The story of Shelby sports cars is very much the story of Carroll Shelby, the colorful Texan inextricably linked by name and temperament to some of the greatest high-performance machines of all time.
As you’ll learn in this article, Shelby was a successful race driver who turned automotive entrepreneur when a heart condition curtailed his time behind the wheel. In September 1961, Shelby learned that England’s AC cars was losing the engine supplier for its open two-seater and seized an opportunity.
Shelby talked AC into providing him cars, then convinced Ford to supply its new small-block V-8. The first result, the AC Shelby Cobra of 1962, was a sensation. It combined the spot-on proportions and clean lines of a classic British roadster with the stout heart and one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch punch of a 260-cube American V-8. This car soon gave way to the 289-cubic-inch power behemoth known as the AC Shelby Cobra 427.