On May 11, 2012, the automotive world lost one of its last cowboys. Carroll Shelby, father of the Cobra, passed away due to complications from pneumonia. He was 89 years old. Over his five decades in the automotive community, this chicken farmer turned race car driver turned hot rodder left an indelible mark. These are his greatest hits.
In 1961, Carroll Shelby learned that AC Motors (a small British sports car maker) was looking for a new engine supplier. It just so happened that Ford had a new 221 ci, and a V8 too. Shelby put car and engine together and created the Cobra in 1962.
The car would become the epitome of the hot rod archetype: light car plus big motor. The Cobra also bloodied the noses of many on race circuits around the world, such as Ferrari at Le Mans. This attracted the attention of a little company called Ford Motor Company.
1964 saw Ford approaching Shelby with the idea of creating a faster Mustang. This period would begin a long relationship with Ford corporate that spawned many Mustang iterations that were successful on the track and the street. The epitome of this relationship came during the end of the muscle car period with the GT500KR that had a 428ci V8. But the end of the 1960s would see the end of this relationship, and Shelby Motors.
If there was one thing Shelby and Ford had in common, it was making European car manufacturers look foolish on their home turf. The best example of this was the creation of the GT40 program. After being turned down by Enzo Ferrari to buy the company, Henry Ford II decided to beat Ferrari at their own game out of spite. This program for revenge would spawn the GT40 race car, but the first iteration failed to produce wins. Shelby was called in to work on the second generation of the car. Ford and Shelby deliver a one two punch with this new car. In 1966, Ford would take the overall win at Lemans with the GT40. Ford and Shelby would repeat this feat for the next three years.