Editor’s Note: Back in 2010, we were able to interview automotive legend Carroll Shelby, and we found his insight and his predictions to be so accurate. Enjoy this throwback interview from Power & Performance.
What are the greatest differences between performance enthusiasts when you first started back in 1962 and today?
Electronics have changed everything. Today, with government regulations it is more difficult to create performance cars. People have higher expectations. In the ’60s everyone wanted speed, but now they want speed with a/c, stereos, reliability and performance, all at a low price. Car enthusiasts like packages that match everything up. They want someone to install it too.
What are the most significant performance advances you’ve experienced during your five decades in the business?
Electronics have made things possible that we couldn’t dream of. Tires and brakes have also improved so much since I raced. We could always build horsepower, now we have brakes and tires to match.
Do you have a favorite personal Shelby American vehicle?
The next car we’re going to build.
What non-Shelby cars of today impress you the most?
The Corvette is a fantastic car. Ford’s Mustang is a great car. Aston Martin builds beautiful cars, and the Viper is still a lot of fun.
Where do you see the most need for educating folks about performance products?
Too often people are afraid to work on their own cars. They need to learn how to do that themselves.
Today cars are offered with increasingly powerful engines. Can you have too much power?
Personally, I don’t think so. You can always use an extra 50 to 100 horsepower. The problem is government and public backlash. In the ’70s performance cars went away for a long while and some think it was because of the horsepower wars.
Other than more power, what targets are you trying to hit when you build a Shelby vehicle?
They need to have balanced performance and be reliable enough to be driven on pump gas. Most of all the cars need to be fun to drive.
I know you were friends with Zora Duntov. If he were alive today, what would you talk about?
I would talk to Zora about how to take weight out of cars when the government keeps adding more and more regulations. It’s a constant fight.
What innovations in engine development do you think we will see in the next five years? Ten years?
The main thing will be a big push on improving fuel economy and lowering emissions, which will impact everything. In the next five years, I see more turbo and supercharging of smaller displacement engines. I see the use of lightweight and exotic materials. In the next 10 years, hybrids and diesels will become a bigger part of the mix.
Of the thousands of innovations and accomplishments that mark your career, what do you most want to be remembered for?
As an old hot rodder who was able to build some great cars with wonderful people. We were always the underdog and always seemed to win. And I’m very proud of my charity and believe it’s important to give back to the community.