Shelby Bio


The following is a biography of Carroll Shelby’s racing career.  See the Timeline page for additional milestones throughout Shelby’s life.

Carroll Hall Shelby was born in the small town of Leesburg, TX in 1923. He would achieve notoriety as one of the top race drivers in the 1950’s and bring home the World Manufacturers’ Championship with his Cobras in 1965.

Call it what you will – Ford Cobra, Cobra Ford, Shelby Cobra, AC Cobra or just plain Cobra – you’re talking about what was the hottest thing on wheels.  Not only were Cobras exhilarating on the street but,  they were also compiling a stunning record of victories on tracks all over the world.  And showing those Ferrari folks a thing or two about good old Anglo-American competitiveness and ingenuity.

Carroll Shelby was perhaps the greatest single influence on America’s racing posture in the post-1945 period. Here was a man, the son of a Texas mail clerk, who refurbished the image of American drivers in Europe on Europe’s own terms. Here was a man with no formal engineering background who built an American-engined marque that challenged and ended Ferrari’s domination of the World Manufacturer’s Championship. Here was a man who, despite an ailing heart that cut short his driving career, created a sports car that forced the world’s largest automobile manufacturer to make the Corvette into the fine automobile it is.
Born in Leesburg, Tex., January 11, 1923, Shelby traveled no easy road to the posh suburbs of Los Angeles. In between were an Air Force career, 3 children by his high-school-sweetheart 1st wife, several business failures, 8+ years of race driving, followed by another 8 years as a car designer/racing team manager/specialty car manufacturer.  He would re-establish himself as a manufacturer in 1980 and continue as a specialty car manufacturer throughout the rest of his days.
The Shelby family moved to Dallas early where Carroll, who had a heart murmur at age 10, outgrew it, and developed an avid interest in cars and racing. There were an Overland, Dodge, Willys, and Model T and Model A Ford in Shelby’s early life. There were visits to tracks, where the likes of Oscar Coleman were the heroes. Shelby met his 1st wife at a Baptist church social, graduated from high school, and was married after he had enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He spent World War II at Randolph Field, Tex., and in Denver as a pilot. Returning to Dallas after V-J Day, he made some money owning a dump truck business, eventually selling out to work as an oil-field roughneck to learn the business in 1948 and part of 1949. But the pay was low, the work backbreaking, and prospects of turning into a millionaire seemed too distant; Shelby instead became a chicken farmer. His first batch turned a $5,000 profit; the second wiped him out when they died of limberneck disease.
Living on the proceeds of the truck business sale and odd jobs, Shelby returned to automobiles as an avocation, helping a friend work on various versions of the MG. He was 29, and father of 2, when he drove his 1st car competitively—the friend’s MG Special—in January 1952, at a drag-racing meet at Grand Prairie Naval Air Station in Texas. It was not until May, at Norman Okla., that Shelby drove his initial closed-course race in the friend’s MG TC. He not only won the SCCA event in class, but then took the XK 120 Jaguar competition too, for instant fame among Southwestern amateurs.
In August 1952, at Okmulgee, Okla., using a borrowed XK 120, he won again, moving into a Cadillac-Allard in November at Caddo Mills, Tex. His path first crossed that of Masten Gregory, a life-long friend, at that race, which he also won. Still strictly amateur, Shelby drove for expenses for all of 1953. He drove Allards for Charlie Brown of Monroe, La., and went 9 for 9 for Roy Cherryhomes of Jacksboro, Tex. It was at a race at Eagle Mountain Naval Air Station in nearby Fort Worth that he 1st wore his famous striped overalls. “I had been working on a farm when I realized I was due to compete. It was a hot day, so I didn’t bother to change,” Shelby said. “I found the overalls cool and comfortable, and I won the race, too. I became identified with them, so l wore them all the time.”
In January 1954, Gentleman Jim Kimberly, the millionaire sportsman who color-keyed his driving costumes to his cars, had donated an amateurs’ cup for the Temporada race in Argentina. This was to be Shelby’s 1st competition out of the country, becoming quite important in the development of his career. Carroll was able to make the trip only because Cherryhomes, who did not go, donated the car and helped with the expenses. Fortunately, Dale Duncan, his codriver, was an airline pilot, assuring transportation.
