Carroll Shelby: FounderA passion for performance. A champion. An American success story. These are among the descriptions earned by Carroll Shelby. He’s an icon that embodies the ingenuity, tenacity and grit needed to win in business, competition and philanthropy.
The Shelby name is synonymous with performance. It’s a part of the man’s DNA, which was molded and shaped during years of competition. His vision of the automobile changed the rules for automotive performance forever. Today, Carroll Shelby and the companies he founded are a driving force for products and industries worldwide. While his ability to race automobiles at exhilarating speeds has made Carroll Shelby one of the most prolific personalities in the automotive industry, that success did not happen overnight. A WWII aviator, Carroll began racing - and winning - in the mid-1950s.
His first race was at a drag strip in a 1932 Ford. Moving to road racing, he captured three national sports car championships in the United States, earned a spot on the Aston-Martin team in Europe, won international races that included a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and set land speed records at Bonneville. Twice, he was named Sports Illustrated’s “Driver of the Year.”
These wins led the East Texas chicken farmer to a storied career that spanned the spectrum from driver to team owner, manufacturer and consultant. When his health caused him to abandon his driving in 1960, Carroll moved from the driver's seat and turned his attention manufacturing.
Shelby believed in combining big horsepower with inspired engineering, which led him to take Ford’s new small block engine and shoehorn it into AC’s lightweight Ace. Christened the Cobra, CSX 2000 was introduced at the New York Auto Show in 1962. This focus on pure performance turned the sports car world on its ear.
In 1963, Shelby took a team of Cobras to Europe to race Ferrari, Porsche and Jaguar on their own turf. Superstars like Bob Bondurant, Dan Gurney, Ken Miles and others driving for Team Shelby captured the Grand Touring World Championship in 1965.
Gurney and Bondurant returned in 1966 for Team Shelby to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40. The team repeated their Le Mans win in 1967. At the same time, Shelby’s operations turned out the Shelby 289 and 427 Cobras, as well as a succession of Mustang based Shelbys. Carroll Shelby is perhaps the only person to have worked at a visible level with all three of major American automobile manufacturers. His charisma, vision and ability to build teams have made him into a master organizer and leader. In 1992, Carroll Shelby was inducted in the Automotive Hall of Fame for his body of achievements.
While Shelby has earned countless automotive and racing victories and accolades, his greatest achievement might be the establishment of the Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation™. Founded in 1992, the charity is dedicated to providing assistance for acute coronary and kidney care for indigent children.
From his fire breathing Cobras, Series 1 and Ford Shelby Mustangs to his involvement in the Viper and Ford GT, he has continued to push the performance envelope. And Carroll Shelby is still making automotive history with his new CSX4000 and CSX7000 Cobras. In 2006, he formed a new partnership with Ford Motor Company. Since then, the fantastic Shelby GT500, Shelby GT and Shelby GT500KR have moved him once again into the fast lane. Now, he has returned the Shelby GT350 back to the performance world. His performance philosophy is as relevant and appealing to enthusiasts today as it was 50 years ago.
Some design cars. Carroll Shelby and his Shelby American team breathe life and spirit into them.