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Shelby American

by Bruce McMahon | Nov 02, 2020

Movie Review


Motorsport and motoring are littered with ‘ifs’.

If Enzo Ferrari hadn’t turned down Henry Ford II’s buy-out offer back in the 1960s, and if Enzo hadn’t given Carroll Shelby the bum’s rush there may never have been a GT40 or North Americans campaigning in concert to win Le Mans and upset the Euros.

And that’d mean no Netflix documentaries The 24 Hour War and Shelby American.

Both those engaging shows, made by Chassy Media, are as entertaining and dramatic as any Hollywood production. While The 24 Hour War focuses on Ford-Ferrari Le Mans battles, Shelby American is about the drive, tenacity and showmanship of Shelby the tall Texan with the Stetson.

Both are enhanced by archival film footage and photographs plus the recollections of famed team members, from body fabricators to race drivers.

Young Shelby loved speed, from racing dirt track speedway to flying fighter planes. After World War II he raced sports cars seriously, and successfully, but heart issues _ and a lack of profit in racing _ sees Shelby turn to building the legendary Cobra for road and track in the early 1960s.

After the Cobra came the Daytona Coupe and then, with the help of Lola and Ford, the GT40 which eventually trounced Ferrari at Le Mans. Plus of course, his later involvement with the Shelby Mustangs and Dodge Vipers for the road.

Shelby American tells a great story well. Shelby the showman usually had a photographer at hand while professional and amateur movie cameramen recorded a wealth of material around workshops, test tracks and race tracks from California to France

This 2019 doco, just shy of two hours, moves at a measured pace, stitched together with care and a mix of action and reflections on the man _ no gimmicks and no time-out. It well-serves Caroll Shelby and an intriguing slice of motoring history.