Shelby America Visit

(I’m late getting this out) Last Friday we headed out to Shelby American Museum and Factory for a tour of all things Shelby/GT/Cobra!!


Our tour guide for the morning was Jim King – who had a wealth of knowledge. When he bought his first Shelby engine it cost $3689 – the engines we saw earlier were from around $26,899.


Carroll Shelby, the man behind the brand was born and raised in Texas. He later joined the Forces as a Pilot and after service was a flight instructor training bombers and bombardiers. He also tried his hand at chicken farming and while successful to start with he still wanted to try his hand at motor racing.


In the decade of the 50’s, Carroll Shelby raced 168 times, all the races he entered he had a podium finish in both USA and Europe.

He was noticed and was asked to race for Ferrari. He asked how much money and when told it wasn’t about the money he got up and walked out! So started the long term love/hate relationship between Carrol Shelby and Rnzo Ferrari. (By the way Shelby had said before walking out, I have a wife and two kids to take care of)

In 1959/60 Shelby raced whilst having massive chest pains – men! Stubborn as ……And I’m sure when Jack was racing had this occurred, he would have finished the race too!

Shelby wanted small performance cars. He started with ACA’s in England, Chevy’s and Schiaperellis in USA but still wasn’t there.

He visited with Ford in the 60’s and his timing was just right. Ford had looked at releasing performance cars for all types of racing. Lee Iacocca was General Manager and Vice President of Ford at the time and was looking for something new. Shelby was there at the right time wanting a couple of engines and $25k. Lee gave him the opportunity.

In 1961 they had experimental engines of 260hp V8, got the chassis’ from ACA flown over and in 1962 they had the first car. This is it in the photo below, the plain blue one, black and white pic.


Once done it was sent out for testing with various motoring magazines. when it was finished with by one it was shipped back to Shelby, repainted and sent out to another magazine. The current blue colour was painted for the 50th anniversary, on a chip on one fender they count 6 different colours underneath.

CSX2000 Cobra No1 is currently worth $26M. Amazing and a true piece of history.

From 62-63 they built some and sold some – these now had the 289hp engines. In Jim’s words, Shelby won a tremendous amount of races.

One of their first employees in 1963 was a guy by the name of Pete Brock (and no for all the Aussies, not OUR Peter Brock – and everyone says you have a double in the world!) THIS Brock was given the task to design the aerodynamics for the Shelby Racing cars.

Designers were sought from the school he was attending and at the time he submitted the 1963 Corvette Stingray design which he was chosen for out of all the others attending at the same time.

Carroll hired Brock in 1961 as a driver and at that point he didn’t know about his designing, Speed comes from horsepower and aerodynamics, the latter being the cheapest.

Shelby tasked Brock to come up with something. He went out and bought a roll of brown paper, taped it to the floor of Shelby’s office and came up with the streamline cobra back. From there Shelby approved the design and they built the aluminium body. When he took it for a test drive it was uncontrollable – they took a piece of aluminium cut it with tin snips and put a bracket on it, took it back to the car drilled some holes and fitted the foil. The spoiler helped manage the downforce and on the third lap he broke the speed record.

Brock’s design allowed air to come in and cool then flow up and out of the hood over the car. Previous designs allowed for air to exit underneath the car but the hot air caused the car to be unstable.

1964 daytonas were entered in Monza, Italy and he and Ferrari were neck and neck on points. Ferrari knew that their cars weren’t as fast as the Shelby’s. Ferrari had won 7 of the 9 consecutive years they had entered the construction car race.

Daytona coupe no1 resides in a museum in Philadelphia the rest are in private collectors hands.

If 100 cars are built and sold in a year the cars can then be raced as a production car, if less than 100 sold they can only be raced as a prototype car.

The 427 in 1965 he only got 57 built of the 100 and it wasn’t until 90s (?) the final 43 were built, these are called a continuation Cobra.

The 50th Anniversary they produced 50 Cobra 427’s. Number 1 and 50 live on the showroom floor. After its first showing, within 48hrs the other 48 were sold and of those 40 were finished in the polished aluminium per customer order. Qtr million each!

They are still all hand made today as they were when they started. Now instead of cast iron engines the aluminium ones are made at 150pds lighter.

The GT350 got its name after much discussion about what to call it. Shelby asked one of his guys to go measure the length of the shop, when he came back he said it’s about 350ft and therefore it became the GT350. Nothing to do with hp at all.

At one point Ford tried to buy out Ferrari. It didn’t work and so became the building of the GT40 so named as it was only 40″ high and was taken to Le Mans to race. In 1967 they got 1st, 2nd and 3rd!! 1968 1st, and 1969 1st.

The blue and black ones were shelbyised for Chrysler. In the 70’s. When asked how the black pocket rocket goes he said goes like hell so in the name of it GLH. In a race against a GT350 the little black one beat the GT 14.6 sec to 15.3sec. For 4cyl performance with front wheel drive no less!

Shelby employ 110 staff, working in a 350sqft floor space. The Shelby 1000 is dyno’d here, when they make it is a complete rebuild of the car. They’ve built 30 or so. Just over rear wheel HP1060, torque 850 – they are a very special order.

There are over 8000 visitor signatures on the shop wall factory side. All this in almost a year, of course we added ours to it!


The Heritage Centre is in the midst of changing and will eventually have all models displayed in the correct time line.

This was sooooo good and I know Dad would have loved it. He always wanted a Cobra GT.

All the above was as fast as I could take down during the tour so I hope I’ve done it justice. Thank you Shelby America for the time trip!

Kat xo








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