Automotive Legend Carroll Shelby Passes at 89

By now you may have heard that the great Carroll Shelby, one time race car driver and constructor has passed away at the age of 89 on Friday, May 10, 2012. The automotive world has truly lost one of the greats who lead a full life and accomplished feats few men can imagine. On the news of Mr. Shelby’s passing, my thoughts were he may be the last man to have such a singular impact on racing history and the cars that bear his name. My next thoughts brought me back to August, 1988. I was all of 15 years old at the time, while on vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts had read that Enzo Ferrari had died. An ocean and generation apart, Mr. Ferrari and Mr. Shelby had some similarities, but for now let’s talk about Mr. Carroll Shelby.

My fear is the current generation of gearheads are watching too much Barrett-Jackson auto auctions on Speed TV, where over the past few years Mr. Shelby has gone on stage to auction off one of his latest Mustang-based creations to charity, and there is no doubt the hundreds of thousands of dollars Shelby has raised has helped many people. Where my discontent lies is in the portrayal of Carroll Shelby, often depicted as a simple chicken farmer from Texas, and oh, he makes chili too! How cute.

Kids, that is not the Carroll Shelby that impresses me. In the 1950′s, Shelby won races in an MG TD, set 16 US and International speed records in a specially modified Austin-Healey 100S. In 1959 he drove the winning Aston Martin DBR1 to victory at the 24 Hours of LeMans-one one of only two victories Aston Martin can claim. Shelby also competed in Formula 1 racing from 1958-59. Due to heart problems that plagued Shelby from youth, he was forced into retirement.

This is where the magic happens-as if winning LeMans is not enough. Shelby was able to seal a deal with British sports car maker AC to drop a Ford V-8 into their AC Ace, creating the AC Cobra, pictured at top. Spawning the ultra-rare and desirable Daytona Coupe, the Cobra is one of the most desirable and iconic exotic sports cars of all time, and the most copied car ever built by kit car companies, although Shelby and his lawyers spent years fighting this.

It is well known that Ford had attempted to buy Ferrari in the 1960′s, and with the deal nearly sealed, Enzo Ferrari backed out at the last minute. With the deal off, Ford vowed revenge on Ferrari, and Ford was going to beat them on their own turf. Ford called Carroll Shelby for help. The result? The Ford GT40 won LeMans four years in a row. It is the only American built race car to ever win at the historical Circuit de la Sarthe.

With Ford’s connection to Shelby cemented with its AC chassis and involvement in Ford’s domination over Ferrari with the GT40, Ford sought to build on the equity of its new pony car, the Mustang. While there are rumors that Shelby’s initial reaction was of zero interest in modifying Mustangs and refused the project, under pressure from Ford management Shelby gave in and agreed to put his name on the Shelby Mustang GT350, the purist example of a Shelby Mustang. Later iterations of Shelby ‘Stangs seemed counter to Carroll’s original vision, and by 1970 Ford and Shelby parted ways.

Carroll Shelby slipped into obscurity it seems, until the very man who demanded a Shelby Mustang-Lee Iaocca, called on him to inject some badly needed adrenaline to the ailing Chrysler Corporation. At its inception the Omni was a crude answer to VW’s Golf, but with Shelby’s hand Dodge created a GTI killer with 175hp on tap for an impressive 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds with a top end of 130mph. Shelby had a hand in several other high performance Dodge products, and was an integral part of the creating the Dodge Viper.

Shelby’s history with Ford resumed again with his input in the modern iteration of the Ford GT, an homage to the GT40 and Shelby Mustangs once again hit the showroom floor in 2005. Fittingly, Carroll Shelby’s last car with his own input was the Shelby 1000, the most powerful Shelby to ever hit the street or track. And so we draw the circle back to Enzo Ferrari, the man Shelby beat on relentlessly at the most prestigious stage of endurance racing. When Enzo Ferrari died, the twin-turbo V-8 Ferrari F40 was the last car he oversaw was ready for market, the most powerful, fastest, and expensive Ferrari of all time. For Carroll Shelby, the Shelby 1000 holds that same distinction.

This puts Mr. Shelby in some elite company, and proves again if the will is there, Americans can beat the best the European exotics have to offer. Carroll Shelby deserves to be remembered as more than a chicken farmer, he is the singular American figure to absolutely punish the best Europe had to offer on their own soil. For that, we thank you, Carroll Shelby.

The Garage offers our sincere condolences to the Shelby family and all of his friends and co-workers.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway might just be heaven on earth

When Bridgestone invited us to a new product launch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I was somewhat wistful as I thought about the passing of Dan Wheldon at the speedway at the final race of last year’s Indycar season. I knew it would be tough to visit the track without thinking of the popular driver. Still, I had never been to the Speedway (or Vegas for that matter) so I was excited to visit. All I can say is WOW!

Ferrari. Lamborghini. Andretti. Race cars. Fighter planes. Race tracks.

All in one place! LVMS is the kind of place that gearheads dream of.

Arriving on a shuttle, the first building one notices in a long strand of racing businesses is Shelby’s headquarters. As we drover further into the complex, I was blown away by the sheer size of the place. The only big speedway I have been to is Pocono, and LVMS is easily 3 times the size. There are race tracks all over the place. We saw 2 road courses, the big oval, a bullring, an off road truck course and there is the NHRA drag strip. Just massive.

Throughout the day, the background was filled with the sounds of the U.S. Airforce, as pilots performed training maneuvers. The day before, guests were treated to a real show as the Thunderbirds did some practice.

