Carroll Shelby, Woodrow Wilson High School’s auto racing legend – The late Carroll Hall Shelby was born January 11, 1923 in Leesburg, Texas to Warren Hall and Eloise Lawrence Shelby. His father was a rural mail carrier. The family moved to Dallas early on and Carroll graduated in 1940 from Dallas Woodrow Wilson High School, where he spent some of his time tearing around town in his Willys car. He also found time to attend some dirt track races outside town, and grew interested in the sport.
Shelby had enrolled at Georgia School of Technology (Georgia Tech) planning to study aeronautical engineering, but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. After graduating from flight school, he remained stateside during World War II and served as a flight instructor.
After the war, he held a few jobs in manual labor and eventually found his way into auto racing in the early 1950s, driving a friend’s car in a local drag race event. He was a success and shortly thereafter was invited to drive an MGTC in a sanctioned Sports Car Club of America event where his aggressive driving style produced more victories. Quickly becoming known as a top flight driver, he participated in various events including hill climbs, track racing and the like. He was named Sports Illustrated Driver of the year in 1956 and 1957 and raced in Formula One for the next two years.
Shelby had suffered from a leaky heart valve when he was still a child and retired from racing in 1959, after being diagnosed with chronic angina. Around that time he had decided to try his luck and opened Carroll Shelby Sports Cars in Dallas, importing the sporty foreign vehicles to the United States.
One of his early engagements had been to enjoy driving a British Allard that had been fitted with a Cadillac V-8 engine. The so-called Cadillac Allard planted in his mind the idea of mating a small block domestic V-8 engine with a lightweight British bodied car. Shelby approached General Motors with the idea of using their new V-8 engine in such a project, but the company was less than enthusiastic, so he approached Ford Motor Company with the prospect. This led to many years of collaboration that produced a roadster using the AC Cars, Limited’s Ace body with his company Shelby American. The cars became known as the Cobra many were sold to foreign and domestic individuals to race and drive while Shelby’s racing company competed with the full race versions of the car. For almost a decade, they dominated track racing competing and beating the long time marques such as Ferrari.
During this period, Shelby also collaborated with Ford Motor to produce the lovely Shelby Daytona Coupe, the Cobra model Ford Mustangs and the Ford GT40. The collaboration with Ford and success in racing wound down in the 1970s.
Shelby collaborated with Chrysler Corporation on a few projects including the Shelby Charger, the Omni GLHS and consulted on the Dodge Viper project. He eventually retired to ranching and other ventures.
Shelby passed away on May 10, 2012 and is buried not far from where he was born in Leesburg, Camp County, Texas.
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