It's hard to believe that Shelby American is fifty years old. That means I was almost thirteen when the Cobra was introduced, Carroll Shelby was 39. Strange he seemed so much older than I then yet now, even though he's still 26 years older than I am, we seem closer in age.
I remember seeing a Cobra probably in '65 or '66 somewhere but not up close. The first Cobra I could have reached out and touched (although I didn't) was at Lime Rock at the '69 Trans Am race. I was walking through the paddock when something shook the earth. It was a 427 Cobra with side exhausts. OMG! For me it was like finding Ursula Andress standing next to me in her Dr. No outfit (yeah I'm weird).
I never got to see Carroll Shelby race; I was one of those kids who read about the exploits of their heroes in magazines like Car and Driver, and Road & Track.
I did meet Mr. Shelby years later at a Chrysler event in Toronto, and then again at the Chrysler proving grounds in Michigan.
I'm one of the people who liked the cars Shelby designed and built for Chrysler. Yes they were based on inferior cars but they did "go like hell." They were fun, fast, and they handled.
I remember reading about the first World's Championship Chili Cookoff started by Shelby, Bill Neale and a host of others in Terlingua, Texas. It may be part of what started my love of chili.
Carroll Shelby has been a big part of my life and millions of others. He has always been bigger than life. Although his cars were always more accessible to those with a good income they always seemed to be for everyman. They were brutish in typical American overkill. We all basked in their glow when they vanquished the elite European brands.
Shelby American of this century is a far cry from the beginnings. It's a big operation that is more retail based than race oriented. I had the feeling years ago that Shelby sold road cars to finance their race side; now they sell road cars for their own sake. It's not a bad thing, it just is.
Here's to Shelby American, may they inspire the young boys in all of us for a long, long time.