When a Shelby Cobra went by on a test drive, you knew it was the real deal.

To guide their tire industry attendees and us media types through the day, Bridgestone had assembled a star studded cast of drivers. Our instructors in the early morning included Pierre Kleinubing, Peter Cunningham and Burt Frissell. Later on, the big surprise came as we learned that Mario Andretti was also on hand and would be joining us for lunch.

Before lunch though, we had to flog a BMW 3 Series around a fast autocross course, before heading over to Exotics Racing, where we would get to play with a collection of Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s. I drove a Lamborghini Gallardo LP550 for the first time. For a machine with 550 or so horsepower, it was surprisingly manageable. Equally surprising was how high the limits of the car are. With just five laps, I was nowhere close to exploring the limits of the car. It would be fun to have a bit more seat time to actually get comfortable with the limits of the bull.

To get a taste of our day, head past the jump to check out our photo gallery.
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The legend of the buried GT-40

The automotive world is full of legends and icons. Where is Detective Frank Bullitt’s Mustang? How come death follows James Dean’s Lil Bastard? Isn’t there a GT40 buried somewhere in Sebring? Like the other stories, the buried GT-40 legend was born out of an energy filled time. Unfortunately it was also conceived of a tragic death, much like Lil Bastard.
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Lucky nominated for 2 awards

Long time readers will recall that contributors to The Garage Gary Faules and Jon Emerson competed in the 2007 La Carrera Panamerica in a Shelby GT350R named Lucky. That trip to Mexico was filmed for a documentary called Rebirth of a Legend which not only records the race but also the rich history of the event.

That video has been nominated for Best Sports Documentary and a technical achievement award for Best Cinematography – Documentary at the Action On Film International Film Festival later this month.

The film can be purchased through Gary’s blog and is certain to become a favorite in the library of any gearhead!

2011 Ford Mustang launch montage

When Ford launched the completely revamped 2010 Mustang, there were many who decried the carryover of the old drivetrain which was less of a performer than the 2010 Camaro. The product folks at Ford promised that more juice was coming for the 2011 model in the form of a new V-6 and the return of the 5.0 name.

That new V-6 puts out 305 horsepower, almost as much as the previous V-8, while the 5.0 puts out a whopping 412 ponies. That means the aluminum block twin-cam churns out close to twice as much horsepower as the original 5.0. Oh yes, it also creates a whopping 390 ft/lb of torque. If those numbers are impressive, then get ready for the 5.4 in the GT500. 550 horsepower. 510 ft/lb of twist. This thing should have a PTO it makes so much power!

After driving all of the new Mustangs back to back with a couple of Camaro’s on the track and the acceleration and braking strip, it is pretty clear that the folks at Chevy have some tuning to do as Ford has raised the bar.

We’ll go into more detail about the different variations in another post, but for now we’ve got a gallery of images from the launch. We’ve also got a short video montage of the action at Calabogie Motorsports Park.
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Lucky goes for the podium

When we posted the first in car video of Gary Faules piloting Lucky at the 2007 La Carrera, a few readers had a hard time grasping the speed of the event. For this next video we’ve decided to skip right to the final day of competition, where Gary gives Lucky the GT350 all he’s got in an effort to ensure a podium finish. Even 150 MPH doesn’t look all that fast, but listen to the revs and realize that flat in 4th with 500 plus horsepower is mighty fast!

Very cool video after the break.
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Shelby gallery at Toronto Autoshow

As a kid, the thing I remember more than anything about going to the Toronto Autoshow was checking out all of the race cars that were inevitably on display. For more than a few years, cars of interest to a kid that is into racing have been sadly sparce. This year though, the Canadian International Autoshow has partnered with the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame to honor racing icon Carroll Shelby.
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In car video of Lucky the GT350R attacking Mil Cumbres

The La Carrera Panamericana open road rally is a throwback to an earlier time. With real cars running on real roads, the La Carrera route follows pretty much the same path that crews took back in the Fifties. Over the years, La Carrera has also gained a reputation for being one of the most challenging events on the annual calendar. The term challenging is often politely interchanged for the word dangerous. The most challenging of all the La Carrera stages is considered to be the Mil Cumbres stage, where many cars have been lost. Lives too.

Regular contributer here in The Garage, Gary Faules, took on La Carrera in 2007 and took the win on the Mil Cumbres stage. Now that the documentary movie about Gary’s trip to LCP has been released, he is free to share the in car footage they shot during the race. The first video we’re going to share is that historic run up Mil Cumbres with it’s roadside cliffs and even a burro taking in the spectacle.

Following the 2007 running of the La Carrera, the decision was made to remove the stage from the event. The video after the break may well be the last competitive event held on the road.
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Images from the 1965 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport

While searching for a photo to accompany Leighton’s story about the early days of race control, I came across this great set of black and whites from the Canadian Grand Prix on September 25, 1965. These shots, added to the CMSHG galleries by Rob North, are actually scanned from a contact sheet. I love the inclusion of the film as it really does make them look, well, old.

The photo above shows Bruce McLaren with just a nose ahead as the green flag flies. Not the clearest photo, but certainly a moment in history.

More photos after the break.
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Shelby related quote of the day

“When you write the serial number in pencil you can do pretty much anything you want”
George Daszkowski on the provenance of some of the Shelby/Comstock race cars we’ve been discussing today.

Photo courtesy of Fotki user Kurzheck