11 Things That Prove Carroll Shelby Is Not Just an Icon... He Was a Badass

I didn’t grow up knowing Carroll Shelby’s name as some gearheads. And while I’ve now long known he’s an automotive icon, due to his creation of the AC Cobra and Ford Racing role, I was blown away by all the stuff I learned taking a tour at Shelby American Factory and Heritage Museum in Las Vegas. Whether you’re finding yourself bored in Vegas after too much gambling and cocktails or are there for another reason, like SEMA, the free guided tour just minutes from the Strip is well worth your hour.

Here are 11 reasons why Carroll Shelby is a badass and why you should drop in and see for yourself:

Shelby American Factory Tour

1. Shelby remains the only man to win world championships as a driver, manufacturer and team manager.

He's all kinds of world champion.

2. Shelby was a jack-of-all-trades.

Before getting into cars, he was an Air Force flight instructor, owned a dump truck business and a chicken farm.

3. Shelby was no stranger to the podium.

He won podium finishes at 75 percent of his races.

Shelby Daytona at Shelby American Factory Tour

4. He had the balls to stand up to Enzo Ferrari.

Carroll and Enzo’s rivalry began when he asked about getting paid when Enzo wanted him to drive for Ferrari. It heightened years later when Enzo pulled strings to get a race cancelled and secure their FIA world championship points with Carroll declaring, “Next year, Ferrari’s ass is mine.”

The next year the AC Cobra won the GT, defeating Ferrari.

5. When the newly unveiled AC Cobra was given to journalists to test drive, they painted it a different color after each one...

...creating the appearance of an entire fleet of cars when there was only just one.

6. After working with Ford through the ‘60s, Carroll teams up with Chrysler in ’82 to make a number of Shelby-branded Dodge products, including the “GLH” line.

“GLH” stands for “Goes Like Hell.”

Shelby Dodge Omni GLHS at Shelby American Factory Tour

7. Sports Illustrated named Carroll Shelby “Driver of the Year” in both 1956 and 1957.

Two years in a row?! Okay, Shelby, we see you...

8. The 1964 Daytona Coupe, of which only six were ever made due to becoming obsolete the following year, beat out Ferrari’s top speed by over 10 mph.

Ferrari didn't just get beat – they got smoked.

9. Ford turned its GT 40 project over to Shelby American.

In ’65 it won Daytona, its first race. It went on to win 1st, 2nd and 3rd at the ’66 Le Man 24 Hours. The following year, the GT 40 wins again, this time with all-American drivers. The GT 40 went on to win the following two years as well.

Shelby GT350s at Shelby American Factory Tour

10. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 was introduced in 1965...

...adding to the birth of Ford’s most successful launch.

11. During his last race in the driver’s seat, Carroll popped nitro pills to finish due to his heart condition.

He came in 2nd and secured the 1960 USAC driving championship.

Shelby American Factory Tour

For all these reasons and more, drop in by the Shelby American Factory and Heritage Museum for a tour. You’ll see the very first AC Cobra, model CSX 2000, valued at over $26 million. Plus a head-spinning array of other Cobra and Daytona models and a lion’s share of Mustangs. Peek in at their 135,000 sq ft factory with 22 work stations modifying production cars as well as assembling brand new AC Cobras.

I left in awe of a man with such dogged determination and insight to take what was the best in automotive manufacturing and make it even better. As an enthusiast and a gearhead, isn’t that what I’m endeavoring to do in my own garage? One can dream…

Browse more in the gallery below and take a look at a GT500 in a kind of original condition with a degree of road patina that is something close to impossible.

 

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