During the race, the Allard’s carburetors burst into flame on a pit stop. With no other fire-extinguishing apparatus available, Duncan doused the flames by urinating on the engine. He finished even under the clicking of the press photographers’ cameras. The Shelby/Duncan Allard went on to finish 10th, best of any of the amateur teams, winning the Kimberly Cup for SCCA.
Shelby’s driving in this race impressed John Wyer of Aston Martin, whom Carroll met, with Peter Collins and other European stars. Shelby was invited to Europe for a drive with Aston Martin, if he paid his own expenses. He also got himself a Sebring ride for March of that year, expenses paid. The car stayed in contention until the rear axle broke after 77 laps; Shelby and codriver Charlie Wallace sat out the rest of the race. But it was another chance to rub elbows with the international set and the moneyed U.S. hangers-on.
A Texas oil millionaire named Guy Mabee dreamed of an American sports car that would beat the best that Europe could offer. He asked Shelby to take charge of the effort. Shelby asked his wife whether to take Mabee’s offer or the ride with Aston Martin, and they decided to gamble on Europe. However, Shelby attempted to persuade Mabee to buy an Aston Martin on the premise that this would shorten the time to build a good American sports car. Mabee tentatively agreed but continued on his own, as Shelby took off for England.
In April 1954, at Aintree, Shelby finished 2nd in a DBR3 to Duncan Hamilton. This feat got him a Le Mans opportunity codriving with Paul Frere, the Belgian journalist. It was in this Le Mans that Shelby drove his mount into the Aston pits complaining about a wiggly front suspension. The mechanics promptly jacked up the vehicle and the front wheel fell off, its spindle completely sheered.
Two weeks later in the Monza 1000, codriving with Graham Whitehead in a semi-private entry, Shelby made his 1st money, $2,000 for finishing 5th overall in the rain. The European jaunt ended with Shelby participating in a 1-2-3 sweep in the July 17th Silverstone 25- lapper; it was Peter Collins, Roy Salvadori, and Shelby. At this time, Mabee refused to take on the Aston Martin purchase; but Wyer declined Shelby’s offer to fulfill the obligation anyway, knowing Carroll’s financial condition.
Fortunately, Cherryhomes came to the rescue. He had bought a C Jaguar, which Shelby drove for 2 races before accepting another paid driving effort—Donald Healey’s Class D record-setting efforts at the Utah Salt Flats in an assortment of Austin-Healeys. Healey had met Shelby briefly in England, and had apparently been impressed.
The Utah runs were good practice for the Carrera Panamericana in which Shelby was to codrive a factory Healey with Roy Jackson-Moore. At this last Pan- American Road Race, it seemed that the Mexican bureaucracy was fully developed and the Mexican populace fully untamed. When Shelby practiced for this event, and drove the course the wrong way to the starting line, he smashed the car against a road marker 175 miles north of Oaxaca. Then he waked with a badly broken arm. Mexican beer was provided by the residents, and Mexican brandy by 2 Brooklyn girls who saw him crash. Seven hours later, when the road was opened again, the ambulance came through to pick up the debris. The bruised Shelby was feeling no pain, or anything else for that matter, by this time.
Several days later, however, the Mexican authorities refused to let Shelby out of the country, until he could explain what happened to 2 missing Austin-Healey wheels. At the same time, Mexican doctors told him to see a U.S. specialist immediately about his fractured elbow. It was a week later before he could cross the border, and 8 months of operations and a cast before he was reasonably whole again. However, by January 1955, Carroll was back driving, cast and all. He codrove a Ferrari (for Alan Guiberson) with Phil Hill at Sebring ending up 2nd when a protest was allowed. The manner in which Carroll drove was a monument to determination; he had replaced the plaster cast with a fiber-glass one for the race, with his hand taped to the steering wheel rim for extra support. After the race, it was back to the doctor and a new plaster cast.
