Admittedly he’s much more famous for his racing exploits in his homeland and his eponymous Shelby Cobra and Mustang cars, but former Grand Prix driver Carroll Shelby is celebrating his 89th birthday today!
In 1955, Shelby continued with sports cars, teaming up with Phil Hill in a Ferrari to finish second in the Sebring 12 Hours, while also making his F1 debut, finishing sixth in the non-championship Syracuse GP at the wheel of a Maserati.
He was unstoppable in the SCCA championship in 1956, winning 27 races – 19 on the trot! – in his Ferrari, and continued this run of success in 1957 after overcoming a shocking crash at Riverside in which his face was badly scarred.
His first World Championship F1 championship start came in 1958 in the long-in-the-tooth Maserati 250F, and he was unlucky to be stripped of his championship points after taking over from Masten Gregory to finish fourth at Monza.
His still-impressive sports car results saw him join up with Brown’s team once again, which made its foray with its Aston Martin DBR4 chassis (pictured top) into F1 in 1959. But the project was a disaster, with the outdated and unreliable (albeit beautiful) front-engined cars not able to keep pace with the mid-engined Coopers. But Shelby took some solace in winning that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with Roy Salvadori, as well as winning the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood.
He contested one further season in the SCCA, but suffered setbacks with a heart valve problem that had plagued him since childhood (which would later be corrected via a successful transplant) and he retired at the end of 1960.
However, it would be as a constructor and designer where he would achieve greater fame, designing the AC Cobra and then heading up Ford’s impressive assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the all-conquering GT40.
[Images via Airport Journals, Auto Blog, Grand Prix Insider]