Shelby, who was born on January 11, 1923 in Leesburg, Texas might have gone onto achieve greatness, but the fact he lived such a long life is a miracle in itself.
At seven years of age, Shelby suffered from a heart valve leakage defect and hence spent most of childhood years in bed. While doctors contemplated if he'll ever get to see his teenage years, Shelby's health started improving, and by age 14 was given a clean bill of health.
After graduating from high school, Shelby tried his hand at becoming a chicken farmer, but that didn't go all too well. He then enlisted himself in the United States Army Air Corps, where he served as a test pilot and a flight instructor.
After the Second World War, his next career move would set him up for the rest of his life. In 1950, Shelby become a racing driver and drove for Allard, Aston Martin and Maserati. He won his first race in 1952 driving an MG-TC, and thus his love for British cars had officially started.
This love only grew stronger when he won the Le Mans 24-Hour race in 1959 while driving an Aston Martin DBR4. His co-driver in that race was Roy Salvadori of Great Britain.
Towards the end of 1960, Shelby retired from racing, due to health issues, but he was not about to end his love affair with the automobile just yet.
The very next year, Shelby not only started a high-performance driving school, but also registered Shelby American and started work on a project that made him a household name.
Shelby obtained the license to import the AC Ace from England, but while he liked the handling of the car, the racer in him wanted more power from this roadster. So out went the original straight six-cylinder motor, replaced by a grunty Ford V8. The iconic AC Cobra was thus born.
The Cobra was originally offered with a 289-cu.in. motor, but eventually the monstrous 427-cu.in. motor was introduced, thus making it among the fastest production cars on the road or the track.
The success of the Cobra leads Shelby to develop the Shelby Daytona Coupe. Only six examples of this Ferrari-slayer coupe were ever made, and nowadays they change hands for several million dollars.