Shelby won over 10 races Stateside in 1955; tried a Formula 1 Maserati at Syracuse, Italy, unsuccessfully; and later went to work for Tony Paravano, a West-Coast construction tycoon. Paravano took him to Europe on a car-buying tour, 1st at Ferrari and then at Maserati. Meanwhile, Shelby tried both the 1955 Targa Florio in a Paravano Monza Ferrari—his codriver crashed—and the Tourist Trophy race when it was on the Ards circuit, codriving with Gregory in a Porsche. Shelby and Gregory won in class. Then it was back to the U.S., with a victory in the Seattle Seafair races aboard a 4.9-litre Ferrari, and a disaster at Palm Springs when Shelby rode up the back of an Oldsmobile-powered Special. Both cars were demolished.
While the racing career might have been advancing, his personal life did not. Shelby was growing away from his wife as he savored the foot-loose life of the racing driver. The marriage eventually ended in an amicable divorce, and Carroll was to remarry after he had become financially successful. In 1956, Shelby—backed by Jim Hall’s brother, Dick—opened Carroll Shelby Sports Cars in Dallas in an effort to create an independent base for himself. Shelby had become about the most famous road racer ever to come out of the Southwest; had thought the name would bring in business. It might have worked had Shelby spent more time at the place, but he was off driving.
He was, at this time, sponsored by another rich Californian, after Paravano had pulled out. Shelby’s new patron was John Edgar, sometimes called the man who made Riverside Raceway. Shelby competed in some 20 races that year, most of them for Edgar, although he also drove an Alfa Veloce Special for the redoubtable Max Hoffman, a man who has handled virtually every major marque imported into the U.S.
Shelby recalled one particular 1956 race, a battle against Alfonso de Portago at the Nassau Speedweeks. It was the next phase of the 70-mile race for the Governor’s Cup over the rough-surfaced 3.5-mile circuit at Windsor Field. Windsor Field had to be seen to be believed. It was a deteriorating World War II base, a 9-day construction wonder, still littered with rusted airplanes. Red Crise, the promoter and resident character, had decreed that the race go on despite a late start—certain to cut into that evening’s cocktail party. Portago jumped the field of 37 starters before the flag flashed down, but Shelby, driving the big 4.9-litre Edgar Ferrari, caught the Marquis in the straightaway going into the 2nd lap. But soon after, the sun set with subtropical abruptness, the night finding Portago the only contender with headlights.
By the 10th lap, the Marquis was banging the rear bumper of Shelby’s car, which somehow was still running at a 100-m.p.h. average in the pitch-black darkness. Shelby let Portago pass, then stayed on the Spaniard’s tail, occasionally bashing Portago’s rear to let him know Shelby still followed. It was a wild bit of driving because the two often had to take evasive action to avoid slower vehicles, and 8 laps later, Portago was driving blindly, too. With less than 2 laps to go, Carroll moved out in front again, and rolled to victory at a record pace of 99.095 m.p.h. Shelby subsequently broke his shoulder playing football on
the beach with a cocoa-nut, but competed in the final race for the Governors Cup. Unfortunately, the big 4.9-litre Ferrari expired with tire and steering trouble, with Shelby 3rd at the time, and gaining on the leader, Stirling Moss.
Easily America’s top road racing star, Shelby was invited to run in the 1st Gran Premio de Cuba, a race run through the streets and down a wide boulevard called the Malecon. It was an exciting time to be in Cuba, with Fidel Castro, then a revolutionary hero, holed up in the Sierra Maestre mountains, and Havana living as if there might not be a next week. The most exciting races were not the Gran Premio, but the stock-car sprints in the morning in which it seemed all the insane Havana taxi drivers had congregated to finish one another off in one grand demolition. Juan Manuel Fangio won the Grand Premio over Shelby.
Carroll, then 34, enjoyed 1957 because it was the acme of his accomplishment as a driver, despite later international victories. He won 19 straight in gathering his 2nd SCCA title; shared a Maserati with Salvadori at Sebring, which was disqualified for refueling illegally; and suffered the worst crash of his career in practice at Riverside September 21. Physicians fused 3 of Shelby’s vertebrae, and he needed plastic surgery to repair his face. But he was back driving at Riverside in the November 100-mile international race. Shelby spun on the 1st lap, then overtook the entire field to win over Gregory, Dan Gurney, and Walt Hansgen. He had looked forward to a Maserati F1 ride in 1957 as a teammate of Fangio and Moss, but it never came to be.
