Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shelby Cobra / Carroll Shelby Right Place...Right Time

A full moon was lookin' at me through the window last night while hanging out in the garage sipping a cool one. I took note of one of my favorite posters pinned to the wall. If there was a Genie in a bottle, I would be cruising in one of these.

The story of Texan Carroll Shelby is not new, he was at the right time...right place. He entered the world of manufacturing and selling after his doctor told him he only had a month to live. This happened after he had climbed to the top of Sports Car racing from the days of a chicken rancher after a stint behind the wheel of a MG TC, winning his first two races in 1952 and moving on to other cars. This all stopped in 1960 when his doctors told him his competitive driving days were over.

About the same time, Lee Iacocca became V. P. at Ford and wanted to have an impact on the juvenile performance market. He put in motion the development of a small V-8 for those performance oriented consumers, and in 1962 Ford was finishing that lightweight 221 cubic inch engine. Shelby, who knew some people at Ford, got his hands on an engine and stuffed it into a small British car called an AC ACE. The engine grew from 221 to 260, then a 289, and finally a fire breathing 427 with a different block. The resulting car was named Cobra, and first introduced in 1962 at the New York Auto Show. It was to be sold to the public in limited numbers and raced by privateers and a Shelby Team.

However, it was not a cake walk. The first car was built by a bunch of  'Hot Rodders' at Dean Moon's shop in Santa Fe Springs to attract financing, and painted a different color each time it was shown to the public to make it look as though there were several cars. Orders started coming in and then manufacturing moved to a shop in Venice, California. They quickly out grew that shop by 1965 when they started to add the Ford Mustang into the mix calling it a GT 350. The next move was to two hangers on Imperial Highway next to L.A.X.

With Shelby still smiling on what he envisioned, the Cobra was the right car at the right time and the rest is history.
Carroll Shelby with his new 289 cars, one for the road other for the track.
Carroll watches as his first Cobra is being finished at Dean Moon's shop.
The competition cars ready to roll.
Two new 427 Cobras head out to waiting customers.
The Baldwin Motion "Dagginsnake" a street car that was converted to a drag racer.
Action at the Targa Florio 1964.
One can only dream.
Billy Krause at Riverside Raceway testing the new 289.
Even the "King of Cool" couldn't resist.

Related post: Allen Grant's Ride
                      America's First Driving School started by Carroll

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  1. John... Good story, but it's Carroll, not Carrol. That's Not Dave Mc Donald, it's Billy Krause. Those three cars aren't FIA cars, as they are too early to be FIA cars. Also, the MOTION car is really not a Dragonsnake but rather a street Cobra converted to a drag-racer. Lynn

  2. Thanks Lynn, I made the changes. If anyone should know about these special's you.

    Thanks again,

  3. Brendan emailed: Hello and good morning,

    That photo that had its caption changed from Dave Macdonald to Billy Krause is
    from an interview with Carroll Shelby in Hot Rod. Billy Krause did drive the #98
    car but the article says that picture is Dave Macdonald. Attached is the link.
    Great Blog


  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Why was Shelby so fond of the number 98?
    I know he used it back in the 50's when he was racing maserati's, but what was the meaning of the number, why was it so special to him???