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Carrol Shelby - a reflection


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#1 KarlLeFong

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 10:02


Hello

The career of Carrol Shelby has always interested me ....

From a very successful US sportscar career, top level, against Hill, Ginther and Gregory etc, in US, to a very "ordinary" European career with Aston Martin in 1959, then back to USA to "develop ' AC sports cars under his own "Cobra" name and then onto Coopr Monaco Fords , Shelby Cobras etc etc

The questions are:

How good was Shelby as a driver in the US sports car scene of 1957/58?
Was Shelby worthy of a Works Aston F1 Drive in 1959? - Gregory and Gurney had Works F1 drives.... was Shelby in the same class?
How much technical input did he have into the AC Cobra, the King Cobra and all the other cars tha bore the Shelby name.?
Was he a "Jim Hall", who learnt from his time in Europe, who then designed and produced the Chaparals or was he just the bib and brace overall wearing "Old Yaller" he posed as?

Karl


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#2 RA Historian

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 17:28

Suggest that you start by reading some bios of Shelby. He is way more accomplished than you are aware. Art Evans has a nice inexpensive book available which details his driving career. Then there are probably dozens of books about the Cobra years.

Shelby was an absolute top level race driver. Won many, many races. In the years 1956-57 he was arguably the best in the US, winning many important races, usually driving John Edgar's cars, Ferraris in 1956 and Maseratis in 1957. Raced mainly in Europe in 1958-59 but outside of the Aston Martin sports car effort, was not afforded top level cars. The F-1 Centro Sud and Temple Buell Maseratis were old and tired, while the Aston Martin DBR-4 was a case of being a couple years behind the curve. Came back to the US for one last year of sports car racing, successfully winning the USAC Road Racing Championship.

"Ordinary" year with Aston Martin in 1959? Only won Le Mans and the Tourist Trophy.

Shelby was unquestionably in the top class of US drivers.

Jim Hall did not learn his stuff from his time in Europe, as implied. He was a brilliant engineer and had the design of the breakthrough Chaparral 2 ready to build before he went to Europe for a season with BRP. Jim Hall was a graduate of the prestigious California Institute of Technology and knew the engineering game thoroughly.

Shelby was the brains and driving force behind the Cobras. While he was not the engineer/designer that Jim Hall was, Shel certainly did know his way around cars and while he may not have designed the Cobras in the same sense that Hall did the Chaparrals, Shelby did have major input. Without Shelby, there would have been no Cobra.

Never heard Shelby called "Old Yaller" before. That was a series of sports racers designed and built by Max Balchowsky. Shelby drove Old Yaller but once.
Tom

#3 Frank S

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 21:33

I'm hearing the voice of W.C. Fields. "Capital Ell, small ee..."

I can't imagine anyone genuinely curious about Shelby's driving skills could question their quality. Looks like a troll, to me. I could be wrong.

He could just be slothful.

#4 RCH

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 11:36

I don't think you can question Shelby being in the top class of US racers. However he has always seemed to have attracted more than his fair share of sycophants. Or is it just me being cynical because I have seen so much of the "poor little underfunded Cobra team takes on the Ferrari giant and beats them" rubbish?

#5 maoricar

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 18:54

Rightly or wrongly, discussion regarding Shelby has a tendency to polarize opinions.

Possibly, as he has matured ( aged !!) his views on his own accomplishments have become 'rose-tinted' to put it kindly.

I think that there can be little doubt about his ability to win races until medical issues curtailed his career behind the wheel.

As for his engineering/design ablities, the issues are less clear; he ensured that he had good men in his employ.

Obviously, excellent promoters and salemen DO have a tendency to overrate their accomplishments............ in ANY field

#6 RStock

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 20:39

I don't think you can question Shelby being in the top class of US racers. However he has always seemed to have attracted more than his fair share of sycophants. Or is it just me being cynical because I have seen so much of the "poor little underfunded Cobra team takes on the Ferrari giant and beats them" rubbish?


Yes, indeed. It's a story the Cobra people like to tell to make themselves feel better. Shelby didn't care if people thought of him as a rube from hickville. It probably gave him an advantage when those same folks underestimated him. Whatever one thinks of him, he was a very good driver in his own right and turned his name into a legend in the auto/racing field, an accomplishment on it's own.

#7 scags

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 21:28

His driving was before my time, but I'm sick of seeing him shill mystery oil, never mind some of the garbage he put his name on(especially the Dodge)

#8 hlfuzzball

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 01:33

The one thing Shelby mastered from early-on, was the use of other people's money.

#9 Barry Boor

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 15:51

In 1959 Carroll Shelby drove a Formula 2 Cooper for Reg Parnell in the Kentish 100 at Brands Hatch. I can understand how that probably came about, through Parnell's Aston Martin connection, for whom Shelby was driving that season.

But I'm wondering if this was the first (or indeed the only) time he ever drove a rear-engined single-seater. I guess not the only time but maybe the first?

#10 David McKinney

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 16:08

I believe his entrant was R H H (Tim) Parnell and no, it wasn't his first

That had come in the same race the year before, when he drove a similar car entered by the Alan Brown/Cecil Libovitz partnership

Didn't do much good on either occasion

His first race in a rear-engined car of any type, as far as I can ascertain, was in the 1955 TT at Dundrod, when he shared a Porsche with Masten Gregory for class victory

#11 motorsporthistoryaddict

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 18:36

Actually, the two Formula 2 events shown as entered by Carroll Shelby on www.formula2.net weren't the same event in consecutive years, but the 4th Crystal Palace Trophy on May 26, 1958 (http://www.formula2.net/F258_7.htm) and the 1st Kentish 100 at Brands Hatch on August 29, 1959 (http://www.formula2.net/F259_21.htm), just to clarify...


I believe his entrant was R H H (Tim) Parnell and no, it wasn't his first

That had come in the same race the year before, when he drove a similar car entered by the Alan Brown/Cecil Libovitz partnership

Didn't do much good on either occasion

His first race in a rear-engined car of any type, as far as I can ascertain, was in the 1955 TT at Dundrod, when he shared a Porsche with Masten Gregory for class victory



#12 David McKinney

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 19:49

I think my info is more accurate (as per second edition of the relevant Black Book)

Shelby was entered in the Crystal Palace race, but did not start

He did start in the Kentish 100 in 1958 and 1959

So confusing rather than clarifying :)

#13 motorsporthistoryaddict

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 23:33

Sorry, you're right; I missed the 1958 Brands Hatch info (http://www.formula2.net/F258_17.htm) and only had Crystal Palace noted for that year.

I think my info is more accurate (as per second edition of the relevant Black Book)

Shelby was entered in the Crystal Palace race, but did not start

He did start in the Kentish 100 in 1958 and 1959

So confusing rather than clarifying :)