About this time, Shelby revived the idea of an inexpensive American sports car that could compete with Europe’s best. He discussed the idea several times with Harley Earle and Ed Cole, then GM styling Vice-president and Chevrolet chief engineer, respectively. Both reportedly were receptive, but top management wasn’t. So Shelby put the idea on the back burner, and renewed his association with Wyer and Aston Martin for 1958. At Sebring that year a gearshift lever broke, and Shelby retired. Meanwhile, he cast eyes toward Indianapolis and the really big money.
Indy official Harlan Fengler ended Shelby’s Indy career before it started. Jack Ensley, another SCCA driver, had acquired an ex-Pat O’Connor Offy, taking his rookie test in the car with no intention of driving in the race. For that, he wanted Shelby. But Fengler dusted off a little-known rule to block Shelby, to the effect that 2 rookies were not allowed to take driver’s tests with the same automobile.
Disappointed, Shelby went back to Europe, where he placed 3rd in a DBR at Spa. At the Nurburgring 1000, the gearbox broke; and at Le Mans he became ill and had to be relieved by Stewart Lewis-Evans. He accepted an F1 ride from Mimo Dei’s Scuderia Centro Sud, driving an outmatched old 250F Maserati. He ran 3 races, finished 2, one of them in 6th place. It was good training for the GP ride that Aston Martin promised him in 1959. Meanwhile, he was talking about his American sports car idea to anyone who would stand still.
The year 1959 was one of great contrasts for Shelby. It was the year that Aston Martin won the World Manufacturers Championship, and Shelby had something to do with that. And it was also the year Aston Martin launched a disastrous F1 bid, and Shelby was involved there, too. Shelby was sick with dysentery the day he and Salvadori shared the winning Aston Martin at Le Mans. However, there was no Sebring win; Shelby was sidelined when the oil pressure blew a seal, seeping into the clutch housing. He did manage a 3rd with Moss and Fairman in an Aston at the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood.
The 1959 F1 Aston Martin attempt was a year too late with its 2.5-litre engine, and too heavy as well. Shelby placed 7th on one magneto in the British GP, and that was his top performance. In their attempts to coax more power from the engine, Wyer got less and less. The engine seized at Zandvoort, there was an 8th at Oporto, Portugal, and a 10th at Monza. With the upcoming German GP scheduled for Avus, the fastest track in Europe, Aston Martin ended the quest.
At Nassau, Shelby drove a Birdcage Maserati for Camoradi, before the suspension gave out. He next tried the New Zealand GP, driving Temple Buell’s 250F Maserati with Harry Schell and Jo Bonnier. Shelby got the car into 4th place before handing over to Schell, who had broken down earlier. They placed and took their winnings out of the country in merchandise.
In January 1960, Shelby woke up with a pain in his chest, eventually diagnosed as heart trouble. He drove many races that year with nitroglycerine pills under his tongue, and managed to win the USRRC title. He was DNF at Havana and Sebring and won Castle Rock, Colo., for the Meister Brauser Scarab; then drove Max Balchowsky’s Ole Yaller II at Road America, leading until 4th gear broke. He had won the Riverside GP in April, driving a Maserati to take a wide lead, but, as the 1960 season progressed, the pains got worse. In the final 3 races, he managed a 4th and two 5ths.
After the 2nd Riverside GP, Shelby quit driving.
Having retired from driving, Shelby looked for another source of income. The Carroll Shelby School of Driving at Riverside was the answer. A $90 ad had brought in $1,400 worth of requests for a $1 catalog. Earlier, Shelby had become the distributor for Goodyear racing tires, and in the course of his business he met Dave Evans of Ford. He mentioned his American sports car project, but did not press the matter then.
Shelby was, at this time, living in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and working out of a part of Dean Moon’s Speed Shop. His heart trouble had finally been diagnosed as something caused by any overexertion.
In September 1961, Shelby learned that the Bristol engine company was no longer in business, and he dispatched an airmail letter to Derek Hulock of AC in England. The car project was finally taking shape. Shelby 1st thought of the aluminum Buick V-8 or Oldsmobile engines for the car, but then he heard of a new light-weight cast-iron Ford engine. Ford Company’s Dave Evans sent him a few of these engines for experiment through Dean Moon’s Speed Shop, and also referred him to Don Frey, one of the few Detroit executives who were truly knowledgeable car buffs.
