He went from training World War II bomber pilots to being a failed chicken farmer to becoming a champion race car driver and the most iconic sports car designer in the world.
Carroll Shelby was the father of the muscle car.
But the race is now complete. The champion now rests. Shelby died last Thursday at the age of 89.
He leaves behind a legacy of automotive performance and horsepower, including the new Shelby 1000 — a new $200,000 Ford Mustang that features 1000 horsepower. Shelby helped the Mustang compete with the Corvette as the top American muscle car. He designed the Ford GT-40 that dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in the 1960s after winning the race himself in 1959 before he had to retire from racing due to heart problems.
Besides his efforts with Ford, Shelby also worked with Dodge, helped organize the International Chili Cook-Off that blossomed into the International Chili Society and ran a safari company and dealt in diamonds in Africa.
Carroll Shelby was a man who undoubtedly lived a full life. He even told stories of owning a small island off Mexico that he would fly people out to for giant parties.
But Shelby will long be remembered for his collaborative work with Ford, beginning with the use of a Ford engine in the British AC roadster that Shelby redesigned into the infamous Shelby Cobra. Shelby’s personal Cobra recently sold for $5.5 million.
In honor of Shelby, here’s a look at some of the cars he helped design:
Shelby Cobra- The car that started it all. There have been many variants and reproductions made since then, including a 925-horsepower Super Snake variant that was the one auctioned off for $5.5 million. Shelby took the premise of putting as much power in as light a car as possible and turned it into the first “muscle car.”
Ford GT-40 – Shelby always wanted to show that a Texas chicken farmer could best all those European car snobs and he did so with the GT-40 that dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans winning four straight titles in the 1960s.
Ford Mustang GT350- Ford asked Shelby to help with the design of their Mustang and it turned out to be one of the best decisions they ever made.
Dodge Omni GLH – The designer was asked to soup up some Dodges, including this tiny economy car that he was able to put 186 horses into. Oh and the GLH stood for “Goes Like Hell.”
Dodge Shelby Dakota – Shelby was the first to add some umph to a truck to make it a sporty vehicle rather than just for work. His decision to put a V8 into the small pickup pushed the horsepower output from 125 to 175.
Dodge Viper- You can definitely see signs of the Cobra in the Viper’s stylings. Many have said that it is the ‘spiritual successor’ of the Cobra.
Shelby Series 1 – The Series 1 made by Shelby Automotive was the only car that he ever built from scratch. Only 249 production Series 1 were constructed.
Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 – Reunited with Ford, the vaunted top of the line Mustangs added plenty of ponies to the tune of 500 horsepower. That has gone up over the last half decade to 662 for the 2013 Shelby GT500 or you could go for the Shelby 1000 that takes a GT500 and adds around $150,000 worth of performance enhancers.