The name Caroll Hall Shelby, whose story is hitting the big screen in the movie Ford vs. Ferrari, is synonymous with the American muscle car.
Born on Jan. 11, 1923, in Leesburg, Texas, he was the son of a mail carrier with a fondness for driving fast. He joined the Air Force at the age of 18, and married his wife two years later, according to Motor Trend.
After the second world war, he left the military and first started a dump truck business, but moved on to becoming a chicken farmer by 1949. The farm started out promisingly, and his first batch of chickens turned a nice profit, but he went bankrupt when the second batch he was raising succumbed to disease.
In 1952, he began yet another new career, this time as a racecar driver. He spent the eight years driving in races both at home and abroad. Two years into his time as a racer, he impressed the manager of the Aston Martin team so much that he was invited to co-drive one of their vehicles at Sebring, and he accepted. He further ended up being invited to drive for the team at Le Mans that April, and he spent the rest of the summer racing Aston Martins in Europe.
He returned to the US in August, after Daniel Healey, of Austin-Healey invited him to help set 70 new speed records in Utah. That November, he raced an Austin-Healey in Mexico and had a serious accident, flipping the vehicle four times. Undeterred, he was racing again four months later, wearing a special fiberglass cast and taping his hand to the steering wheel. He continued racing until 1960, when he ultimately retired as a result of problems with his heart.
Wanting to continue his involvement in the auto industry even if he wasn’t racing any longer, he began two new enterprises, a high-performance driving school and Shelby-American. Shelby-American was small auto shop invested in the idea of melding powerful American V8 engines with a body reminiscent of European sports cars.