Shelby was finally at the right place at the right time on 2 continents, a feat never before achieved. Both Ford and AC agreed to the name he claimed he had dreamed—Cobra. Ford also agreed to call the car 1st the Shelby AC Cobra; then the AC Cobra; and finally, when it was successful, the Ford Cobra.
Pete Brock, a refugee from the GM Sting Ray project, was Shelby’s 1st employee and test driver, Billy Krause his 1st competition driver. Shelby had to borrow a driving-school student’s trailer to get the 1st AC chassis back to Santa Fe Springs. The 260-cu. in. V-8 Ford engine dropped right into place. Frey assigned Ray Geddes to take care of Shelby’s accounting, and insisted that the 2nd Cobra be shipped to Dearborn. Shelby sold his 1st Cobra in mid-1962, and about 75 that same year. He had it homologated as a GT at the end of 1962, by which time Krause had started the factory racing effort. Krause led at Riverside until a stub axle broke; and also at Nassau, until the front end went away. Shelby had the right to contact Ford franchises as possible dealers. He was deluged with eager dealers.
The car evolved quickly to a 289-cu. in. engine and rack and pinion steering by the 126th car. It cost $5,995, not exactly everyman’s sports car, but reasonable compared with the Corvettes, Maseratis and Ferraris it challenged. Only about 10 percent were being raced, however. Phil Remington joined Shelby’s firm early, and soon became “Mr. Everything” at Cobra, which moved to the ex-Reventlow Scarab digs in Venice, Calif., about June 1962.
Factory racing started in earnest for Cobra with the 1963 Daytona Continental, then a 3-hour race. Ford was using Shelby as an extension of its testing facilities, in return for the use of its technical establishment. Three factory Cobras started the race —Dan Gurney, Dave McDonald, and Skip Hudson, with an aluminum experimental engine. Hudson crashed early; Gurney led until his ignition went, and this time the defending Continental champion could not use his battery to get the car over the finish line. McDonald finished 4th behind Ferrari’s Pedro Rodriguez.
Shelby had switched from overalls to blue jeans with a black cowboy hat, and the back of the blue denim jacket had Cobra written on it. The garb didn’t help one bit at Sebring, where the best the 3 Cobras could do was 11th overall (Gurney and Hill, despite bad brakes and electrical woes). The Fireball Roberts-McDonald car succumbed to a rear oil seal leak; the Ken Miles-Lew Spencer car was sidelined when the bolts on the steering gave out. But at Le Mans the Tom Bolton-Ian Sanderson car managed 7th overall.
However, in SCCA racing the Corvette eaters did much better. On July 7 at Lake Garnett, Kans., Bob Johnson, McDonald and Miles pulled a 1-2-3 sweep of the production race; then Miles won the modified race in essentially the same Cobra. Earlier, McDonald and Miles had finished 1st and 2nd at the Dodger Stadium races in Los Angeles; and the Cobra had been 1st, 2nd, and 4th at Laguna Seca. It was a promising beginning for a new sports car. The coupe version was introduced that October, making its racing debut in what was then the 2,000-kilometer Daytona Continental. Bob Holbert and McDonald led the race for 8 hours before an electrical fire finished them, but Johnson and Gurney (in a roadster) took 4th overall, and 2nd in GT, behind a Ferrari GTO.
Sebring was a much more pleasant story. Five factory Cobras and the prototype coupe went down, and, although Miles crashed the coupe in practice, the Cobras shut Ferrari off from points by taking the first 7 places in GT. Cobra led for the manufacturers crown, 18.3 to 16.5, a 1st for an American marque. It was then that the Ford coffers opened, and Carroll Shelby was going overseas again. Gurney took 2nd in GT class, finishing 8th overall in the Targa Florio. At Spa, Hill’s coupe set a fast time, but Bob Bondurant, Jochen Neerpasch, and Innes Ireland failed. All 4 cars wrecked at Nurburgring, but at Le Mans the story was different. Ferrari went in with a 26-point GT lead only to come out of the race with 11, as Gurney and Bondurant won in GT class, finishing 4th overall.
