Carroll Shelby is without a doubt the greatest living automobile legend around. Best known for the Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra models, he has led a full life as a pilot and flight instructor for the United States Air Force, a dump truck business owner, a chicken farmer, a drag racer, a race-driving instructor, a husband, a father, a designer of some of the most innovative and beautiful combinations of glass and steel that could ever grace a car.

Carroll Shelby was named Sports Illustrated "Driver of the Year" two years in a row, and even managed to race after his arm was shattered in a racing accident. He retired from racing in 1960. By this time he had already opened up a Sports Car dealership in Dallas, TX as well as a Goodyear Racing Tire distributership. He then opens the Shelby School of High Performance Driving. In late 1961, Shelby began to work on a joint project with AC Cars of Thames Ditton, England on a new engine design for it's two-seat roadster.

Timeline of the Shelby-American Designs
  • February 1962 - The first 260 Roadster, minus engine and transmission, is air freighted on February 2, 1962, to Shelby's shop in Southern California. Carroll has a dream revealing to him the name Cobra appearing on the front of his car. In Carroll's words, "I woke up and jotted the name down on a pad which I kept by my bedside-a sort of ideas pad- and went back to sleep. Next morning when I looked at the name 'Cobra,' I knew it was right." In less than eight hours, a 260 HiPo and Borg-Warner four-speed are installed and Shelby and friend Dean Moon test drive the new Cobra, looking to bait Corvettes, but none are found.
  • March 1962 - Shelby-American begins operations at a shop on Princeton Drive in Venice, California, and hires Ray Geddes, a Ford finance business school graduate who comes aboard at Shelby-American to coordinate the program with Ford. Among his first duties are his efforts to keep Ford's involvement at a low profile due to Ford's liability concerns.
  • April 1962 - CSX 2000, the first Cobra, is painted a pearlescent yellow by Dean Jeffries and shipped to the New York Auto Show where it appears in the Ford display. Dealers begin ordering and with deposits in the bank, Shelby-American formally commits to building its new Cobra.
  • May 1962 - Shelby promotes his Cobra by offering test drives to the automotive press, who respond with superlatives. The May 1962 issue of Sports Car Graphic describes its acceleration as explosive. CSX 2001 (the second Cobra built) is shipped by air from England (minus engine, transmission, and rear end) to New York and is prepared by Ed Hugus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. CSX 2002 is air freighted to Los Angeles and built into the first competition Cobra.
  • June 1962 - Production is slow as Shelby-American wrestles with start-up problems due to the fact that the AC chassis requires extensive engineering. Meanwhile, CSX 2000 is repainted a different color each time a different magazine test drives it, giving the appearance of many cars in production. The Cobra has a 1-ton advantage over the Corvette.
  • August 1962 - Shelby-American submits papers to homologate the Cobra as a GT III car in the eyes of the FIA, the Federation Internationale de L'Automobile. On August 6, the FIA homologates the Cobra in the more-than 2-liter class for the FIA Manufacturers' Championship. At least 100 cars had to be built within 12 months, but at the time of approval, just eight Cobras had been completed. According to Carroll, he contemplated switching the chassis and body to an alternative due to continued problems.
  • October 13, 1962 - Shelby-American enters the Cobra in its first race, a three-hour contest with Bill Krause behind the wheel, opening the Los Angeles, CA Times Grand Prix. Krause, with a poor start, falls back, then takes the lead at lap nine, but breaks a rear hub and does not finish. The Cobra, however, is definitely lighter and faster than the new Corvette Stingray. Phil Remington at Shelby-American goes to work building stronger rear hubs starting with forging blanks from Halibrand.
  • January 1963 - Dave MacDonald and Ken Miles sign to drive Cobras for Shelby-American and place first and second at Riverside, beating the Corvette Stingrays. Miles is so confident, he pits for a drink of water and relaps the Corvettes to finish behind MacDonald. Ian Garrad, an Englishman living Southern California, feels he could imitate the Cobra with a 260 Ford version of the little four-cylinder British Sunbeam Alpine roadster. Ken Miles is first hired to build a prototype "Tiger," a job that is handed over to Shelby-American.
  • June 1963 - Shelby-American completes its first 125 Cobras. Because Ford refuses to finance a Cobra Le Mans effort, Shelby puts together a deal with AC Cars and Ed Hugus, who prepare one car each. The top Cobra finishes seventh.
  • September 1963 - Shelby begins the Daytona Coupe project, for the roadster lacks the aerodynamics necessary for 200mph down the Mulsanne Straight. Pete Brock is the designer. Cobra production passes 170. The first Cooper Monacos King Cobra are ordered. Dan Gurney, in winning the Bridgehampton 500KM in a Cobra, becomes the first American driver to win an FIA race in an American car.
  • December 1963 - The Cobra wins the USRRC (United States Road Racing Championship).
  • February 1964 - Shelby-American completes the first FIA roadster and the first Daytona Coupe, both enter the Daytona Continental. Bob Johnson and Dan Gurney finish fourth in an FIA Cobra roadster, Although the Cobra coupe sets the fastest lap time, it is a DNF due to a damaged differential and a fire.
  • March 1964 - Shelby-American enters a 427-engined leaf-spring Cobra, CSX 2166, at Sebring in the prototype class. Ken Miles spins off course in practice and hits the one tree in sight, but the 427 test mule is fixed for the race the next day. The Cobras, for the first time, beat the Ferrari GTOs. At Sebring, Carroll Shelby meets with the Hurlock Brothers from AC Cars and Ford design engineer Klaus Arning to develop a big-block Cobra.
