Happy 87th Birthday, Carroll Shelby!


Carroll Shelby is an icon in the Mustang performance world. Today, he’s celebrating his 87th birthday. His main goal in life has simply been to move faster, whether it was in the airplanes he’s flown or  the cars he’s raced. Shelby’s legacy is one defined by the many roles he took in the automotive world and by the legendary high performance Mustangs he created.

Carroll Shelby
Carroll Shelby - Image property of carrollshelby.com

Shelby has worn many hats over the years, and one of the very first was an aviator’s cap. He was a flight instructor and test pilot in Texas during WWII. When he returned to civilian life, he started farming chickens and driving in local races, often neglecting to change out of his work clothing before a race. The odd racing uniform didn’t seem to discourage major racing teams from asking him to drive for them.

Shelby’s racing career lasted from 1952-1960. During that time, he raced for some of the most famous teams of the era, including Cad-Allard, Aston Martin, and Maserati. In the 1959 season, he and Roy Salvadori won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is one of the racing world’s most grueling, challenging events. Shelby’s racing career ended shortly after this win, however, because of health reasons.


Though Shelby’s health kept him from racing, he wasn’t ready to stop working with cars. In 1961, he opened a high-performance driving school and Shelby-American, the company that produces all the great Shelby parts you know and love. He designed some of the highest-performance cars of the muscle car era, including his famed GT350 and GT500 Mustangs. Though technically not all of the upgraded Mustangs from this era are Cobras (a name which was only applied starting in ’68), these models all reflected Shelby’s vision.

Shelby turned what he considered a ‘secretary’s car’ into a race car that could give any vehicle on the road at the time a run for its money. Shelby and Ford parted ways in 1969, but he eventually reconciled with the company and began designing upgraded versions of Ford’s Mustang GT. These include the GT-H, which was only available through Hertz rental companies, and more recently, the Shelby GT500 and GT500KR.

Shelby GT500KR
Shelby GT500KR - Image property of carrollshelby.com

Shelby’s enduring mark has not only been left on the worlds of racing and automotive design, but on the lives of the children his Carroll Shelby Foundation has touched. Shelby is one of the longest living heart transplant patients in America. When he was in need of a new heart, he was forced to wait years for a suitable donor heart.

During that time, he realized that there were less-fortunate children in need of donor organs who would probably not be able to afford the costly transplant process, and whose lives would be tragically cut short because of this. He created his Foundation to give assistance to children in need of coronary or kidney care, and it now also offers scholarships and financial assistance for those entering the automotive field.

Everyone here at AmericanMuscle would like to wish a happy birthday to Carroll Shelby, a pioneer in the racing and Mustang industry.

Written by Andrew

"You're telling me it's got four wheels, two seats and goes faster than the speed limit? Good, I'm driving."

14 comments

  1. Happy Birthday to a true American icon. His vision led to so many inovations in the automotive field and so much fun for car enthusiasts worldwide. Thank You and Happy Birthday!!

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  2. happy birthday and thank you truly,for if it weren’t for you we wouldn’t have cobra and all the proud mustang owners of today and to come,i will cherish and honor having your signature on my dad’s dash in his 04 cobra and thank you from all stang enthusiasts everywhere!

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  3. Oh yeah,.Hey Carroll, How about, just for fun, (and I mean this seriously) making a super modified version of your Shelby Mustang. I’m thinking twin turbo, 1000+ horsepower, independent suspension. Something to make the S7 look like a kiddie car! he he

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  4. Shel- do you think that we can live to 100? I dont think so, every thing hurts and most things dont wortk. Happy Birthday old man.
    Frank W. Reynolds

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  5. Happy birthday! May God bless You many more till one day that I might have the privlige to meet you one day! Btw I’m named after you and ur cars! Very awesome cars. I collect model Shelby’s I have about 11-13 Cars.

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  6. happy birthday Shelby. I worked on your plane a Flabo Airport. in Riverside Ca..back in 2003 I think..My name is Greg Spurbeck, send me a signed photo will ya. I wanted to meet you so bad . God Bless you I hope you are well

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