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The Shelby American: An All-American Cinematic Dream

How Carroll Shelby created an empire on the road and in film
Leo Shvedsky
February 03 2022

What happens when a chicken farmer in Texas decides to take on the largest hot-rod, luxury vehicle brands in the world? Once he succeeds, he not only influences the history of American racing, but has his stories and cars star in action-packed, critically acclaimed films.  

Carroll Shelby raised the standards of American racing when he took on the international sports-car industry in the 1960’s. By using Ford V-8 engines and framed by lightweight British roadsters, Shelby developed what we know today as the American Shelby brand where vehicles today that easily sell for seven figures. Most recently at  Scottsdale Barrett Jackson, an ultra-rare 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 CSX 3356 effortlessly sold for $1,210,000.00! 

Ultra-rare 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 CSX 3355 sells for $1.2 million dollars at Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson. Djon Sende /

Carroll Shelby’s compelling story has influenced cinematic culture since the 1960’s, and if his story isn’t centered around a script, his cars are. The racing titan and his signature cars have been featured feature films like Love Bug and most recently, Academy Award winning  Ford v Ferrari 

From dreamy roadsters to GT’s, here are some of the famed films to feature American Shelby vehicles in their iconic scripts. 

  1. 1964 Shelby Cobra CSX 2203 – The Love Bug (1968) 

Famous 1967 Shelby Cobra CSX 2203 races against iconic Love Bug in iconic 1968 Disney film. The Love Bug/Disney 

Remember Herbie the Love Bug? It’s hard to forget the famous white Volkswagen Beetle that had a mind of its own. The Shelby Cobra CSX’s feature in the film as an extra racing against America’s favorite bug. Thanks to careful preservation, this vintage treasure has been an active racer and show car in the years since its motion picture debut, appearing at the Goodwood Revival, the Coronado Festival of Speed, and the Australia F1 Grand Prix. 

2. 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 – I Am Legend (2007)  

2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 driven in I am Legend driven by Will Smith in critically acclaimed film. Ebay  

In the opening scene of the post-apocalyptic 2007 film, US Army virologist Robert Neville played by Will Smith drives through the abandoned streets of New York City in the revered 2007 Shelby Mustang GT500. Despite only one appearance in the film, the roar of the 5.4 liter Shelby engine echoes through the empty streets making the scene, and the car, legendary. After filming, the Shelby (only one of six) was preserved and can be purchased for a cool $150,000.  

3. 1966 Shelby GT350H – Grand Prix (1966) 

Driven by actor James Garner in the film Grand Prix, the iconic Shelby GT350H was driven in off-track scenes. MotorTrend 

In the memorable 1966 American racing drama Grand Prix, actor James Garner drives this 1966 Shelby GT350 loaned to the production by Carroll Shelby, who acted as a consultant during the filming to create an authentic depiction of F1 racing. Filmed in Monaco, the epic racing movie depicted the extremely fast and most noteworthy vehicles at the time, including the classic, timeless GT350H later given to Garner. 

4. 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 – Gone In 60 Seconds (2000) 

Eleanor 1967 Shelby GT 500 highly sought after by Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie in the 2000 film Gone in 60 Seconds. Super Cars 

In the year 2000, Gone in 60 Seconds featured Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, and Eleanor, the 1967 Shelby GT 500. The film centered around stealing cars made audiences obsess over this Ford Shelby model, and it quickly became one of the most coveted movie Mustangs of all time. Carroll Shelby developed a new Shelby GT500 E after the film. The ‘E’ aptly named after Eleanor.  

5. Ford GT40 Mk II – Ford v Ferrari (2019) 

GT40 put American Shelby on the racing map and secured American racers as top contenders in 1966. Ford vs. Ferrari (2019)

The American Shelby cinema list wouldn’t be complete without including the Shelby GT 40 Mk II as seen in Ford vs. Ferrari . The epic retelling of Carroll’s life starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, portrayed the events leading to the Ford victory at the 1966 Le Mans. To recreate the race, the film borrowed a Shelby Superformance GT40 Mk II replica mirroring the original interior of the vehicle down to its 427-cubic-inch Ford V-8 engine. The acclaimed film but audiences in the driver’s seat to take a look at the epic and powerful life of Carroll Shelby and his famous cars. 
2019 Ford GT Heritage Edition dressed in a limited-edition Gulf Oil racing livery sold for $2.5 million at the 48th Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction. Barrett-Jackson  


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