  • April 1964 - After Sebring, Cobra led Ferrari in FIA points for the GT III championship, and Shelby-American decides to go to Europe to race. Two months before Le Mans, the Sarthe circuit is closed off for testing. The Cobras and Ford's new GT-40 are tested at Le Mans. Later, on April 26, the Cobra competes at the Targa, FL. Oddly, the new Porsche 904s triumph over Ferrari, followed by the Cobra.
  • August 1964 - Ford asks Carroll Shelby to develop a high-performance Mustang fastback for street and track. Basically, the new car would challenge the Corvette in SCCA B-production road racing. The Cobras score in Europe at the Freiburg Hill climb in the Black Forest, at the Tourist Trophy in Goodwood, England, and at the Sierre-Montana Grand Prix De La Montagne in the Swiss Alps.
  • September 1964 - The first '65 Shelby Mustang GT350 race cars and street cars are built.
  • October 1964 - The prototype 427 Cobra, under development, is tested at Silverstone in England and later in the States.
  • November 1964 - Shelby-American completes the 427 Cobra prototype. The 289 Cobra Roadster again wins the SCCA A-production national championship.
  • December 1964 - The SCCA accepts the GT350 in the B-production road racing class, as cars are being completed at the Venice, California shop of Shelby-American. Enzo Ferrari holds his annual press conference and announces he will not contest the GT III championship without his LM Ferrari, in effect, giving no factory Ferrari competition to the Cobra team for the upcoming 1965 FIA season.
  • January 1965 - The 427 Cobra, featuring a tube frame, aluminum body, and coil spring chassis, is unveiled at a press introduction at Riverside International Raceway. Shelby-American begins its move to Los Angeles International Airport facility. Ford turns its GT-40 project over to Shelby-American. The 1965 GT350 debuts.
  • February 1965 - With Shelby handling the racing program, Ford's GT-40, painted in Shelby Guardsman Blue with two white stripes, wins its first race, at Daytona. The Shelby Mustang GT350 also wins its first race, at Green Valley, Texas. Shelby-American begins production of its Ferrari-beating missile, the coupe version of the 427 Cobra Roadster. At Daytona, the Cobra Daytona Coupe, with Jo Schlesser and Harold Keck driving, is first in the GT class.
  • March 1965 - Production of the GT350 moves to Los Angeles International Airport after the first 250 cars are completed. The GT-40 Mark II (427 big-block) is under development. Jo Schlesser and Bob Bondurant pilot the Cobra Daytona Coupe to first overall in the Sebring 12-Hours.
  • April 1965 - The Cobra team flies to Europe to continue its winning season. With team Ferrari out of the picture, Shelby-American is dominating. Bondurant and Grant are first at Monza, Italy, in the Daytona Coupe. Meanwhile, the FIA denies the 427 Cobra certification because 100 cars are not finished. The first 427 street Cobra is finished.
  • May 1965 - At Oulton Park, England, Sir John Whitmore takes first in the GT class in a Cobra Daytona Coupe. Bondurant is second in a Coupe at Spa, Belgium. Back home, the first GT350 drag car is built.
  • July 4, 1965 - Shelby-American, racing Cobras at the 12 Heures De Reims in France, scores enough points to assure the FIA World Championship of GT cars, wrestling the title virtually owned by Ferrari for more than a decade. The Paxton supercharger GT350 prototype is completed.
  • October 1965 - The brand-new '66 GT350 Shelby fastbacks go on sale, and Shelby-American proposes a special Hertz racer. A prototype GT350H is built.
  • November 1965 - Hertz likes the GT350H and gives Shelby-American a contract for 200 cars. The FIA certifies the 427 for the 1966 racing season, and the '66 GT350 again wins the national B-production road racing championship in the SCCA. Hertz then ups its contract for GT350H models to 1000 units.
  • February 1966 - The Ford GT-40 Mark II wins at Daytona. Shelby-American builds a Mustang notchback prototype for the brand-new Trans-Am racing series.
  • June 1966 - Henry Ford II watches proudly as a trio of GT-40 Mark IIs cross the finish line at Le Mans, 1-2-3. The specifications for the '67 GT350 and new GT500 are finalized. This is the official birth of the famous Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra, the immortal classic signature car.
  • November 1966 - The first of the '67 Shelby GT350s and GT500s are delivered to dealers nationwide.
  • March 1967 - The last 427 Cobra Roadster is built.
  • August 1967 - Shelby-American loses the lease on its LAX facility. This is considered to be the last year of the True Cobras by Carroll Shelby enthusiasts.
  • September 1967 - Production of '68 Shelby Mustang moves to Ionia, Michigan, and the A.O. Smith Company. The Lone Star, to be the successor to the Cobra, constructed in England by John Wyer's JW Automotive Engineering.
  • October 1967 - Shelby-American takes the '67 Trans-Am Manufacturer's title for Ford. Shelby-American completes construction of a Cougar-Cobra Can-Am racing car.
  • June 1968 - The '69 Shelby GTs are finalized. Again, a GT-40 takes first place at Le Mans.
  • August 1968 - The last brand-new 427 Cobra Roadster is sold by Shelby.
  • September 1968 - Shelby opens a Ford dealership in Lake Tahoe, California.
  • October 1968 - The only Lone Star is offered for sale for $15,000, the price it was to retail for if it had made production.
  • September 1969 - The Shelby Mustang project is ended as sales slow dramatically. The leftover '69 models are updated to '70 specifications and production ends.
  • December 1969 - Shelby Automotive Racing Company closes. (sigh...)

Shelby has since then gone on to help in the design of many automobiles, including the Dodge Viper.

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