger.

Shortly thereafter, Miles went to work for Shelby and became perhaps the most important Shelby employee. Ken and Davy MacDonald (who had left Chevrolet for Shelby) were entered at an SCCA Regional race at Riverside on January 2-3, 1963 in Production Class A. Showing the Sting Rays the way home, Miles was first on Saturday (the 2nd) with Davy second. On Sunday, Miles made a pit stop after the first lap, letting MacDonald capture the win. From dead last after his stop, Ken passed everyone except Davy to take second. The best Corvette was Dick Guldstrand in third. From then on, Cobras dominated most SCCA events. With similar power, they were some 1,000 pounds lighter than a Corvette.

The Shelby Cobra’s first entry in international competition was the Daytona 3 Hour Continental on February 17, 1963. Davy MacDonald managed a fourth. At the 12 Hours of Sebring the following month, Miles, Phil Hill and Lew Spencer were eleventh. It should be noted that these events included sports-racing cars like Ferraris and Maseratis. These results were excellent in that the production Cobras were up against all-out race cars.

By June, Shelby American had completed 125 Cobras. Carroll wanted to enter Le Mans, but Ford declined to finance the effort because it didn’t want to have to deal with negative publicity if the cars did poorly. So Shelby put together a deal with AC Cars and Ed Hugus with each fielding a car. The AC entry finished 7th with only Ferraris ahead. Ed was disqualified for adding oil before his first 25 laps has been completed. By the end of 1963, a Cobra had won the SCCA A-Production National Championship as well as the United States Road Racing Championship.

In February 1964, Shelby American completed the first FIA roadster as well as the Daytona Coupe. In June, a Daytona Coupe driven by Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant placed fourth at Le Mans and first in the GT class. In September, the first GT350 Mustangs were completed and the next month, the first 427 Cobra. A 289 Cobra again won the SCCA A-Production National Championship. In January 1965, there was a press introduction for both cars at Riverside International Raceway.

In 1965 Shelby moved his facility to two large hangers on the edge of Los Angeles International Airport and Ford turned its Ford GT (GT-40) project over to Carroll. A Ford GT won Daytona and a Daytona Coupe won the GT class. Bondurant and Jo Schlesser took first overall at Sebring. When all the dust settled that year, Shelby had wrestled the FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship in the GT category away from Ferrari, much to the delight of Henry Ford II (The Deuce).

1966 turned out to be the year of Shelby’s greatest triumphs and deepest tragedy. Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby won the Daytona Continental and again at Sebring in a Ford GT. Miles and Denny Hulme were well on their way to a victory at Le Mans and Ken to the so-called triple-crown of racing when some unusual pit signals gave the win to Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon in the Ford that had been following along in second. Shelby and the Ford GTs completely dominated international sports car racing and won the World Manufacturer’s Championship. But Shelby’s close friend and key employee, Ken Miles, was killed on August 17 while testing a new Ford sports-racing car—the so-called J-Car—at Riverside. (Ken’s best friend, my father, Art Evans Sr., delivered the eulogy at the funeral).

1966 24 Hours of Le Mans finish
The finish at the 1966 Le Mans with GT-40s first, second and third. They were uncompetitive until they were modified, prepared and tested at Shelby American. Shelby won the FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship for Ford. (Photo: Shelby Collection)

Shelby won again at Le Mans in 1967. Another highlight that year was Carroll’s first chili cook-off. But the rest of the decade was a slow decline for Shelby American. The company lost its lease on the LAX facility and moved Shelby Racing and the Shelby Parts Company to Torrance, California with Shelby Automotive moving to Livonia, MI where Shelby Mustang production continued under Ford supervision. The following year, the last Cobra was sold. In 1969, the Mustang project ended due to declining sales and Shelby American closed its doors. In 1970, Ford ended its racing agreement with Shelby even though a Ford GT had won again at Le Mans the previous year. Due to the fact that Ford’s market penetration had not increased after seven years, the Deuce said, “We’re out of racing.”

In 1970, Carroll started to explore Africa—including Botswana, Angola and the Central African Republic—where he spent approximately nine months of every year during the seventies as a safari tour operator. When I asked him why he went to Africa, he replied, “I wanted to see it.” Even so, he maintained a home in Southern California at Vista del Mar and then moved to Playa del Rey.

Even while spending a great deal of time in Africa, Shelby remained in business in the U.S. The Shelby-Dowd Wheel Company was established in January 1973. The company, headquartered in Gardena, California, manufactured and distributed aftermarket specialty wheels. The Shelby-American Automobile Club was started in September 1975. The idea caught on and today there are Shelby clubs in many larger cities and even in some smaller ones.

Through his friendship with Lee Iacoca, Chrysler and Shelby inked an agreement in October 1982 for Shelby to produce high-performance vehicles based on Dodge components. The prototype Dodge Shelby Charger was introduced the next month. Shelby followed through with a total of 20 different models through 1993. They included a van and a pickup. In 1989, Shelby created a new Can-Am car using a modified 3.3-liter Dodge engine with the body designed by Pete Brock. His intent was to recreate the Can-Am series. It didn’t take hold in the U.S., but a series using them was formed in South Africa.

In November 1989, Shelby began production in Gardena of 427 S/C Cobras using serial numbers “leftover” from 1966. Some controversy arose among aficionados as to whether or not these were “real” Cobras.

