Decision made. And, as it turns out, the car's birth and early days involved several Petersen Publishing Company figures.

Carroll Shelby's personal and automotive resume is well documented: Chicken farmer turned race driver, 1959 LeMans winner turned sports car builder. He's had heart and kidney transplants, he founded a charity to help needy children receive organ transplants, and he invented one helluva chili recipe. Shel' was instrumental in Ford's LeMans-winning GT40 effort of the mid-'60s, and has built cars with or for each of Detroits Big Three. His name also adorns several thousand modified Mustangs and a terrific club dedicated to the perpetual enjoyment of Shelby vehicles. Hero to most, no doubt less than popular with others-but clearly a legend to all.

So how did it happen? After his retirement from racing, Shelby wanted to build his own sports and racing cars, but didn’t have the backing to do it all from scratch. He appreciated the cheap, reliable power made by American V-8s. At the same time, he recognized that the Europeans knew how to build lightweight cars that handled. Shelby picks up the story:

“I went to AC in about June 1961. I’d looked at several other chassis situations for building my own cars, including ACs Ace [at the time powered by a 2.6-liter Ford straight six]. Ray Brock [Petersen connection #1, as Brock was then publisher of Hot Rod Magazine] came to me about the same time and said, ‘Ford has a new small-block V-8, 221 cubic inches.

Sounded good. I was going to the Pikes Peak hill climb, because I was the Goodyear race tire distributor: There I ran into [Ford’s] Dave Evans, and I said ‘Mr. Evans, I understand you have a new small-block V-8 and I have an idea how to use that engine.

Shelby had been brainstorming the use of Chevrolet engines with GM, but those negotiations fell apart. Evans invited Shelby to Detroit, though Shelby wanted to make sure he could get his arms around the AC Ace chassis and body before he met with Ford. “I flew to Europe, and sat down the Hurlocks [owners of AC] and told them what I had in mind, and they said yes, they would be interested. " Shelby then went to Detroit, where he met with Evans, Don Frey (assistant general manager of the Ford Division), and already prominent Ford exec Lee Iacocca.

Shelby turning around

"I told him that I had a chassis, and that, if I could get these Ford engines, I thought I could build a car that would blow off the Corvette. I needed to borrow $25,000 to build two cars, plus engines. Iacocca agreed."

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