You may know him from the movie starring Matt Damon, or you know the legend of Carroll Shelby, but do you know his cars?
Shelby was instrumental in shaping the American racing world with the Ford GT40 cars that won Le Mans in the 1960s, but he was much more than that. Prior to developing these cars for Ford, he was a legend on the racing circuit and highly respected for building some of the most incredible race cars in America.
With many to choose from, we’ve compiled a list that we feel makes Carroll Shelby an automotive legend.
Shelby Cobra 289
This car was one of the most iconic cars that Shelby ever made. The Cobra 289 is a well-known story. When the AC Cars plant in England was stopping the production of their Ace sports roadster in 1962, Shelby purchased several bodies and had them shipped to Venice Beach. Once there, the job was to put Ford 260 V8 engines in these bodies to give us a small and powerful car to drive. The power of these incredible little cars came in at 271 horsepower, which gave this little car amazing performance while out on the track.
The Mustang lineup that bears the Cobra on the front is synonymous with Carroll Shelby. In 1965, he began building Mustangs, but not the same versions that could be driven by the average Joe. The GT350R models were not street legal and were only made for racing teams. There were 34 of these cars built with the 289 V8 engine that could make 400 horsepower on the track. The racing modifications of these cars were so successful that each one won several races in America, Europe, and South America, making them some of the most valuable racing cars ever built.
Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe
The typical Cobra wasn’t as dominant during races as expected, mostly due to poor aerodynamics. The answer was to redesign the body to offer a longer chassis and a relocated suspension to give the car a longer, sleeker, and more aerodynamic build. This car became the Daytona Coupe, and it was finished just in time for the 1965 racing season, a season that became legendary. The Daytona Coupe won the 1965 GT Championship, proving it was a car worthy of the Shelby name that had been built by the right man.
We would be completely remiss if the Ford GT40 was not part of this list. This is the car that legends are truly made from. Borne out of a rift between Ford and Ferrari, this was the first American car to ever win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Not only did it pull off the win, but this car also finished in the top three places during the 1966 race. This car found victory at Le Mans four years in a row, causing humiliation to Ferrari, a company that had won the race repeatedly for several years before Ford ever arrived.
From a stripped-down street racer to a larger and more powerful car, the 1967 GT500 became a car that legends are made of, hence it being a Carroll Shelby car. This car was powered by a massive 427 V8
an engine that produced 335 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. Acceleration was listed as 6.5 seconds to complete the run to sixty mph. Not only was this a powerful car that was fast on a drag strip, but the suspension upgrades also gave this car real performance on a track. While the GT500 was extremely powerful, it competed with the GT350, which many drivers already loved.
Dodge Shelby Charger
Carroll Shelby didn’t only aid Ford with performance glory; he worked for Chrysler for some of his career as well. The Dodge Shelby Charger allowed the L-Body Chargers of the 1980s to finally earn some respect. The formula was to add a turbocharger to the 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine to improve power to 175 horsepower. Toss in the five-speed manual transmission, stiffer suspension, and improved braking, and you’ve got a car that can be fun to drive. Keep in mind cars in the 1980s were hampered by regulations that typically sucked the fun and life out of them.
Dodge Viper RT/10
The most famous car that Shelby helped build for Chrysler was the Dodge Viper. This car was mean, tough to handle, and perfect for seasoned veterans on the track. A massive team worked to bring a car with aggressively elegant lines and a menacing V10 engine to the Detroit Motor Show in 1989. When it was finally ready, this car was the pace car for the 1992 Indianapolis 500. The Viper came powered by an 8.0-liter V10 engine that could make 400 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque. This racing machine could hit sixty mph in 4.6 seconds, easily besting many European exotic cars of the time.
Shelby EXP 500 “Green Hornet”
There were many experimental cars that Carroll Shelby was famous for, but none were quite as imaginative as the 1968 Green Hornet. This car packed a strong fuel-injected 390 V8 engine under the hood. The Green Hornet was ahead of its time with four-wheel disc brakes and an independent rear suspension. This gave the car better handling and stopping power than any other sports car offered at the time. The production costs kept this car from ever being made by Ford.
1967 GT500 Super Snake
One of the most iconic cars in automotive history is the Super Snake. This was a car that took the GT500 design and put it on steroids. Under the hood sat a powerful 427 V8 engine capable of making 500 horsepower. This engine came from the GT40 race car to give the Super Snake the power to break records. With this setup, the GT500 was capable of 170 mph as its top speed. Unfortunately, this amazing car was another that would have been fantastic as a limited production run model, but the bean counters at Ford decided the costs were too high.
Even though the Dodge Dakota was only offered in its compact form from 1987 to 1996, the Dodge team wanted this truck to be one that would spark the imagination. They turned to Carroll Shelby to offer this truck the performance to take on the track and give this truck the fun desired. Shelby fitted this truck with a 5.2-liter V8 engine that made 175 horsepower. This was more than enough power to allow this lightweight truck to deliver performance and speed to anyone who was looking for more fun in their small pickup truck.
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