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Tuesday, May 22, 2012
DEARBORN, Mich., May 11, 2012– Carroll Shelby was a member of the Ford family for the better part of 60 years, producing stunning performance vehicles from concepts to production models.
He once said his energy and passion for performance products were always strongest when he was working with Ford.
Shelby most recently collaborated with the company on the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang, the most powerful production V8 in the world. Working with SVT engineers at Sebring and the Arizona Proving Grounds, at times he drove for more than eight hours – at the ripe old age of 88. He was having so much fun, he didn’t want to stop.
In this 110th Anniversary of Ford Racing video, Shelby talks about his career working with Ford and winning Le Mans: .
The legend begins
Carroll Shelby was nearly 30 years old before he entered his first car race – a quarter-mile drag meet in 1952. The hot rod he drove to the finish line that day was powered by a Ford V8.
Shelby’s first Ford derivatives were the legendary Cobras and Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s. He was heavily involved in the design and engineering of the Ford Shelby Cobra Concept car unveiled in 2004, and was a key member of the dream team that built the 2005 Ford GT.
Carroll Shelby may have gotten a late start, but he was a winner from the beginning. Just two years into his driving career, Aston Martin racing manager John Wyer recruited him to co-drive a DB3 at Sebring. Within months, the chicken farmer from Texas was bumping elbows and trading paint with the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill and Paul Frère. Driving an Aston Martin DBR1 with Roy Salvadori, he won Europe’s prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959.
Early in 1962 Shelby drove his second Ford-powered race car. It was the first mockup for the Cobra, Shelby’s now-legendary marriage of a lightweight British roadster body with a small-block Ford V8. By January 1963 he had homologated the car under the FIA’s GT Group III class, and that month a Cobra won its first race, beating a field of Corvette Stingrays at Riverside in California.
In January 1965 Ford hired Shelby to lend his expertise to the GT40 campaign. Three cars had run the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, but none finished. Shelby began installing the more reliable 7-liter stock car engine in what would come to be known as the GT40 Mark II. It proved considerably faster than the Mark I, and in just two seasons became a strong contender.In 1966 the GT40 began a domination of endurance car racing that would last for four years.
While Ford and Shelby took on Ferrari at Le Mans, at home they fought Corvette. The first effort was the legendary Shelby Cobra, a Ford-powered, Shelby-engineered derivative of the AC Ace. The car had a one-ton weight advantage over the Corvette.