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Visit to the Shelby American Collection: Just call me Carroll

Michael Cassel
Shelby American Collection
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D he location: Shelby American Collection in Boulder, Colorado

The event: SAC 12th Anniversary Holiday Party. The ambience: a unique collection of Shelby treasures from the sixties. The guests: almost 200 Shelby fans, around a dozen members of the legendary Shelby American team - and of course the master himself.

Appearing out of nowhere, the team quickly became a legend by winning the FIA ​​GT World Championship - as the first and only American racing team. I enter the hall with awe and find myself in the midst of living legends, in the midst of the heroes of my favorite books. An almost unreal scene. The charm of the collection is the orderly mess of vehicles, tools, photos, enamel signs, wheels, engines, trophies and memorabilia.

In the early 1960s, the Cobra were almost unbeatable

I work my way through the guests and come across one of the cornerstones of the Shelby success story : Phil Remington. It was taken over as an inventory when Shelby American took over the Dean Moon Shop in Venice after the first Cobra prototype had been created there by installing a Ford V8 in an AC chassis. Shortly thereafter, Phil turned the third roadster supplied by AC into the first racing Cobra that was to scare the competition.

From mid-1963 the Cobra were stable and unbeatable on American racetracks. At that time, Carroll Shelby had the FIA ​​GT World Championship in his sights with his 340 hp, around 1000 kilogram cars. In 1963, two roadsters took to the starting line at Le Mans - to improve the poor aerodynamics with hardtops. Despite the first place in the GT class, Shelby was clear that the roadsters would not win a flower pot in Europe because of their aerodynamics. Shelby, himself a Le Mans winner, logically started developing the Daytona Coupés.

Double victory for Shelby's Ford GT-40 in LeMans

This is of course also in the collection, which is mostly made up of a 289 Cobra and Ford GT 40. Despite the significantly improved chassis, there was only one 427 team racing car because the Shelby team was entrusted with teaching the GT 40 to win after the 427 Cobra was completed.

What also succeeded: The GT 40 won in Daytona and Sebring in 1966 and took one in Le MansDouble victory for Shelby American Inc. Phil Remington played a major role in making the GT 40 stable. His talent and passion are unchanged, and he is still working on cars today.

My next conversation partner is Bob Bondurant. He was the most successful world championship point collector and contributed significantly to winning the GT WM 1965. Bob says that he loves the demanding European tracks he's raced on: the Nürburgring, Targa Florio, Tour de France, Freiburg hillclimb and Sierra Montagna. He had already arrived days before to learn the routes, most of which consisted of public roads. In Freiburg, for example, he kept driving a VW up the mountain early in the morning until rush hour traffic interrupted the venture.

During his time at Shelby, Bob temporarily helped out at Carroll's Driving School. This inspired the founding of the Bob Bondurant High Performance Driving School, which still exists today in Phoenix, Arizona.

Companions and racing drivers of Carroll Shelby

Around half past seven, Carroll Shelby shows up, due to an auction for the benefit of the museum's cash desk. Among other things, a driver's course at Bob's Driving School and a party at the SAC will be under the hammer. It can be seen from Carroll Shelby that the event is exhausting for him at the age of 85. Shortly after the auction, he leaves the party for the hotel to rest.

Opportunity for me to chat with Jack Sears, one of the European drivers that Carroll hired for the World Championship races in Europe because of his track knowledge. Jack is very British, smart, friendly, lovable. He is the only one who has driven all the Cobra coupés. There were only six Daytona Coupés and also the beautiful AC Coupé, which was wrecked when it first appeared in Le Mans in 1964.

The next person I spoke to, Lew Spencer, first met Shelby in 1961 when he asked what an AC without a motor would cost. The second meeting was at Riverside, when Carroll presented the Cobra to the press and Lew was impressed by its acceleration capability. He then drove the Sebring 12 Hours in 1963 with Phil Hill and Ken Miles. With the only Cobra to finish the race, they won the 5-liter class and beat the entire Corvette armada. Lew drove in Sebring again in 1964, and the Cobra - 3 Coupés and 4 Roadsters - took positions 1 to 7!

The secret of Shelby American's success - Team Spirit

The last conversation partner in the group of racing drivers is Allen Grant. What was the recipe for the extraordinary success of Shelby American? 'Spirit' is his answer after a short pause, 'Team Spirit'. And what about Carroll Shelby's role? He had to get the money: 'Promote and sell everything'. And he could do that like no other.

Another factor behind theCarroll's success was 'one of the gang' because he wasn't much older than the rest of the team at the time. All team members agree on two points: The time at Shelby shaped them, there was a lot to laugh about at the time - but everyone also knew that 'not working' was not an option for Carroll Shelby.

The next morning Steve Volk and Bill Murray tell how they founded the museum with the help of Wendy and Greg Wolan to celebrate the 'greatest racing story of all time for america'. Indeed, anyone who is in Colorado should definitely visit.

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