Carroll Shelby

Full Name:
Carroll Hall Shelby
Born:
11th January 1923
Leesburg, Texas
Died:
10th May 2012 (Aged 89)
Dallas, Texas
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Carroll Shelby was an American racing legend who won races as driver, team owner and constructor. His breadth of influence can be measured by the products and companies that now bare his name – automobiles, wheels, a children’s foundation, vintage parts and there is even Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Chilli.

Background and early racing career

The son of a postman in rural Texas, Shelby worked as a flight instructor during World War II at the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He found a novel way of wooing his sweetheart by dropping love letters onto her farm while on training flights until she agreed to marry him in 1943.

An entrepreneur by inclination, an early chicken rearing business went bankrupt after disease decimated his stock. Shelby also made his competition debut in a drag race at the start of 1952. Following initial success in SCCA events with an Allard J2, Shelby was invited to drive a works Aston Martin DB3S in the 1954 Sebring 12 Hours.

He retired but only after impressing Team Manager John Wyer. Invited to join the team in Europe, Shelby was second behind Duncan Hamilton’s Jaguar at Aintree and retired from his debut at Le Mans. He joined Austin-Healey to set a series of speed records at Bonneville that August and remained with the marque for the season-closing Carrera Panamericana in Mexico.

However his promising year ended when he hit a rock and the Austin-Healey rolled four times – locals tending to the tall Texan’s broken bones and bruises. Racing with his arm in a cast at the start of 1955, he finished second in the Sebring 12 Hours when sharing a Ferrari 750 Monza with Phil Hill.

Formula 1 with Scuderia Centro Sud

Outstanding in SCCA events during 1956 when almost unbeatable in John Edgar’s Ferraris, he was second behind Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1957 Cuban Grand Prix on the streets of Havana. He made four starts in the 1958 F1 World Championship with an old Scuderia Centro Sud Maserati 250F. Those included taking over Masten Gregory’s car at half distance of the Italian GP and finishing fourth. However, no points were awarded for shared drives that year. He stayed in Europe to race an Aston Martin DBR1 in the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood a week later. Third in a 1-2-3 for the team, he was retained as part of its ambitious 1959 programme.

Aston Martin sports car success

The David Brown-managed team planned a dual programme of Formula 1 and sports cars but the former proved a disappointment. Shelby started another four GPs in the old-fashioned, front-engine Aston Martin DBR4/250 during 1959 with a distant eighth in Portugal his best result.

It was a different story in endurance races with Shelby winning both the Le Mans 24 Hours and Tourist Trophy to help Aston Martin secure the 1959 World Sportscar Championship. That Le Mans victory was the highlight of his career for he retired at the end of the following season amid some health fears.

That may have been the end of his own driving career but it was the start of his as a manufacturer for he founded Shelby American in 1962. Having suffered a heart complaint for much of his life, he had a transplant in 1990. He died in 2012, a matter of weeks before his co-driver in that Le Mans victory, Roy Salvadori, also passed away.