The Rheims 12-hour race was a disaster with both the Ireland and Gurney cars failing to finish, as a Ferrari GTO won. As a result, Ferrari led 73.2 to 48.8. But Bondurant won the Freiburg Hillclimb’s GT class; then, in the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, Cobra swept the GT class, led by Gurney in 3rd overall. Ferrari’s lead was down to 11 points again, and, with the Coppa de Europa at Monza to come, was in imminent danger of disappearing. Monza seemed just made for Cobras.
But if the Commendatore couldn’t win on the track, he was matchless in the smoke-filled rooms of FIA. He declared he would withdraw his entire entry if his prototypes weren’t immediately classified as GT cars. The Monza management was forced to petition FIA for that move because they faced financial fiasco without Ferrari. FIA, of course, refused; the race was cancelled, and Cobra was forced to make a full run at the Tour de France, a race composed of 16 separate events. After winning the first 2, the Bondurant-Neerpasch car suffered a broken crankshaft. Trintignant-Simon won the Rouen leg, but burned a front-wheel bearing. St. Auban-Peron blew a piston in the 4th event. Ferrari clinched, and not even a Cobra sweep in the Bridgehampton Double 500 altered the Ferrari victory at 84.6 to 78.3.
Meanwhile, in the USRRC series, Cobras won 6 of 8. In 3 races, they were 1-2-3 (Augusta, Ga.; Pensacola, Fla.; and Laguna Seca). At Mid-Ohio they were 1-2-3-4; and at Kent they were 1-2. A 4th at Des Moines and a 5th at Meadowdale, Ill., completed the season.
Carroll Shelby was changing, too. The Shelby GT 350 Mustang made its debut in January 1965, and the Cobra operation was downgraded as Shelby-American moved to a new factory near the Los Angeles airport. Carroll was as much the business man as the ex-racer. The costume came out for racing only, and he was now competing to be the performance arm of FoMoCo with Holman-Moody. Ford’s battle plan was to wipe Ferrari from the face of racing, after it had failed in attempts to buy out Ferrari. The Ford GT4O Coupe was the news at the Daytona Continental in 1965, but there were Cobra Daytona coupes present to make sure of manufacturers points, too. Luigi Chinetti knew the handwriting on the pit wall when he saw it; he commented that it was inevitable that a good big company would beat a good small company. There were 2 coupes, Miles and Lloyd Ruby in one, Bondurant and Sir John Whitmore in the other. There were 4 factory Cobras. And, to play rabbit, there was Gurney in a Lotus 19. It wasn’t a contest for long. Miles-Ruby won overall, and Jo Schlesser-Hal Keck won GT.
For Sebring, Ferrari was officially absent, but his ears were there. Something called the Ferrari Owners Racing Association had quad-cam P-2s. A 10-car assault came from Shelby and Ford—2 GT4Os, 4 roadsters, 4 Daytona coupes. A Chaparral won overall, but Sehiesser-Bondurant won GT. Ferrari won Monza, Targa Florio, and Nurburgring overall, against token opposition from Ford of England, but Bondurant won 1st in GT at Monza and the Ring, with a 2nd in GT at Spa. Whitmore contributed a victory in GT at Oulton Park, and Bondurant added a GT victory at the Rossfield Hillclimb. The Le Mans entry from both camps was massive, 11 cars each, and Ford personnel were clearly influencing the operation, with Shelby answering to Ford.
Ford and Ferrari were both virtually wiped out during the race, but Jack Sears and Dr. Dick Thompson finished 2nd in GT in a Daytona Coupe to help neutralize the Ferrari points. When Bondurant-Schlesser won GT in the Rheims 12-hour race, it was all over. Cobra had become the 1st American-conceived car to win the manufacturers crown. Shelby was happy, but he was pursuing a new dream. With Gurney, he had formed All-American Racers for the express purpose of building an American GP championship car, a car adaptable also for Indianapolis. He was a millionaire now, and Ford-supplied business brains had provided for him for life.
