Since 1958, Carroll Hall Shelby has been one of the foremost race car drivers and auto-tuners in the U.S., or even the world! He has raced all over the place, and tuned thousands (make that tens of thousands!) of cars. Here is his life story.
In 1923, Carroll Hall Shelby was born to Warren Hall Shelby and Eloise Lawrence Shelby, in Leesburg, Texas. His father was a rural-route mail carrier. By the time Carroll was 7, he was suffering from heart valve leakage problems, and spent most of his childhood (up until 14) in bed. When he turned 14, his heart problems “disappeared.” When Carroll was 15, his family moved to the huge (to him) city of Dallas (Leesburg only had about 200 residents). Young Carroll went to Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas. According to an un-named Shelby biographer (not me! I’ve got a name…), his passion (make that lust) for speed was shown when he got a speeding ticket for going 85 mph on an empty road. And, it was the first time he had ever driven the family car!
As he graduated high school, WWII was already in its third year. America needed men to enlist, so Carroll joined the United States Army Air Corps. He loved flight-school, but couldn’t go overseas, because of his history of heart problems. So, he became a mechanic. Not only did he repair engines, but he also would fly planes that had been ‘grounded’ (stuck on the ground because of various problems). When flying the fixed grounded planes, he would drop love letters onto his fiancée’s front porch. In turn, she would bring love letters to him, when she brought food to the base.
After three years of serving his country, Carroll had a family to support (his wife, Jeanne Fields Shelby and his daughter, Sharon Anne Shelby). He started a dump truck business in Dallas, but it didn’t work out. So, he went into the oil business. That didn’t work out either. I guess that those things weren’t enough for a man who would make the Cobra an icon of speed and style. So, he took an aptitude test. Instead of indicating that his mechanical genius could take far beyond what he imagined, it said that maybe chicken farming was the right job. So, he just went out and bought a flock of chickens…
After making a little bit of money in his first year of biz, the chickens started to drop dead left and right. So, with the remaining chickens pumping out eggs and chicks, Carroll started buying old sports cars and tuning them. An auto-tuner is a person who takes a car, an improves its performance. He would then sell them in the local newspaper or Hemmings Motor News. To test them out before selling them, he would often take them to races across the country. Before he knew it, his garage was stuffed to the ceiling with trophies! (He had to have an extension built onto the house!) In 1952, he always won 1st or 2nd place. So much for chicken farming.
His racing fame spread, and soon he wasn’t driving his race car to the track, it was being shipped there! He went to Europe for the first time in 1958, for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He won it, and the next year, won again! So, he was now the cutie hanging in every girl’s room (not Justin Bieber, girls)!
Some people happen to be so exciting, they need to be done in installments, so look on Friday for the remainder!