By now the news of Carroll Shelby’s passing has reached everyone in the automotive community. As an icon on the track as well as in the engineering lab, Shelby had a huge impact on the sports car world- his work and accomplishments will live on as the stuff of legend. In honor of Mr. Shelby, here’s a quick rundown of our three favorite automotive creations that will help immortalize him.
Shelby began his professional life as a chicken farmer, selling cars on the side. Like many of us, he had dream for a little-car big-engine combination that would blow the doors off the supercars of Italy.
Those dreams started to materialize when Shelby found the failing British sports car company “AC”- which was willing to unload their “Ace” roadster, as long as somebody could find a suitable engine to pair with the body.
Enter Ford, a big-budget automaker with a surplus of V8s kicking around.
Hands were shaken, papers were signed and in 1962 the AC Ace was impregnated with a massive V8 engine; effectively giving birth to the now-iconic Shelby Cobra.
Original Cobras from this era now carry stratospheric values, with one example known to have sold for $5.5M a few years ago. But fans of the concept needn’t lament, because there are a few companies building reproductions for much, much less money. Replicas might not have the same historic value, wouldn’t you feel just a little guilty ripping donuts in a seven-figure investment?My personal favorite Shelby creation is the Daytona coupe, a machine of Leila Lopes-beauty with legs to match; versions of this vehicle won the epic races of Sebring, Le Mans, Daytona, and the Nürburgring… right before it claimed 23 speed records at Bonneville in 1965.
Only six renditions of the original Daytona coupe were ever produced, five in Italy and one in California. There’s quite a dramatic tale on Wikipedia about that sixth car involving a horrific suicide and the band “The Monkeess”, but I’ll let you follow the link and decide the truth of that one for yourself.While the Cobra and Shelby’s Mustangs are famous enough to earn instant recognition by enthusiasts, what less people realize is that Shelby’s magic reached the Hot Hatch market as well.
In 1984 Dodge teamed up with him to create the “GLH” version of their supermini, the quintessentially-80’s Omni. Two years later, the further-improved GLH-S was released representing America’s real contender in the supermini segment at the time. The nomenclature allegedly stood for “Goes Like Hell”, which would make sense because the dorky little hatchback was boosted to 175 horsepower and sitting on Koni adjustable shocks.
Novel, if not competitive. It was quicker than the Volkswagen GTI of the day; basically the only competitor. Though it was a few years ahead of its time it’s just a little too ugly for anyone to pay what it’s worth, so you’ll be hard pressed to see one in the wild these days.Shelby was also well-recognized for making the Ford GT40 the legendary racer that it was, putting his touch on the original Dodge Viper, and of course developing many fantastic incarnations of the Mustang.
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