The battle was joined with Holman-Moody and Ford Advanced Vehicles Operations in 1966, the last year the Cobra was produced. Even the Shelby Mustang was going downhill in performance, ruined by over-zealous Ford stylists. A short stint of producing a Ford-engine Sunbeam called the Tiger, had also gone by the boards. The Daytona Continental had 5 Mark 2 GT4Os, 2 each from Shelby and Holman-Moody, and one from Roy Lunn’s Ford Advanced Vehicles Operations. Shelby won this round by the simple expedient of learning to change the disc brakes quicker. Miles-Ruby were 1st, followed by Grant-Gurney. H-M’s lead pair, Hansgen and Mark Donohue, came in 3rd, after losing 10 minutes on the brake change.
There were 13 Ford GTs, but the 2 factory teams were the important ones, plus Graham Hill in the semi-private Alan Mann gear. Again it was all Shelby American, although Carroll had to stand on the pit wall brandishing a hammer when Miles and Gurney started racing one another at the 3-hour mark. Gurney’s car suffered a blown engine when victory was certain, with a few minutes left in the race, so Miles got his 2nd straight victory.
The AAR Eagles, meanwhile, were ready in March 1966. There were 5 to be powered by Ford d.o.h.c. engines; 3 had been sold, with Gurney and Joe Leonard to drive the house cars. Shelby and Gurney were counting on some prize money from Indy to help finance their GP effort. The gruesome first-lap crash finished Dan’s car, flat-spotted Leonard’s tires. Later, Ruby in a private car was black-flagged for a supposed oil leak while leading; Roger McCluskey also had an oil leak. Leonard got 9th-place money, Jerry Grant 10th, Ruby 11th, and McCluskey 13th. That set back the F1 program money- wise.
1966 Le Mans saw 3 cars each from Shelby and H-M, plus two of Alan Mann’s. The Ford 1-2-3 finish followed, with McLaren-Amon designated for the victory over Miles-Ruby.
Late in 1966, the Shelby organization got its feet wet in SCCA TransAm-sedan racing. Two Shelby employees, Don and Gary Pike, had done the job virtually on their own until Jerry Titus was given a Shelby-prepared car with which he won the Green Valley, Tex., enduro, and the title for Mustang. For 1967 Shelby American had a $27,500 TransAm support program, but a Shelby-prepared Mustang team competed through 1969 with an assortment of drivers, including George Foilmer, Titus, and Peter Revson, with sporadic success.
Meanwhile, the Cobra died quietly, done in by more comfortable muscle cars that cost less. There were rumors of its revival, but it never happened. The Shelby GT350 and GT500 eventually were produced and assembled in Michigan, leaving Carroll with nothing but money.
For the 1967 Continental it was 3 each again, Shelby versus Holman-Moody. But the entire Ford effort was mousetrapped by gearbox troubles and by the phoenix-like Ferrari effort. Chris Amon and Lorenzo Bandini won, with the top Ford, an old GT4O, driven to 6th overall more than 200 miles behind the leader by Dr. Thompson and Jackie Ickx. But Ford was 1st and 2nd at Sebring, with Andretti and McLaren sharing the winning Mk. IV and Foyt-Ruby taking 2nd. Titus won a TransAm race to make it a Ford weekend.
Shelby was in complete charge of the early Ford effort at Le Mans, although responsibility was divided for the race proper. The Foyt-Gurney team won it for him, while Donohue’s battered GT4O made it to 4th place. Three of the 4 Holman-Moody cars were wiped out just before the 12-hour mark. Gurney won the Belgian GP, meanwhile, to give the Eagle Fl car its initial victory. And the GT350 production shift to lonia, Mich., was announced near the end of June.
After 1967, the Shelby competition effort seemed to flag. Carroll himself seemed more at home in a $300 business suit than in sports garb at the track. He appeared periodically to oversee TransAm efforts. Meanwhile, the King Cobra, a Group 7 sports/racer, was crashed by Parnelli Jones and never developed. Carroll turned to a newer Lola chassis for his aluminum Ford 427 engine, and, even with Gurney driving, still had little success. There were too many Ford people involved for him to wield much power. Shelby followed up with an unsuccessful season attempting to orchestrate a brand new racing program for Toyota.  He was out of CanAm and TransAm by 1970; in fact to all intents, after 1970 he seemed out of racing completely.