Shelby American is an intensely detailed documentary, tracing the life of possibly the most iconic name in American motor racing. Carroll Shelby, a larger than life character, started off as a chicken farmer. In fact, he used to race in the same overalls as he wore at the chicken farm.
Now you may have just been to see the movie Le Mans 66 (Ford v Ferrari), starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale. It's fair to say that critics are saying all the right things about this big-budget masterpiece. However, this film places its focus on the year that Ford finally beat Ferrari with their GT40. After failing to beat Ferrari, Carroll Shelby sets about improving the car and with Ken Miles behind the wheel, the GT40 was pretty much unbeatable. But the Shelby story has so much more to it than just one race, so if you need to fulfill your appetite after seeing the Le Mans 66 film Shelby American is a great choice.
Even though Carroll Shelby was brought up in a relatively humble background. He was a person who possessed incredible vision and passion. Yes, he may have been a chicken farmer but he was also an incredible racing driver himself. In fact, he was listed as Sports Illustrated driver of the year in 1956 and 1957. On top of this, he held speed records at Bonneville, competed in Formula One and drove for the factory teams of Maserati and Aston Martin. But, in 1959 he went to the very top of the sport by winning the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Beating the Ferraris, long before Henry Ford the second threw endless amounts of money at the idea of Ford winning the world's toughest race.
Right at the top of his racing career, Shelby retired from driving completely. He had developed heart problems even as a small boy which never went away. This resulted in doctors telling him that he would die if he carried on racing. So, instead of taking it easy, Carroll Shelby did the next best thing and set up as a constructor. He negotiated a deal with the British company AC. So that he could use the lightweight sports chassis from the AC Ace. Then re-built the car from the ground up, but with a huge Ford V8 engine as the powerplant. This was the legendary AC Cobra which had great success in the GT class. Eventually, the Cobra evolved into the Shelby Daytona Coupe that won the GT class at Le Mans in 1964.
It's fair to say, that motor racing success raised the profile of the manufacturers significantly. Sales of cars globally would increase if your car was successful and Henry Ford the second wanted the Ford name to be at the top. Even going as far as to try and buy Ferrari outright. But Enzo Ferrari was not willing to sell to the American and sold it to the Italian company Fiat instead. The result was a furious Henry Ford, who would stop at nothing to beat Ferrari. Ford threw everything at the GT40, but all the cars retired at Le Mans in 1965. But Shelby's Daytona Coupe finished eighth overall, leading to Ford placing Shelby in charge of the GT40 campaign.
The bottom line is, Shelby American tells us so much more about the man than his attachment to Ford. This is the story of a person who knew how to win. Carroll Shelby is still the only person to win Le Mans as Driver and as Constructor. He faced many challenges in his life and always found a way to come out on top.
All in all, you don't have to be into motor racing to enjoy this detailed documentary. But if you are, you will already know about the cars and to see some of the biggest names in racing talk in detail about the man provides a touching and personal view of the man behind the Shelby American badge.