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'Sex on wheels': the super car that was created to break records and that Ford discarded for an incredible reason


Highlights: Carroll Shelby won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 with a car he built with a partner from England. The car, the Shelby Lone Star, was intended to be the replacement for the aggressive Cobra. Ford rejected it and buried it in oblivion for half a century. Shelby also put his brushstrokes to the competitive Mustang; for this he had to negotiate with a heavyweight, Lee Iacocca, whom he asked for just $100 to make two prototypes. "At that time they were only used to defeat Chevrolet Corvette," he recalled of that version.

The prestigious Carroll Shelby was to build the replacement for the Cobra 427. Busy with the preparation of the car he won at Le Mans 1966, he relied on a partner from England. But the result disappointed the company.

Carroll Shelby was a great sports car racing driver, rubbing shoulders with Formula 1 figures and even making the list of winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But he was, above all, a builder of excellence. One of his exploits is portrayed in the film Ford v Ferrari, a profile of American engineers who defeated the Italian brand at the La Sarthe circuit in 1966.

By then he was already pulling lines for a superproject: the new Cobra. Ford required him to have "performance superior to those of any vehicle available in the world." The result disappointed: the company rejected it and buried it in oblivion for half a century.

Shelby Lone Star

Shelby, who from his days as a chicken farmer in Texas kept the farmer's hat, knew from the inside the competitions of endurance and also power. And just as he arrived late, almost in his thirties, he retired early at 37: coronary problems ripped him off the wheel after three American championships, a fourth place in Formula 1 and a victory in the most famous 24 Hours on the planet.

It was quickly remade. In the mid-sixties he was an established builder. As he said on camera in a recording of the time: "Performance is my business."

Together with the British AC Cars he had developed the Shelby Cobra, with Ford mechanics. Now, the Detroit company took him full time and placed him as a leader to manufacture the Ford GT40 that emerged victorious in 1966 and that was immortalized in the film that won two Oscars in 2019. Meanwhile, the request came into his hands to find a successor to the Cobra 427.

Shelby Lone Star

Rushed by time and busy with several parallel jobs, he confided in an old friend he had met in the 1,000 kilometers of Buenos Aires. John Wyer, owner of JW Automotive Engineering, made his own interpretation of the guidelines. From England, where it had mounted its facilities, came a very powerful vehicle, although far from Ford's expectations.

Once in the United States, the rejection was categorical. There was no place for that prototype, neither as a sports car for the most demanding public nor in the racetracks that roared every weekend. The creation, without official sponsorship, changed its name. Like Shelby Lone Star, it became a one-off that went through a couple of private owners and in recent years was involved in a strenuous restoration.

This is how the Shelby Lone Star was made: the antecedent of the Ford GT40 and the partner who screwed up

Carroll (1923) was not an improviser. His career as a driver includes eight F1 events, in which he debuted in that 1958 French Grand Prix tinged by the tragedy of the fatal accident of Italian Luigi Musso. In that category, his best performance was an eighth place.

Instead, he excelled with sports. It was in this plan that in 1954 he arrived at the current Oscar and Juan Gálvez racetrack, in the City of Buenos Aires. Although he could not honor the pole position and was tenth, the Buenos Aires track left renewed.

Shelby Lone Star

There he met John Wyer, the Englishman who signed him for Aston Martin and who allowed this humble farmer to walk around the United States and Europe. He toured the main automotive houses, even sharing an entire summer with the ill-fated Dino Ferrari. And in 1959 he was consecrated in Le Mans as a companion of Roy Salvadori.

Carroll and John are central characters in the Shelby Lone Star story. This vehicle was intended to be the replacement for the aggressive Cobra. In fact, his fundamental concepts served to -together with Wyer- shape the legendary Ford GT40.

Henry Ford II gave him carte blanche to rehearse, on the sole condition that the result was a victory in the 24 1966 Hours. Shelby also put his brushstrokes to the competitive version of the Mustang; for this he had to negotiate with a heavyweight, Lee Iacocca, whom he surprised by asking just $ 25,100 to make two prototypes. "At that time they were used to only one coming out more than <>,<>," he recalled of that version that aimed to defeat the Chevrolet Corvette.

Shelby Lone Star

So much effort left him without time to face another order: the successor of the Cobra to give continuity to the model under the wing of Ford. Wyer came to the rescue, although he condemned the project to failure. Shelby had thought of respecting the front location of the engine and rear-wheel drive, a scheme that had proven its reliability in the Cobra. His former boss and now partner, on the other hand, set his sights on the successful GT40, with the driver in the rear sector.

The car that beat Ferrari also inspired the suspension system. The Cobra 427, meanwhile, provided the brake system and wheels. While the prototype was a frankenstein that used parts of both models to cut costs, the final format paid tribute to the GT40.

Thus, after its manufacture in England, the vehicle traveled to the United States in 1968. The car of just over a ton was mounted on a Ford V8 289 engine, 320 HP at 6,000 rpm, made by Shelby himself. It had a four-speed manual gearbox. The cabin had two seats covered in fine leather.

Shelby Lone Star

The model restored in its 2018 presentation.

Painted bright red, it looked like a torpedo. The prominence of the tail was a consequence of the location of the engine. The aluminum body almost brushed the ground. And the curves in the front fenders and bonnet made it a voluptuous specimen.

The reasons for Ford's rejection and an almost eternal rest

Ford executives were horrified by the supercar. They expected a creation that respected "the same image (of the Cobra) with a contemporary functional design, and overall performance superior to those of any vehicle in the world." Instead, the result was halfway.

Shelby Lone Star

The style was too portentous to captivate the user of street sports cars and, at the same time, as a racing example could not cope with the proven GT40. The Dearborn factory was also horrified by the numbers: according to calculations, the cost was double that of the model that repeated victory at Le Mans 1967. Crazy.

Already without the backing of the Oval, an urgency arose for Shelby: the Cobra brand had been acquired by the giant that had just slammed the door. Orphaned in name, he took advantage of his emotional memory and baptized it as Lone Star, in homage to Texas, whose flag sports a solitary star of its times of independent state.

It was there that, while tending to the family farm, he first approached a Ford, the one driven by his own father. Exhaustion and his struggle against a structure that he considered stagnant led him to leave the company and take temporary refuge in Africa.

According to records, the Lone Star went on sale that same year 1968. Perhaps inspired by the sinuous blonde silhouettes of the cinema of the previous decade, they promoted it as "sex on wheels". After some failures, a private buyer shelled out $15,<>. Seven years later, another anonymous took him in exchange for an unknown sum. He strolled through Los Angeles and was then kept in Arizona, where he went into hibernation.

Time left traces on the body of the Shelby Lone Star. Also in the mechanics. In 2018, after more than ten years of work, they relaunched it in society at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, in Florida. The restoration was carried out by Geoff Howard, Cobra fan and experienced restorer.

"It was the most intense work to which I dedicated myself," said the collector, who after the reforms left it "95% original." Its creator could not see it renewed: Carroll died in 2012, in his native Texas, not far from where he raised chickens before changing the farm for the tracks and workshops.

See also

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Source: clarin

All tech articles on 2023-06-03

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