Tag: Carroll Shelby

Smithology: Mustang memory, Shelby snapshot – Sam Smith @Hagerty

Smithology: Mustang memory, Shelby snapshot – Sam Smith @Hagerty


The author (left) and friend, with a car then owned by the former. He would never look so cool again. Michael Darter

Sam’s columns are usually around 1500 words, a few minutes’ reading. Sometimes, though, he trips a breaker in his head and goes long, and we let it run. This is one of those times. It doubles as one of our Great Reads. Enjoy! —Ed.


You probably know the story. If not, maybe the name rings a bell. At minimum, you can probably pick an early Ford Mustang out of a lineup.

The shape means something. Add that name, it means something else.

Shelby American built just a few thousand GT350s for 1965 and 1966. Thirty-four of those machines began life as race cars, a GT350 R, the bare-bones factory competition variant. Shelby people call them R Models, and every single one is now worth seven figures. Which is not to paint the ordinary cars as less than special. Even in road-going form, they were Fords but also not, Mustangs but also not, an uncommon version of a common object.

September 27, 1965: An SCCA race in Riverside, California. The man at the wheel is Trans-Am ace Jerry Titus, a former journalist. (Ha!) The “B” on the door is for B Production, a racing class. This is GT350 #5R002, the first Shelby Mustang to win a race, the famed Ken Miles “Green Valley” car, and one of two R Model (competition) prototypes that Titus drove to a ’65 SCCA championship. It sold at auction last year for $3.75 million. The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images

Google says this site has run the phrase “Shelby GT350” on more than 500 separate pages. We come back to that name for many reasons. For one, our readers love Mustangs. Still, the GT350 story is different.

Unlike many high-dollar 1960s performance cars, the Shelby was not hammered into life in some artisan’s shed; it was based on a Ford sold in the literal millions. Its origins hold lessons on the power of romance and origin, and on how a simple marketing exercise can, without much planning, come to represent something far more important.

A few nights ago, I was digging through an old hard drive, looking for snapshots from an old vacation. In the process, I stumbled onto a long-forgotten folder of photographs of the first GT350 I ever drove. That folder also held an interview I once conducted with Chuck Cantwell, the GT350 project engineer at Shelby American. 

The thoughts and images below—some of the Cantwell chat, bits of trivia, some drive notes—contain no grand thread. There is no great reason behind their assembly, not even an anniversary to celebrate. If you do not already love the car in question, you will not find yourself converted, may wonder why I spent so much time on a simple Ford. 

All I can say is, the kind of person who can unconditionally love an old machine is also often the type to get lost in memories and story. Perhaps you can relate.

Read on

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Ford v. Ferrari – Matthew Phelan @Slate


The racing movie plays fast and loose with the facts, but some of its most unbelievable details are straight from the record books.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari and Ken Miles with Carroll Shelby. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox and Bernard Cahier/Getty Images.

To say that Ford v. Ferrari plays fast and loose with the facts is arguably to miss the point. Nevertheless, gearheads, automotive historians, and former business colleagues of Ford Senior Vice President Leo Beebe will find a lot to quibble about in this dramatization of the Ford Motor Company’s historic first win over its Italian rival at France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, which takes its inspiration from A.J. Baime’s nonfiction book Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans.

In one of the many rousing sales pitches that Matt Damon’s race car driver–turned–race car maker Carroll Shelby delivers in the film, he solemnly promises, “We’re going to make history.” And although there’s not much evidence that Shelby actually delivered this pep talk in the 1960s, he certainly said it later when Shelby American and Ford teamed up again in 2008. So, when is Ford v. Ferrari remaking history, when is it at least being true to the spirit of the story, and when is it simply printing the legend? To use another (but sadly not the last) racing metaphor, let’s take a look under the hood.


Tracy Letts and Henry Ford II Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox and Hugo van Gelderen / Anefo.


Grandson of the founding Ford of Ford Motor, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts), who really was nicknamed “Hank the Deuce,” is portrayed as both an imposing captain of industry and a neurotic beneficiary of his family’s largesse in Ford v. Ferrari. One factual aspect of the dynamic as portrayed in the film is that Ford II and his subordinate executives—including Ford’s then–vice president and general manager, Lee Iacocca—did see success on the European racing circuit as a shortcut to the kind of youthful mod glamour that might appeal to a new generation of American car buyers. And Ford’s plan to spare no expense on this project was indeed inspired by Italian car designer Enzo Ferrari’s showy and vulgar rejection of Ford’s acquisition offer and the restricted terms of its Ferrari-Ford racing team proposal. Ford II’s reaction to this slight, as reported in real life, “All right, we’ll beat his ass. We’re going to race him,” was somewhat more decorous than what erupts from the mouth of Ford v. Ferrari’s Ford II upon hearing this news: “We are gonna bury that greasy wop.”

