x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Top 5: Cars created by US designer Carroll Shelby

Shelby built some of the most iconic and successful performance cars. Here are four that he is remembered for, and one that could easily be forgotten.

The AC/Shelby Cobra.
The AC/Shelby Cobra.

Shelby Cobra

In 1961, Carroll Shelby saw an opportunity; AC Cars in the UK had lost its source for engines and was on the verge of closing shop. Shelby asked them to continue building the chassis if he would supply a new, American engine for them, and he sourced a Ford V8 for his project. The name of the car, Cobra, comes to him in a dream, and the next year it debuted at the New York Auto Show to rave reviews. The AC Cobra, later the Shelby Cobra, became an icon of sports cars and went on to win countless races, including Le Mans.

Shelby Daytona

Basically a rebodied Cobra, the Daytona's slicker, more aerodynamic shape made it faster than the Cobra, even though they were both powered by the same V8. It was one of the most beautiful race cars ever built, and one of the most successful, considering only six were produced between 1964 and '65. Wins at Sebring, Le Mans, Daytona, Monza and the Nürburgring have made it the stuff of legend, but it still rests in the shadow of its more iconic brother, the original Cobra.

Ford GT40

When Ford's attempt to buy Ferrari in 1963 was spitefully rebuffed by Enzo Ferrari, the US company was out for revenge. It enlisted the help of Carroll Shelby to help out with its GT40 Le Mans racer, which had failed to beat the Italians there in '63 and '64. Shelby swapped the small V8 for a lower-revving, big-block unit that could stand the rigours of an endurance race more than a high-revving engine, and the car went on to embarrass its Ferrari rivals at the famed French race for the next four years.

Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang

Shelby did such a good job with the GT40, Ford wanted him to work his magic on its newest hit - the Mustang. In 1965, the Mustang GT 350 may have looked similar to the regular pony car, but Shelby had lightened the body, put in a new rear axle, a bigger engine and different suspension to make, basically, a street-legal race car. Pure race variants were also built and went on to many wins. The GT 350 and GT 500 (with a larger engine) went on until 1970 and are now much sought after.

Dodge Omni GLH

That this lowly, front-drive, US-built hatchback was given the magic touch of Shelby was down to a request for his services from then Chrysler chairman, Lee Iacocca, who was involved with Shelby at Ford in the 1960s. Iacocca was trying to turn around the company and put Shelby to work on a couple of the brand's bland econoboxes, but it was the 1983 Omni that was the most unlikeliest of the bunch. An added turbocharger added punch, and the Omni GLH, which stands for Goes Like Hell, lasted until 1986.