With the possible exceptions of Henry Ford and Mario Andretti, Carroll Shelby is America’s most famous automotive personality. That was probably true before the movie Ford v Ferrari hit it big last year, and it’s certainly the case in its wake. He’s been called America’s Enzo Ferrari. It was meant as a compliment, but the Texan hated his Italian rival and probably took it as a dig.Shelby was an accomplished race car driver and builder of great cars. His machines, many of which wore his name, have won on racetracks all over the world and commanded respect on the main streets of America for nearly 60 years. Although he accomplished great things later in his career, Carroll’s heyday was the 1960s, when he was building his original Cobras and Shelby Mustangs, and kicking Enzo’s ass with the Daytona Coupes and the GT40s. In tribute, here are 15 important Shelby Facts from that era everyone should know.
An on-track success, the Shelby Mustang GT350 would seem like a natural for the original Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, but it only appeared once. Organized by Car and Driver’s Brock Yates multiple times between 1971 and 1979, the races ran from New York City to Redondo Beach, California in Los Angeles. In the final event Rick Kopec, one of the founders of the Shelby American Automobile Club, and Robert Key, a psychologist from Southern California, entered Key’s Shelby, finishing in 38th place with a time of 48 hours and 53 minutes, a run that included a lengthy encounter with some New Jersey State Troopers. With 176,000 miles on it, the Mustang was far from new, and competed with a 3.00 rear end gear and a 32-gallon fuel tank they installed. Seven years earlier Pete Brock, the designer of the Shelby Daytona Coupe, competed with two others in a new Mercedes 280SEL sedan, finishing third in 37 hours and 33 minutes.
Small-block Cobra production
Many associate the Cobra with a monster big-block, but more were made with the smaller (and arguably better-matched) V-8. Shelby built 580 Cobras powered by the 271 horsepower High Performance 289 cubic inch small-block, the same solid-lifter engine found in 1965-1966 K-code Mustangs. Of those, one was a bare chassis. The street cars numbered 453 and about 30 got automatic transmissions. There were also 61 competition cars built included six Daytona coupes and four Dragonsnakes.
I’ve recently read this book, and as always with Brock Yates’s work it’s a really enjoyable read.
Here’s the overview
The story of how Chrysler’s minivan team created an automobile that captured the 1995 Motor Trend Car of the Year and other major awards – and reinvented a perilously entrenched corporation in the process – is as dramatic and inspiring a story as any in business today. Brock Yates, one of the most respected writers in the auto world, was given unprecedented access to Chrysler – every planning session, presentation, budget review, test drive, assembly line start-up, and marketing launch. The result is a book that unveils the mysteries of modern car-making, revealing how cars are shaped through countless interlinked decisions ranging from size and power to door configurations, color selections, and innumerable other interconnected details. It also captures the complex process by which the thousands of separate pieces that make up a car are designed, tested, manufactured, and marshaled into place at the exact moment they are needed. For any reader who cares about cars, this is the most intriguing look inside the mysteries of their creation ever written. At the same time, The Critical Path recounts an extraordinary drama of all-too-human managers attempting to make something new, in a new way, inside a corporate culture that resists them at every turn. The story of how Chrysler’s minivan platform team kept their commitment to quality, schedule, and budget – with a $3 billion investment and the company’s fate palpably in the balance – is as encouraging a tale as has emerged from American business in years. The unprecedented triumph and Chrysler’s resultant comeback is a lesson in successful management that will be savored by any reader interested in how great companies make breakthroughproducts
The book was originally published in 1996 and is available here
Currently reading the book “The Hot Rod: Resurrection of a Legend by Brock Yates” which tracks the story of the famed Eliminator Hot Rod from build to rediscovery and restoration, plus a good background history of Hot Rodding into the bargain.
You can find an article written by the author on the Hot Rod website here
A slideshow of the car can be seen on the link below
This should give you a taste for what is a remarkable story very well told by the author, you can find the book on Amazon
A sad footnote is that Brock Yates is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and the attempted sale of his beloved Eliminator was subject of an episode of the TV show “Chasing Classic Cars” Season 6 Episode 18
Brock’s Wikipedia entry is here, you’ll also see that Brock was responsible for initiating the famous “Canonball Run” amongst his many achievements.
If you have any interest in Hot Rods and the time period, this is a great read.
There is an article here at Hemmings regarding the Brock Yates Tribute Fund
Brock Yates’s Eliminator and Novi Special Replica Fail to Sell in Monterey