Carroll Shelby Passing – Linked to MGs (Mark Palmer)

May 11, 2012
To: MG Vintage Racers

In case you haven’t already heard, Carroll Shelby passed away earlier today (May 10th). NY Times article here.

There were two links between Shelby and MG, that I can think of — both might qualify as automotive trivia, I suppose. Shelby ran his first road race in an MG TC. I forget who owned the TC at the time (it wasn’t Shelby’s, as I recall), the owner loaned it to Shelby to run a race in Norman, Oklahoma sometime in the early 1950’s. Again going from memory, I think he won. Many of us MG Vintage Racers have had the tremendous privilege of being on the track with this very car, when it was owned by Syd Silverman. Syd raced the TC nearly every year in the Collier Cup at the SVRA Watkins Glen event. I can recall watching Syd having good dices with Denver Cornett in his TC (which Denver raced in the first race at Watkins Glen in 1948!), for several years. Great memories, and we are incredibly fortunate to have experienced these things.

The other link between Shelby & MG is even more obscure — the great-grandfather of the vaunted Cobra was actually MG powered! John Tojiero’s first “special”, which he built for Lionel Leonard (going from memory here, so excuse me if I’m off a little) was powered by an XPAG engine (MG T series engine). The car had the classic twin-tube frame, transverse leaf spring suspension, and aluminum “barchetta” body that essentially became the prototype for the AC Ace. And of course, the Ace evolved into the Cobra, when Shelby concocted his plan to mate a small-block Ford V8 to a lightweight European sportscar. If it weren’t for that MG special, who knows what would have happened — or not happened.

So next time you pull up to a stoplight beside a 2012 Shelby Mustang GT850 (or whatever it’s called these days), roll down your window and shout “hey, it all began with a 54.4-horsepower MG 4-cylinder engine!” (make sure to include the point-four) — and enjoy the dumb look you get from the 26-year old Mustang driver.

Goodspeed, Mr. Shelby.

Mark Palmer

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