Things you never knew about Carroll Shelby

1. Carroll Shelby, one of the manliest men to ever live, was a hopeless romantic

Fact-based legend has it that he spent WWII as a flight instructor just outside of San Antonio, and on longer missions he would drop love letters stuffed in leather boots out of his plane when flying over his fiance's farm.

2. Shelby single-handedly made overalls cool

He later claimed that they were more comfortable during a long race, but they were actually just the workwear he wore on his chicken ranch. One day he went straight to the track from the ranch, causing an uproar from the crowd and crews. Ever the marketer, the overalls stuck.

3. He was tougher than your old man

In 1955, he co-drove the 12 Hours of Sebring with a hand that was so badly broken they had to make a special fiberglass cast, then tape it to the steering wheel just so he could steer the car.

4. And he was tougher than your grandpa, too

In 1959, he was driving for Aston Martin when he came down with dysentery just before the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He still won. "I didn’t eat anything for 24 hours apart from dysentery tablets. Then we won the race and — oh my God — they suddenly stuck a champagne bottle in my mouth and it sent me a bit loopy"

5. Speaking of champagne, he helped invent the victory spraying ritual

No one had ever shaken up a bottle of bubbly to celebrate a victory before Ford GT40 driver Dan Gurney spontaneously sprayed everyone nearby. Guess who was right next to him whispering in his ear? Shelby.

6. Unsurprisingly, he was a cardiologist's worst nightmare

Shelby became notorious for popping nitroglycerin tablets to ease chest pains from a chronic heart condition. But in his final race at Laguna Seca (pictured above in his "Birdcage" Maserati), he clinched the championship by finishing second, then promptly complained to the press that he would have won the damned thing had he not had to slow down to take his heart medications while driving.

RIP Carroll. You were one awesome and crazy SOB.

By Aaron Miller

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© 1996 by Cobra Club of South Africa. They say it stands for 'goes like hell', and they are right.