Jon Bernthal and Lee Iacocca Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox and Bettmann / Contributor.

The movie also streamlines the Ford team to a size more suitable for a feature film. Ford’s first two defeats at Le Mans in 1964 and ’65 were overseen by another persnickety Brit, John “Pappy” Wyer, Shelby’s former boss on Aston Martin’s racing team, but Pappy did get into heated arguments with Ford exec Beebe over the firm’s micromanagement by committee—similar to the ones shown between Shelby and Beebe in the movie.

Josh Lucas and Leo Beebe Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox and Bernard Cahier/Getty Images.

Though the scenes of conflict within the team, pitting sleazy marketing guys against maverick racing savants, have some basis in reality, they are embellished. Shelby never locked Beebe in an office to get a private audience with Ford, according to Frank Comstock, a journalist and former student of Beebe’s. That said, Beebe did object to risks Miles took at the 12 Hours of Sebring race in Florida and later at Le Mans that he felt were unnecessary—although not to the extent that Carroll Shelby ever felt the need to bet his entire business on Miles’ success, “lock, stock, and brand,” or walk onto the shoulder of the track with a sign reading “7,000+ go like hell.”

Read on

A Brief History of Shelby Cars – Hagerty Media


This is a really interesting listen from the Hagerty Sidedrafts podcast, Carroll Shelby did more than Ford

Carroll Shelby behind the wheel in 1964.Credit…Associated Press

Listen here

Everyone knows Carroll Shelby’s work with race cars and Mustangs, but he’s done so much more than that! Join us for a fun conversation about some of the lesser-known Shelby cars, hosted by Shelby expert, Colin Comer, and Brad Phillips, Executive Director of LeMay America’s Car Museum.

Was Leo Beebe a corporate villain or a good guy with a tough job? – Frank Comstock @Hemmings


With the release of the Ford v Ferrari movie, there has been renewed interest associated with my 2016 article here on Hemmings concerning Ford executive Leo Beebe and the end of the 1966 Le Mans race. Comments, around 200 in number four years after initial publication, show the passion of people on both sides of the dispute. With that in mind, it’s worth another dive into what kind of person Leo Beebe was, based on his background and people who knew him.
Editor’s note: This story comes to us from Hemmings reader and contributor Frank Comstock, a friend of the late Leo Beebe.
Let’s think of this as a highway between two cities representing the two major aspects of the dispute. While there are several entrance and exit ramps along the highway, the ramps at one city represent the argument that Beebe did not like Ken Miles and didn’t want him to win the race, while the ramps at the other city represent the argument that Beebe engineered the end of the race to please Henry Ford II, the man who had funded Ford’s Le Mans effort to the tune of as much as thirty million dollars. The ramps in between those cities represent the opinions of those who fall somewhere in the middle of the two sentiments.

Anything but a shrinking flower: How codename Daisy, the 2004 Shelby Cobra concept came together – @Hemmings


[Editor’s Note: Chris Theodore’s book, “The Last Shelby Cobra: My times with Carroll Shelby,” released last year, recounts not only the former Chrysler, AMC, and Ford engineer’s relationship with his boyhood hero, but also the development process for the 2004 Shelby Cobra Concept. In this excerpt from the book that Chris provided, we get to see how the concept car, codenamed Daisy, came together.]

Every year in Detroit after the North American International Auto Show, J Mays and I would get together to plan concept vehicles for the next year’s round of shows: LA, Detroit, Chicago, and New York. Mays’ design team would provide suggestions, as did my Advanced Product Creation group. With the success of the Ford GT at the centennial, it was no surprise that a modern Shelby Cobra was at the top of both our lists. We also decided to do a new Bronco and Lincoln Mark X. Mays let Richard Hutting, manager of the Valencia Advanced Design Studio, know that we would be reviewing proposal sketches on our next trip out west – as J and I would pay regular visits to the Irvine and Valencia studios for design reviews. Now that the world knew about Petunia, we decided to call this project Daisy. We intended the codename to be a little tongue-in-cheek and sort of a tease. As J said, it would be “anything but a shrinking flower.” Eventually everyone would know that we were up to something, but not know what. I called it a ‘fan dance’ – the most tantalizing secrets are the one that you know are there, but cannot quite see. In late March, we sent Manfred Rumpel to see Hutting, specifically to explore how to help with the packaging of the Ford GT suspension and a V-10 engine. During one of my weekly program reviews with the SVT team, I mentioned to (O. John) Coletti that I had kicked off Project Daisy

Read on