Shelby Cobra CSX 4000
In 1999, Shelby went back into the Cobra business and introduced the CSX 1000 427 SC. It was followed by the CSX 4000, 7000 and 8000. (Photo: Shelby Automobiles, Inc.)

Shelby received a heart transplant at the UCLA Hospital in June 1990. As it turned out, he eventually became one of the longest-lived among those who received a transplanted heart. During that time, Shelby became aware of the high costs involved. He also noticed that some couldn’t afford it, particularly the parents of children. So the year following his operation, he created the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation to help fund heart transplants for needy children. Shel became personally involved in finding kids who needed help. He has told me a number of stories about some of them. The first recipient, an infant named Leah Smith, required heart transplant medication. She was within days of dying because her parents didn’t have the money or insurance. Because of Shelby, Leah grew up to be a healthy woman and a figure skater. Shelby’s cars were featured and Shelby was honored at the November 1991 Palm Springs Vintage Grand Prix (organized by me). The proceeds from the event were donated to his foundation.

Shelby drove the Indy 500 pace car—a Dodge Viper—before the 1991 race and he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame that year. The following year, he was elected to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Every Labor Day weekend there is a vintage race at Lime Rock Park. In 1992, Shelby entered an exhibition race in Rick Kopec’s GT350-R. Surprise, surprise, he turned a 1:09 lap, just 0.4 seconds off Bob Johnson’s time when he won in the same model in 1965! In 1995, Shelby was honored with the Lindley Bothwell Lifetime Achievement Award.

From the ground up, Carroll designed and then produced the Shelby Series 1 sports car in 1997. It is a high-performance roadster powered by an Oldsmobile 4-liter engine with a top speed of 170 mph. Only 248 were made, but each example is a highly-prized collectable.

Shelby Series One, Oldsmobile
This example of the Series 1 is in Shelby’s private collection. (Photo: Art Evans)

Starting in 1999, Shelby started to produce new Cobras and Shelby Mustangs. Shelby Automobiles was formed and located in Las Vegas. The Ford factory ships Mustangs there where they are transformed into Shelbys. Today, a Shelby Mustang is the top of the line at Ford dealers. The Shelby GT500 was announced at the 2005 New York Auto Show. The next year, the first example was sold at the Barrett-Jackson Auction for $600,000 which was donated to Shelby’s Children’s Foundation by the Ford Motor Company.

Shelby Automobiles began production of 500 new Shelby GT-H coupes in March 2006, resurrecting the legendary GT350Hs made for Hertz in 1966. An original GT350H was sold at the Barrett-Jackson and the first new H example sold for that same amount.

On April 4, 2007, the 2008 Shelby GT500KR was introduced, marking the 40th anniversary of the original. At the same time, a “Super-Snake” package was announced that would produce more than 700 bhp. And Shelby formed a partnership with Scott Drake Enterprises to market Shelby performance parts.

Today, Shelby American in Las Vegas makes “continuation” Cobras including the 427 S/C, 289 FIA and 289 street version as well as the Shelby Mustang GT350 and the GT500 Super Snake sporting 700 horsepower. Just before he fell ill last year, Shel told me that he was planning a 1,000 horsepower model!

Shelby with a lineup of current cars made at his Las Vegas plant. (Photo: Shelby Automobiles, Inc.)
Shelby with a lineup of current cars made at his Las Vegas plant. (Photo: Shelby Automobiles, Inc.)

In 2008, Shelby was named the Automotive Executive of the Year. In the fall of that year, my book, Carroll Shelby, the Race Driver, was published in soft cover. It includes a number of descriptions of experiences written by Shelby as well as a large number of photographs—many from Shel’s daughter, Sharon—never before made public. The following year, Shelby had the book published in hardcover. In 2010, another book I authored, The Shelby American Story, was published. It recounts all of Shelby’s sixties-era car design, manufacture and racing. Both are still in print and are available at

For some considerable time, Shelby and I have been close friends. My son, David was his right-hand man and I am grateful to David for doing so much to help Shel, particularly during his final years. Shelby fell ill after Thanksgiving last year. Between then and the new year, David took Shelby back and forth to the hospital numerous times. Shelby hated being in the hospital and when he felt a little better, he would call David to take him home. Then he would get worse and David would have to take him back again. I talked with him often via cell phone. After the turn of the year, however, he was confined to intensive care until his demise. A few weeks before his demise, his sons moved him from Los Angeles to Dallas.

Danny Kaye used to say, “Life is a great big canvas. Throw all the paint you can at it.” Surely this is what Carroll Shelby did, and in spades.

Carroll Shelby, Art Evans
Shelby and I had a very close relationship, virtually best friends. (Photo: David Evans)
David Evans, Carroll Shelby
My son, David, had a very special relationship with Shelby. He was not only Shel’s right-hand man, but also his companion and confidant. (Photo: Art Evans)
Carroll Shelby
My nine-year-old grandson, Austin, was very fond of Shelby, who had a special affinity for children. (Photo: Art Evans)

Note: I am indebted to Shelby American Automobile Club honcho Rick Kopec and noted motorsports journalist William Edgar (John Edgar’s son) for their help with this article. Sports Car Digest readers will also want to take a look at Edgar’s article, “Carroll Shelby – The Edgar Ferrari and Maserati Years”.

[Source: Art Evans]